"Don't sit on the baby!": Smriti Halls' guide to introducing a new baby to their big brother or sister

Published on: 09 February 2021 Author: Smriti Halls

Bringing home a new baby is such an exciting time, but it can be a lot for a big brother or sister to process! Our Writer in Residence Smriti Prasadam-Halls shares her top tips for making sure that new siblings get off to a good start...

Welcome home!

“The new baby is brilliant!” is something an older sibling of a brand new baby will say for… all of about 45 seconds.

In this short time, a mini-fortress will likely have sprung up around said brilliant baby preventing loving older sibling from yelling a warm greeting in the newborn ear, donating 37 slobbery kisses, thrusting an armful of Lego in their face, sharing a half squished banana and introducing them to the cat/hamster/pet tarantula… You know… generally welcoming the exciting new somebody home.

In adults’ enthusiasm to protect the new bundle of joy, they can inadvertently end up making an older brother or sister feel a little left out, ignored and, quite understandably, fed up.

The source of great delight for everybody else could be a source of deep annoyance for an older sibling – and it’s not surprising that sometimes those feelings can develop into more deep-seated hurt or jealousy.

Enjoy the mayhem

I heard stories from friends about sibling love turned sour that gave me shivers, so when I had children of my own I made it my mantra from day one to make sure that EVERYONE got to be in the picture. After all, bringing home a new baby is a WHOLE family affair. Obviously, parents are wandering round in a perpetual state of worry or concern and feeling totally frazzled, sleep deprived and, on certain days, zombiefied, but perhaps we can embrace and enjoy the mayhem, the mess and the muddles together. Instead of keeping older siblings out, we can find ways to let them in and feel part of things.

That’s what Say Hello to Baby (and How Big Is Your Baby before it) set out to do – I wanted to create a go-to guide of ways to involve children right from the start; helping them make space in their homes and hearts for someone else and reminding them that they’re still as loved as ever. A sort of What to Expect When You’re Expecting or What to Expect in the Early Years… but for toddlers.

Smriti's children welcoming the new babySmriti's children welcoming the new baby

A new friend for life

The book provides new siblings with baby-safe fun and games to play with Baby, but also arms them with information so that they can understand reasons WHY the baby may be crying or not able to eat proper food yet, or needs to sleep soooo long and soooo often. The book provides answers, makes suggestions and gives top tips to help siblings bond… No, you CAN’T bounce the new baby down the stairs in your doll’s pram but here’s how you CAN make them roar with laughter playing peekaboo.

The book is dedicated to my big sisters – who played with me, read to me, sang to me and are my lifelong buddies. I hope my boys will be just that for each other, too. And so from the beginning, I have called upon them to deliver their advice, help, and world-class entertainment skills. They have been acrobats, face pullers, page turners, quackers, growlers, storytellers, dancers, rock stars, magicians, monsters, comedians, cheerleaders, huggers, kissers, please-go-and-fetch-the-Sudocremers, and a hundred and one other things. And so they continue, a merry crew who have each other’s backs (mostly).

We need friends for the journey, and if we’re lucky enough to have some delivered to us at home, right from the start, then so much the better…

Encouraging friendship from an early age has to be a good thing, right? Like all of us, children like to feel useful, needed and important. A little bit of knowledge, some know-how and some safety appropriate suggestions not only does that but it gives them a sense of ownership or kinship for their new family member. EVERYBODY wins. Exhausted mums and dads get a momentary breather now and then (and yes EVERY moment counts) and big brothers and sisters? Well, they get a new friend for life.

So here are my top tips for peace, harmony, loving siblings… and enough time to sip a cup of tea (well at least half a cup).

Encourage big sisters and big brothers to…

1. Make up stories using lots of different voices!

2. Do some action rhymes to try and get Baby to clap their hands, touch their noise, point to the sky etc

3. Create colourful drawings for Baby to enjoy

4. Sing a song or make music

5. Read stories and show Baby all the pictures

6. Do a dance

7. Make animal noises and see if Baby can copy

8. Pull faces and make Baby laugh… NO ONE else can EVER make babies laugh like their siblings can!

9. Blow raspberries together!

10. Talk, smile and enjoy plenty of hugs… morning hugs, bedtime hugs and, best of all, giant, snuggly group hugs.

What are your top tips for introducing little ones to a new baby? Tell us in the comments or Tweet us @BookTrust!

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Meet our latest Writer in Residence

Every six months, BookTrust appoints a new Writer in Residence to write blogs, run competitions and give us their own unique perspective on the world of children's books. Our current Writer in Residence is Rashmi Sirdeshpande.

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