Welcoming a new baby into the family is a wonderful joy and a big adjustment for each person in the family. Everyone needs a little time to find and settle into their new role. A dear friend of mine once told me that adding a new baby to the family isn’t like adding another pumpkin to the wagon. You have to dump out the wagon and put all of the pumpkins back in again to find the right balance. Those first few weeks with a new little one sometimes feel a bit like that as everyone adapts to their new role in the family.
A wonderful way to help older siblings with their transition into their new role in the family is to include them in kangaroo care for the baby. (For some basic Kangaroo care info, see this post on Kangaroo Care Basics). Even a very young older sibling can enjoy skin to skin contact with the baby. This post will include some tips for allowing older siblings to provide kangaroo care.
- When you’re doing kangaroo care with the baby, take some time to explain to your child why it’s so good for your baby to spend time skin to skin with family members. Depending on the age of your older child, you can also point out baby’s positioning.
- Choose a time when baby is in a quiet alert state to attempt kangaroo care with a sibling. A little newborn only spends a few minutes at a time in the quiet alert state, but when you see baby’s body is still and baby is looking around, this is the perfect time to try kangaroo care. In this magical quiet alert state, you may even find that baby reaches out to touch the siblings face or imitates facial expressions. Babies are quite incredible!
- If you have a few older children, find a time when you are alone with the older sibling before attempting kangaroo care. It’s difficult to focus on the child doing kangaroo care if other siblings are in the room, and sometimes those siblings will be having big feelings of jealousy or act in attention seeking ways if it is not their turn for KC with the baby. Having one on one time with the KC providing sibling can make it easier for you to focus just on the one older sibling and also to help support baby. With just you, the older child, and the baby, this can be a really special time for the older child.
- Depending on the age of your child, you may have to help support the baby. It’s easiest to position the older child against a big stack of pillows so that the child can recline back a bit. Sitting too upright is difficult for the older sibling and lying flat is a bit stressful for the infant who may tire quickly in this position. Have the older child lean back into a big stack of pillows. You may want to put pillows on either side of the child as well to support their elbows. For a very young child, you will likely need to help hold the baby.
- It’s okay if your child wants to hold the baby only for a few seconds or for a few minutes. As long as both children are happy, and you’re comfortable with baby’s positioning, they can continue for whatever duration you (and they) would like.
- While the baby is skin to skin with the sibling, talk to the older sibling a bit about baby’s cues. Some of the baby’s cues are really easy to notice if the baby is against your skin. A sibling can quickly learn baby’s hunger cues as baby begin to root against the child’s arm or chest. It can also be really helpful to teach an older sibling baby’s over-stimulation cues. Helping the older child to learn baby’s cues will be helpful in the later weeks as well because the child will understand what baby needs.
- Most importantly, snap some pictures. These newborn days fly by so quickly and pictures of your children holding and loving each other will be treasured for years to come!