Tuesday, August 6, 2013

14 Ways to Celebrate Siblings

Is your family growing? Here are 14 ways to promote sibling bonding and acknowledge the new roles of each family member.

1. Read books together. Find a book, DVD, CD or make your own that celebrates aspects of your unique family situation. Spend time together talking about the new changes and roles of everyone in the family.

2. Take photos together. Eager to capture that growing belly? Remember to capture the growing siblings, too. Include them in family sessions and ask for their ideas on poses!

Handprinted with love!
Didn't come out as quixotic as intended but she LOVED it.

3. Prepare together. Include siblings in decorating, purchasing, birth discussions and share research when age-appropriate, or adapt it to make it accessible to all ages. Include them in prenatal visits and testing when possible.

(And remember to use non-VOC paint!)

4. Continue to breastfeed. If healthy for you emotionally/physically, consider breastfeeding during pregnancy.

5. For more than one sibling, consider tandem nursing during pregnancy, too.

6. Keep sleeping arrangements, potty learning, food patterns, etc the same. A new baby often prompts parents to want to go into full shake-it-up mode. Nothing startles a toddler more than having his or her entire world turned upside down for the arrival of another person. Affirm the other siblings in their status and needs by keeping the routine as normal as possible (within necessary reason obviously). Instead of booting the child to a new room, consider a family bed. Instead of forced potty training, consider waiting until after the baby is born.

No one gets left behind at night. (But please remember not to leave
little ones unsupervised when together like this.)

If possible, keep all positions, sleeping arrangements and "spots" such
as in the car and at the table, the same when the baby arrives. Attach
change to milestones. In this case here, DD will move to a new spot
and forward face for her birthday, not for her sibling.

7. Birth together. Even if preparing for a hospital birth, even if you are worried about scaring the other children, you can still find a way to include them such as just early on when contractions are light or before you pack and leave. Make it a clear, positive transition, not a scary and abrupt one.

8. During labor (especially if the children are unable to be present) have them color pictures, make cards and hang a banner for the new baby.

9. After birth, have a Baby Birthday Bash. Include the siblings in cake baking. Have them pick out a gift ahead of time and wrap it for the new baby.

10. But during the Bash, celebrate the siblings. Have Big Sibling Gifts ready. Have excitement, encouragement and attention ready. 

11. Enlist the help of relatives and friends. Remind them to make eye contact, smile and say hello to the older siblings BEFORE oohhing over the baby. Sounds simple, but it's a small gesture and often a forgotten one. You will come to notice that most people completely overlook the other children, going right to the baby. Or if they do acknowledge the sibling, it will only be in relation to the baby. "Aren't you a good big sister" or "You must be a happy big brother." Remind other adults to give direct attention to the other children. And when it's happening, gently steer the conversation by talking about the other child's interests and current events.

12. Tell closer relatives and friends to bring a trinket or treat for the other sibling if they are bringing something for the baby. Nothing like being a little kid, watching people come over with gifts and ohs and ahs and just standing there, forgotten. If it's socially inappropriate for you to ask, then keep a discreet box of little toys and healthy but sweet treats (colorbooks, bouncy balls, granola bars, fruit packs, etc) to have something magically appear for the other children. This is also a great idea for times when you really need to care for the newborn or the older child is getting antsy and bored.

13. Keep nursing together. It doesn't have to be every time, and it doesn't have to be for a long time. But commit to a few tandem nursing sessions for bonding. 

14. Babywear together during and after pregnancy. Experiment a bit to find what works for you. Even if done rarely, more as a novelty or gesture for the older child, it can still speak volumes.

Depending on age and ability, consider sibling wearing, too!

Do you have ideas on promoting sibling bonding, reducing rivalry and meeting the needs of each person in a growing family? Please comment and share it with us! If you have photos of sibling bonding that you'd like to share, feel free to email hem and I will add them!


  1. Facebook Likes
    I really love the way you discuss this kind of topic.

  2. in regards to #12 I had clients that set up a covered rubbermaid bin right outside the front door and put a sign over the doorbell that said "STOP! We're excited about your visit but the bell scares the baby, so please knock. While you are waiting for us to get to you, if you don't have a treat for *name of older siblings* please grab something from the bin to your right. This is a big change for them and they deserve to be spoiled a little since no one is getting much sleep right now. Please be sure your first hugs are for them, and don't forget to ask about soccer!"

    I thought they were the most brilliant parents ever!

  3. Ok so used to think "birth" day cakes were hella lame (besides who wants to bake IN LABOR!?! I didn't want to do anything but focus on getting through a contraction and preparing for the next one with my first! It was so tiring that I was conking out cold in between them there at the end!) but now tearing up thinking of how excited my toddler got over her bday and how having a cake would be awesome, especially since the new baby would be too young to eat any and she's HAVE to eat their slice;)