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What’s the best way to introduce our new baby to our first child? Babble’s Parental Advisory.

I’m having my second baby next month and I’m wondering about how to go about introducing my son to his new brother or sister. Is it better to bring him to the hospital (I mean, have someone else do it, obviously) or to wait to introduce them until we get home? – Visiting Ours

Dear Visiting,

From where we sit, there’s no real right answer to this one since there are so many variables. This is a situation where you’ll need to gauge your child’s developmental state, and both of your emotional states, and figure out what will work best for you. You may need to keep a few options on deck in case things aren’t as you expect when the time comes.

You don’t say how old your son is. A younger toddler may find it harder to see you and then have to say goodbye than not see you at all. A very young child’s conception of time is in the very unformed stage, so it’s possible that he may think you’re just at the grocery store for a . . . day or two. A visit for a visit’s sake may actually disrupt the illusion that things are as normal. But a slightly older or more independent child will probably have some grip on time and some clue, or at least a lot of questions, about where you are and what you’re doing. The hospital visit can be great in this situation. He gets to see you, check in, feel reassured to know that you haven’t gone off to raise his new sibling on another planet. And you all get to be a part of the moment together. This is especially true if other people your child knows are coming to see the baby. Familiar friends and family can be counted on to dote on the older one as much as (or more than) the non-communicative, squidged-up newborn. And if they can’t be counted on, they can be reminded.

Unless you have family experience with serious sickness or injury, your child is as likely to enjoy the hospital environment as to feel concern. The moving bed has been known to far overshadow the baby in terms of excitement! But if you’re visibly wounded or really out of it, seeing you may be weird and scary rather than reassuring to your older one. Unless your hospital stay goes beyond a few days, it’s probably best to delay a visit if you’re incapacitated.

Wherever you first come together as a big new family, try to pay some undivided attention to your firstborn right off the bat. The general recommendation is to avoid having the newborn in arms (or at least give him to someone else) at the very first sighting. If the reunion happens at home, another person can carry the baby in so your arms are free for a hug. At the hospital, this may require a bit of advance planning to avoid arrival during a stressful latch-on (or lap nap) attempt. And remember, regardless of how picture-perfect or disastrous the first introduction may be, it’s just one moment in an ever-evolving family dynamic . . . you will have ample opportunity to make up for it (or not) later.

Have a question? Email parentaladvisory@babble.com

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