Bringing your newborn home to meet their siblings is such a sweet time! While being sleep deprived is one of the low points of those early days, seeing the love between siblings is definitely a high point. Regardless of the age gap between siblings, I’ve found there are always ways to engage big or little ones in the care of a newborn. Here are a few of my favorites, which I recommend are all done with adult supervision:
1. Finding baby toes
My oldest daughter was only 22 months when we brought her sister home and honestly, my oldest did not want much to do with her baby sister at first. Then I started playing a little game where I would say, “Where are babies’ toes?” and have my oldest open the baby blanket to find her sibling’s toes. Then I would say, “Where are your toes?” and she would show me hers too. This little game was the sweetest ice breaker and allowed my daughter to get more comfortable being around her new baby sister.
2. Getting baby a blanket or binky
Once my daughter warmed up to her little sister I loved having her retrieve a blanket or binky. While holding the baby, I would ask my daughter to bring me a baby blanket or binky that was within eyesight. Then I would praise her for being such a “big helper” and have her either help swaddle or put the binky in babies mouth.
3. Holding baby
The key here in my opinion is having a Boppy pillow to help assist siblings of any age with holding a newborn baby. First, the Boppy is like a hug for the sibling and helps them feel secure and it also helps distribute the newborn in an easy-to-hold way. I also think it’s important to ask the sibling if they would like to hold the newborn and if they say no then try again another time. Do not be surprised if a sibling only wants to hold a newborn for a minute.
Just know that starting small can lead to a big helper. My middle daughter is the biggest helper with our newest addition and I can remember when she would only hold him for a moment and now she can hold him for an entire episode of Bluey. I do always supervise my children holding their sibling because you never know when they may get tired or distracted.
4. Changing baby
Fast forward to bringing home our little man and now my oldest daughter is six years old. She was excited to take on more responsibility and so after a few weeks, I taught her how to change a wet diaper. Now she asks to help with this task and while she’s pretty much a pro at it I always like to supervise this task so that I can ensure it is truly just a wet diaper and I always remind her to wash her hands well before and after.
This is a task that I did not push on her and I only showed her once she showed an interest and desire to help. Wouldn’t you know that once my oldest learned her sister who is five immediately wanted to learn and help too so now I have two very helpful diaper changers. Even if your child isn’t old enough to help with the diaper change maybe you can have them take a diaper in a bag to the trashcan for you and use it as another time to have them wash their hands. Trust me there can never be enough hand washing when you have a newborn!!
5. Feeding baby
With my last two babies I have nursed exclusively so unfortunately, this isn’t an area where my daughters have been able to engage with the baby until he starts solids. They did love gently patting his back to help him burp. If you are pumping and/or using formula then having siblings help hold a bottle to feed the baby while being supervised is such a wonderful way for them to help care for baby. My little boy is six months old now so definitely not a newborn, but my daughters are making up for lost time and love introducing him to solids, while I supervise. It is so fun to watch them.
6. Bath time
Most newborns love bath time if it’s done right! I will be sharing another blog post shortly on some tips and tricks I’ve learned from my time bathing four newborns to make them the most comfortable. Siblings of all ages love helping bathe baby. I usually allow my daughters to use a wash cloth to wipe baby’s tummy and then have them help apply baby lotion after the bath.
7. Picking up toys
Yes, even newborns have books, blankets, binkys, or little outfits that can become cluttery. Asking older siblings to help pick up a few things while you are feeding or caring for the baby is very helpful. I usually start with a specific task and then praise my daughters for their help.
8. Water refills for mom
As a nursing mother, I am always thirsty so having one of my older daughters fix me water is such an easy task that she seems to enjoy doing. I think she enjoys the independence of getting a glass, adding ice, and water. One time she even added a splash of lemonade and I couldn’t help but be proud of how helpful and creative she has become.
9. Making baby a picture or card
I’ll end with a fun one! In those first few days home you can ask your child or children to make a picture or card for their new sibling. Not only will it be the best keepsake, but it will be a fun activity.
Just remember these engagements between your newborn and siblings don’t have to be perfect and each one will be a learning experience for you and them that will ultimately create memories to cherish whether things go perfectly or not. What are some other ways you have allowed siblings to help with a newborn or younger sibling?