Bringing a new baby into a family is an exciting experience for all members of that family. Previously on this blog, we’ve talked about how you can navigate that transition at home; but we’re often asked about the actual moment that your first baby meets the new baby might look like.
Books and television shows and viral videos on social media lead us to believe that the moment of introducing them might include sunshine and roses and an instant connection between them, OR that your older child may feel angry and displaced and possibly lash out. As experienced sibling and postpartum doulas, let us tell you: The truth of what that moment will look like lies somewhere in the middle.
There is a lot of sweetness and unfortunately, there often times are some big, overwhelming feelings that can cause a total meltdown in the moment.
How can you create the most smooth first introduction as possible when your older child meets your new baby? Forget the gifts "from the baby" to your older child. Here are some better ideas:
Adjust your big (read: grand) expectations from the beginning
Before we even think of introducing the two it’s best to readjust your expectations of what that moment might look like based on their experiences for the last few days. Is this the first time your older child is staying with someone other than you? Did you have a long birthing experience, and have been separated from your older children by a few days? They may be especially anxious to see you again! Are they staying with Grandma and Grandpa who have … let’s say, looser guidelines for acceptable breakfast foods, and your older children are coming off of a sugar-high? They may have a bit more energy than normal during your visit.
Keeping their recent experiences in mind when you’re planning that first introduction may help you be able to support your older children, and meet them where they are in that moment.
Talk about that First Moment of meeting the new baby, *in detail*, before the baby even arrives. A LOT.
Help them develop their own expectations for what meeting the new baby may be like. Talk through your Labor Day plans with them. If they’re going to Grandma’s, or to a friends house, talk about what that transition in their care might look like. Let them pack their own bag or pick their own clothes for the introduction and be okay if they select an outfit other than that special “I’m a Big Sister” shirt you had made on Etsy! Walk them through when they can expect to see you after the birth, and describe what your hospital room might look like.
Also, take time to describe your expectations for them in that moment. Role play how to gently touch a baby’s fingers and toes with a favorite doll. The more you can help “set the scene” for your older child before they come in to meet the baby, the better it will go.
Position the new baby somewhere other than your arms when your older child comes into the room.
Your older children may be meeting the baby for the first time, but it’s also likely the first time in a day or two that they have seen you! Placing the new baby in a bassinet or some other surface gives you a chance to greet your older child fully and hug them without a the new baby coming (literally) in between you! Plus, you’ll be able to let them see the baby and point out their features in their own time.
Choose a time of day for the first introduction that allows you all to feel your best.
This is especially true if you are recovering from a long labor or a surgical birth. Give yourself the time to adjust physically and to take a nap, so that you're greeting your older child with a little rest under your belt. No one is cheerful when they're exhausted. The moment you introduce your older child to your new baby will already be an emotional one, and allowing for space to get your bearings as a parent to more than one child will help you all feel centered and ready to say hello.
Recognize that the day they meet their baby sibling is an exciting day, full of the unknown.
Real Talk: You can do all of the prepping and Game Day planning as possible; but that hospital room? It’s The Unknown, full of all kinds of new, different, exciting things. A bed that goes up AND down? Buttons? Tubing? A computer? So many possibilities. Give your older child time to get settled and acquainted with the space they’re in before adding an additional layer of unpredictability by putting a new baby into their lap.
Experienced Parents: Tell us in the comments which strategies and tips we've left out, or what really worked best for your family!