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Every sibling bond is unique.
The bond between an older sibling and a new baby starts with the pregnancy announcement and lasts a lifetime. It’s no wonder you’re invested in making sure your sweet sib set has the best possible chance to form a happy, healthy alliance that carries them through childhood and beyond. And while no bond will ever be perfect, and every childhood with siblings will be marked by the occasional battle, bonk, or misunderstanding, there are steps you can take to help your little ones form a friendship that’s strong enough to withstand whatever comes their way.
And you don’t have to wait until they’re walking and talking - you can start the moment you find out a new sibling is on the way!
Here are a few ways to include your older child in the pregnancy, newborn, and toddler phase of their new sibling’s life.
Make space for all the feelings.
From the moment you share the news of a new baby on the way, expect your older child to feel a wide variety of emotions. They might be joyful and afraid, angry and hopeful, jealous and also completely in love - and probably a little of everything all at once. Help them understand that it’s not only completely normal to feel lots of big, mixed emotions about a new baby, it’s GOOD, and you are here to share and empathize with everything they feel. Give them a safe space and a listening ear to express their feelings, and don’t hurry to shut down the ones that feel a little negative. After all, even adults get pretty nervous about welcoming a new family member. Show them patience, compassion, and reassure them that you’re all going to work together as a family to make sure everyone feels loved, safe, and included.
Keep your existing traditions
Do you and your older child have a bedtime ritual? A Saturday morning pancake tradition, or a song you sing on the way to preschool? Before the new sibling arrives, do your best to take note of small, consistent traditions in your relationship with big sibling and put plans in place to protect and sustain them. Enlist the help of your partner, family, or friends to make sure those special one-on-one times with the older child continue, and when they’re ready, involve them in a plan to start including the new sibling in the fun.
Involve them in nurture
Whenever possible, encourage siblings to nurture one another. With a new baby, this might mean inviting your older sibling to help with fun setting up the nursery tasks, choosing toys and clothes, and having an important role to play, like being in charge of peek-a-boo or putting on tiny socks once baby arrives. Invite them to participate in baby’s nighttime routine by playing in the bath, helping get them dressed for sleep, joining in nighttime feedings, and saying goodnight in the crib. With a convertible crib like the Soho 3-in-1, the high mattress setting for newborns makes it easy for little helpers to reach into the crib, offer night-night kisses, and start creating a beautiful bond.
When it comes to taking care of a new baby, you are your older child’s primary model of how to behave. In the haze of new baby exhaustion, do your best to respond to baby the same way you’d like your older child to respond. Practice taking deep breaths together when baby is crying too loud or too long, help each other remember to get good sleep and naps when you can, and talk your older child through how you respond to the new baby’s cues. By showing them your expectations for gentle response and modeling how they can learn to understand baby’s wants and needs, you’ll help them gain confidence and feel more capable.
Oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone,” is a powerful biological tool to increase bond and connection. Our bodies’ oxytocin production is increased by snuggles, skin-to-skin time, and also by fun shared experiences, like laughter. Help your little ones build an oxytocin bond by encouraging cuddles, hugs, and even hand holding from the newborn phase and well into toddler/childhood. For example, when you’ve converted your 3-in-1 crib to a toddler bed, start a tradition of sibling cuddles for story or nap time!
Create special “siblings only” moments
The friendship your children create today will be with them for a lifetime. You can encourage their unique relationship by finding time and space for “siblings only” connection. Whether it’s playtime together, naptime together, or even just shared time watching a favorite cartoon, a “no-parents-allowed” space (age appropriate, safe and with your just-out-of-sight supervision) can foster a sense that they are a team and each other’s best ally. Of course, as the new sibling gets older, we can’t guarantee that they won’t team up for a few shenanigans - but the long term benefits of their lifelong bond firmly outweigh the risks of messes to be made.
Do you have photos or favorite memories of sibling bonding moments around your dadada Baby 3-in-1 crib? We would LOVE to see them. Share them with us on IG by tagging @dadadababyusa or using the #dadadasiblingmoments