Helping Your Child Adjust to a New Baby: 3 Things You Must Do Before Leaving the Hospital

Helping Your Child Adjust to a New BabyI’ve learned from experience that helping your child adjust to a new baby is not a one-time occurrence. Rather, it’s a process that happens continuously throughout your pregnancy and for the days, weeks, and months after the baby shows up. 

So there’s no single thing you can do—no magic bullet, if you will—to ease the transition to this new way of life for your older child.

Nevertheless, it’s important to recognize that the first time your older child and baby meet is a key moment, and for many families this happens in the hospital after mom delivers. How you handle this important experience sets the tone for your older child. If you do it right, it can really help make the adjustment process a positive one.

So how do you do it right? Here are three specific things you should do in the hospital to help your child adjust to a new baby.

Helping Your Child Adjust to a New Baby: 3 Things To Do Before Leaving the Hospital

1. Before your older child arrives at your hospital room, pass the baby to someone else. 

This suggestion originally came to me from an expert in early childhood development, and it’s a golden one.

Remember that your older child hasn’t seen you since you rushed off to the hospital. He or she misses Mommy and needs a hug and a kiss from you. So imagine how emotionally difficult it will be for him or her to charge into the room ready for some mama snuggles, only to see that your arms are already full with the new arrival.

Talk about feeling displaced.

So before your older child arrives, hand the baby to Dad or put him/her in the bassinet. That way your loving arms will be free to go straight to your older child and offer an abundance of hugging and kissing—and some much-needed reassurance that there will always be plenty of snuggles to go around. 

2. Introduce your baby to your older child, instead of the other way around. 

My first inclination was to introduce my older child to my baby, saying something like, “Meet your new baby sister! Look at how cute she is!”

But then I realized that switching it around could make a big difference in how he felt.

So instead I said to my baby, “Meet your big brother! He will be helping us take care of you, and he’ll be teaching you all sorts of wonderful things. You’re so lucky to have such a wonderful big brother!”

Sure, it’s really just a matter of semantics, but it can make a big difference for your child to hear you speaking adoringly about him/her to the new baby. With all the attention the baby is undoubtedly getting, it’s a welcome reminder that your older child is still a rock star in your eyes. 

3. Exchange sibling gifts.

The new baby is probably going to be showered with gifts and presents, so it’s nice for the older child to get a little something too. Make it even better by having it come from the new baby right in the hospital. (Obviously this works best with younger children who won’t question the baby’s ability to give a present just yet!)

We had our baby girl give our 2-year-old this new book and a figurine of one of his favorite characters. In exchange, we had our toddler choose one of his old books that he doesn’t read much anymore to wrap and bring along to the hospital to give to his new sister. 

It was so nice for my son to not only bring a gift for the new baby, but also to receive one from her in return.

What’s your best tip or idea for helping children adjust to new babies? 

RELATED: Check out these tips on creating your second baby registry!

20 responses to “Helping Your Child Adjust to a New Baby: 3 Things You Must Do Before Leaving the Hospital”

  1. Eight years ago the only one of these I did was have a small gift for my older child and I’m happy to report that 8 years later my kids are good friends. So my advice is don’t sweat it as it’ll all work out!

  2. The one major thing we did, was we never referred to the new baby as “the NEW baby”. We just used “the baby, or “your baby brother”. she was not allowed to climb on me because of my c section, so her father carried her in, and tucked her gently in on one side, I had the baby on my chest, “hi Baby Harry.” When we got home she wanted to do everything for him (still does 7 years later). Our favorite time together was giving the baby a bath. She would get his towel, and get his wash cloth wet, and bring his diaper over. It made her feel special and important.
    They actually vie for attention more now, than they did then.

  3. Love these! I also found the Big Sister/Big Brother books to be extremely helpful in that transition time. We were reading I’m a Big Sister months before my 2nd one was born.

  4. I said a lot of things to baby, like: “I’ll pick you up in just a minute, I have to get a snack for your big brother.” I know there were a lot of times that I had to put off things for the older ones to attend to the baby, so I wanted to make sure they heard me putting off the baby for them a few times too.

  5. We were really lucky, our son was just about to turn 8 when our daughter came around. He’s loved her for the first moment he laid eyes on her. He was more mad that he couldn’t be with her 24/7 when she was born then anything. Lol A week before she was born my dad threw a shower for me. He’d madea blanket for the baby & a semi matching one for my son. My son was SO excited that he got an Avengers blanket that was orange on the back just like Baby’s Duck blanket.

  6. I’m due with my second child in May and was so worried about adjusting or my 2 year old daughter not understanding…this was very insightful and much needed. Thank you for sharing.

    • My son was 19 months when I had my second baby. He wanted nothing to do with either of us in the hospital, but when I got home from the hospital I handed the baby off to dad and he was ready for snuggles with me, and asked for his “bruber” a few minutes later. Try not to take it personally if your little girl is standoffish at the hospital. It’s a new place and they aren’t sure what is going on! It can be a lot for a little one to handle.

  7. Great ideas! 1 & 2 are totally new to me but I will definitely try them. We just bought a doll so that my son can bring his own “baby” home from the hospital and we have a wrapped gift from the baby ready to go, in the hospital bag 🙂

  8. I have a 5 yr old daughter .. im expecting twins a boy and a girl.. shes very exited to be the big sister .. and is ready to help mom &daddy with the lil blessings. Im due in November. The time is ticking away… my daughter expressed to me how she’s already starting to realize that mommy is going to have her hands full with 2 babies.. and was wanting to know if im going to have time for her too. So everyweek im going to plan a day that just me and my daughter has some one on one time. .. this has helped give me some ideas. Thank u

    • Hi,

      it has been a year since you posted, and I was wondering if you had any extra insights as I am about to face exactly the same situation, i.e. 5 yo girl, and twin baby girl and boy coming along in December.

      • Now that I’m two years in, I’ve found that one-on-one time with each child is key! I realize how difficult that can be logistically—especially since you’re having twins. But it has made a HUGE difference in our family. Best wishes with your little ones! <3

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