Life really changes for everyone when a new baby arrives. It especially changes for a child when a new sibling arrives. Research shows that 93 percent of firstborn children under age 4 behave negatively in some way when a new baby arrives (www.talaris.org/spotlight_sibling.htm).
So what kind of changes can you expect?
• You may find your older child doing things she once handled nicely and now she can’t. You may find that everyday tasks such as getting dressed, feeding herself, or even using the toilet are causing her great difficulty.
• You may find your older child will pretend he is a baby, too. He will pretend to need the same attention as the new baby; he thinks the new baby is getting much more attention than he is.
• Your older child may have trouble falling asleep or sleeping through the night. This especially happens when he knows the baby is getting attention in the middle of the night.
• Your older child may become more aggressive towards the new baby with poking, pushing, or hitting. This may be to get your attention because she feels she is lacking that attention for herself.
• Your older child may just try to irritate the baby by making lots of noise, taking toys or doing things the baby does not like. He wants as much attention as he used to have.
Research shows that things change for the better with time. Most older brothers or sisters come to highly value their relationship with their sibling. However, you can really help your new baby get off to a great start by preparing her older siblings for her arrival.
Read books about having a baby especially having a baby brother or sister.
But it isn’t just the children who need to be prepared for a new baby. You also need to do some preparing of the family dog. Your dog is used to getting a certain amount of attention from you. He is not ready to give us his time for this newcomer.
There are some easy ways you can get him prepared if you start early:
• Start ignoring your dog’s demands for attention. The demand for attention from you pooch will increase once the new baby is home so stop the behavior before it starts.
• Switch up your dog’s schedule. Get your dog accustomed to different feed and walk times two months before baby’s arrival. Being outside more and having different eating/sleeping schedules will be on his agenda.
• Bring home a blanket from the hospital with baby’s scent on it so he can get used to baby’s smell before they meet.
• Buy a doll that cries like a baby and begin carrying it, having it in a crib and walking it in a stroller.
• Do not let the dog get to soiled diapers; some dogs acquire the taste and sniff out the diaper while it is still on your baby.
• Never leave your baby and dog alone.
There are many changes that await the arrival of your new baby. The biggest changes are for you and your partner.
But remember to plan ahead because this is a big change for every member of the family. You want the changes to all go smoothly.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents.