Bringing baby home: 5 tips to prepare your child

How do you prepare your child for the arrival of a new brother or sister? Heidi Murkoff, best selling author of the popular "What to Expect" series of books, shares her tips to help address your child's questions and concerns about this mysterious newcomer.

Excerpted from What to Expect When the New Baby Comes Home, by Heidi Murkoff

In preparing a soon-to-be older sibling, try to paint as true a picture of what life with a new baby will and won’t be like. Avoid unrealistic projections: that a new baby will be someone to play with (newborns can’t play); that a new baby will be fun to have around (newborns don’t do much more than eat, sleep, and cry); that life with a new baby will be the same as before (there will be times when the needs of a colicky baby will supersede those of an older sibling).

Even the most thoroughly prepared child won’t necessarily welcome the new baby with open arms. Virtually every older sibling experiences some feelings of jealousy, resentment, and even animosity, not just toward the new arrival, but also toward Mommy and Daddy (who spend so much time with the new baby). All of these feelings (whether they surface right away or in the months to come) are as normal as they are inevitable. They’re also completely understandable. Encouraging your child to express these feelings (through words, dramatic play, pictures) rather than repress them will help resolve them faster.

  • New babies cry for many different reasons. They may cry because they’re hungry or sleepy, because they’re bored or need a cuddle, because something hurts or they’re too hot or too cold, or because they have a wet or dirty diaper. Usually Mommy or Daddy can figure out why the new baby is crying, and they can help make the crying stop. All that crying can sometimes be hard to listen to, and you may get pretty tired of hearing it. But don’t worry. Once the new baby learns how to talk, her or she won’t have to cry so much.
  • New babies have very tiny tummies that fill up quickly and empty out quickly. That’s why they have to eat so much more often than you do--as often as twelve times a day or more.
  • New babies are really small when they’re born, but they grow really fast. All that growing is hard work, and it makes new babies very tired, sot they need to sleep a lot. But they don’t do a lot of sleeping all at one time, like you do. Instead, they sleep for a little while, then eat (to fill that tiny tummy!), then sleep some more, and eat some more--all day and all night.
  • When new babies are born, they’ve just finished spending nine months inside their mommy's belly. New babies are used to being warm, snug, and cozy, and that’s why being held and cuddled makes them so happy.
  • Taking care of a new baby is a lot of work, and there are plenty of things you can do to help. You can hand your mommy or daddy the diapers and the diaper wipes when it’s time to change the baby. You can keep the baby busy by making funny faces when it’s time for a shampoo. You can give the baby a pacifier or sing a soothing song when he or she is crying. You can be extra quiet when the baby’s trying to fall asleep, and you can let Mommy and Daddy know when the baby wakes up. Some of the new-baby care--like rocking and feeding--has to be done by grown-ups. That’s okay, because you can rock and feed your stuffed animal or doll at the same time.
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