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What to expect when your firstborn is promoted to sibling status

When your first child is born, your world changes forever. You instantly fall in love with this perfect bundle of joy. Your life as you know it will never be the same, the way you view the world, perspective, and future take on a completely different shape. Your time is not your time anymore and sleep becomes a luxury. Even though you must give up life as you know it, you gain something much more valuable. For the first time in your life, you experience what the sincerest form of love is in the moment that you hold your firstborn.

In preparation for the arrival of your firstborn, you read books, listen to podcasts, cross-question your doctor and search the internet for tips and tricks. However, when the baby arrives a natural superpower takes over, a natural parental instinct kicks in and you know EXACTLY what your baby needs. This happens over time and by just a single glance into your child’s eyes you can describe exactly what they want or why they are upset. This takes time but eventually, you can write a parenting book about your baby. Finally, you have this “parenting thing” all figured out and then suddenly: BABY NUMBER TWO.

Everyone has a unique situation and the news of the arrival of a second-born is unique to your circumstances, you may experience stress, tears, joy, or uncertainty. The big question is: How on earth will you be able to love another child as much as you love your firstborn? As impossible as this sounds, it’s more than possible! You might also wonder if it will be as challenging as the firstborn, even though each child is an individual and no baby is the same, the journey with your firstborn will prepare you for the arrival of the second baby.


Here are a few practical tips to prepare for the arrival of a second child:


  • Share the news with your firstborn

Announce the news to your firstborn. Prepare them as much as possible for what lies ahead. There are many resources like storybooks that can assist them to understand what lies ahead. “I'm Going to be your Big Sister” by Vanessa Barilla and “Mummy, What's in Your Tummy?” by Bernadita Romero are examples of one of many books that help prepare children on what to expect. They might seem uninterested but keep in mind that our children understand much more about the world around them than we think.


  • Keep your firstborn’s clothing for baby number two


This task might seem like a mountain that lies ahead. Sorting baby clothes is not a fun activity and takes up a lot of time. This might seem daunting now but in the long run, you will be very grateful. Not only will you be able to declutter, but you will also save a lot of money by buying stuff that you already have. What if your child is not the same gender? This is not the biggest problem, sort out the neutrals like yellow and white and donate the rest!


  • Spend one on one time with your firstborn before the arrival of baby number two

Make sure that you spend one on one time with your firstborn doing activities that they enjoy with them before the arrival of the newborn. This can be anything from reading a book, going for a walk, or even dancing together.


  • Tackle on transitions before the newborn arrives

If it is possible and the age and development stage of your firstborn allows for it, try to take on transitions before the new baby arrives. This includes transitioning from the cot to a big bed, transitioning from nappies to a potty or leaving the dummy behind.


  • Prepare the small things

Being 100% prepared for the new chapter that lies ahead will not be a realistic goal to set as we have no way of completely controlling what lies ahead. We can try to best prepare for this new chapter by having small things in place like stocking up on household supplies and cooking meals to freeze and can easily just be heated for dinner. These seem like easy everyday tasks but with a newborn in the house, it suddenly becomes a challenge. This will take off unnecessary daily pressure and save time on more challenging days for instance when the children are not feeling well.


Being in a preschool environment, we very often have learners who experience this change in their household and the arrival of a sibling creates some changes in the children's behaviour. The following has been something that we have repeatedly experienced over time and is something to be aware of;


  • Younger siblings “bully” older siblings


This has been a very interesting observation that we have made over a few years. Younger siblings tend to “bully” or dominate their older siblings. It is even more common when boys are the older sibling, they tend to stand back as they don’t want to harm their smaller sister or brother. This gives the younger sibling the upper hand. It is important to address this with the younger sibling, just because the big brother or sister is tolerating it, doesn't mean it is not affecting them.


  • Regression


This is very common, toddlers regress in different ways. They might want their dummy back again after they have outgrown it. They might regress in their potty training or behaviour changes like adopting a “baby-like” behaviour. They are still unable to verbally express their emotions about the next addition to the family so their behaviour will be something to keep an eye on.

There will be long and emotionally exhausting days ahead but remember that these movements are only temporary. Your family is growing, and your firstborn is taking on a new and important role as the oldest sibling. They will also be getting a new forever best friend and will be able to make new memories with their younger sibling that will last a lifetime. Not only will the children be able to benefit but the parents now have everything in double; double the amount of love, cuddles, kisses, and immeasurable joy!

Nikita Pretorius

“I'm Going to be your Big Sister” by Vanessa Barilla and “Mummy, What's in Your Tummy?” by Bernadita Romero both available on Takealot.com