How to Introduce Your Child to Your Newborn

So, baby has finally made his or her debut into the world! You are likely processing a lot of emotions, from excitement and overwhelming love, to perhaps a healthy dose of anxiety about bringing baby home and setting into a whole new evolution of your family life. It’s a huge transitional period for the whole family, and one of the big milestones indicative of this time will be introducing your other child(ren) to your new baby. 
 
80% of Americans grow up with at least one sibling. Sibling relationships are important in shaping how children interact with other people and provide endless practice opportunities for building safe and healthy relationships. That being said, we can understand why you might be feeling a bit uncertain or nervous about siblings’ first meeting. Of course, you’ll want everyone to get along, and you’ll want your toddler or child to share in your excitement. While you can’t control their emotional process and response, there are several things you can consider when planning how they meet that can encourage success. 
 
Calm is Key
 
Above any ideas you may have about a fairy tale first meeting, the most important thing to consider is that both you and your child are calm for baby’s welcome. Avoid having the first meeting when you are feeling anxious or stressed or when your child is already dealing with any strong emotions or transitions. A grouchy toddler does not bode well! If you’re relaxed, it will also help take the pressure off of your older child to meet any expectations you may have based on his or her reaction to baby. A calm state of mind will communicate to your child that you are okay, thereby making it okay for them to feel however they feel about seeing baby for the first time. 
 
It Doesn’t Have to be at the Hospital
 
Hospitals are likely a new environment for most children and, in addition to meeting a new family member, seeing mom in a hospital room may be a lot to take in. Consider having their first meeting at home instead if you think your child could be overwhelmed or spooked by the hospital room. Furthermore, consider having your baby fully dressed for the introduction, since a baby’s belly button and cord stump may be a little unsettling to see, especially for toddlers. 
 
Establish Normalcy Before the Meeting
 
If the sibling meet and greet is happening at the hospital, consider sending your baby to the hospital nursery and spending some time with your older child in the hospital room first before bringing in baby. This mom had great success with this technique and even had a little picnic with her older child on the hospital bed before bringing in baby. This way, her child got to reconnect with mom, spend some quality time, and feel totally loved on before meeting baby. 
 
If you are doing the meeting at home, be sure to greet your older child(ren) without baby first as you come through the door. This helps establish that you still have plenty of love and attention to give your older children and that the new baby isn’t there to take that away from them. Then, when you’re ready, move to the couch or the bed for a family cuddle. First, ask your older child if he or she wants to hold the new baby. If they say yes, lay the baby on them in a position that doesn’t require their head to be supported or try using a breastfeeding cushion. If they say no, respect their decision. 
 
Patience and Routine
 
After their first meeting, keep it to business as usual when it comes to your older children’s schedule. You might have the instinct to keep them home from school or preschool so that you can all spend time at home together, but it’s best for their routine not to be interrupted. 
 
Don’t be surprised if they act out or regress, even if it doesn’t start to show up until a few weeks after you bring baby home. This is a normal response as he or she starts to realize that baby is here to stay. In addition, heavy hands are normal, especially for toddlers. Hitting or pinching baby isn’t a sign of nastiness, but rather uncertainty of how to respond to baby. Supervise the time they spend together or consider using a carrier or sling with baby when spending time with your older child. 
 
Every family and every child is different, and you can trust that you’ll know which environment, time, and design of the newborn-sibling meet is best for yours. And though their first meeting is a special moment, keep in mind that it won’t define their sibling relationship for the rest of their lives, no matter how it goes! They have many more special moments to share as they grow together, and this is just the beginning of a new adventure for everyone -- baby included!