Your family was perfect. Your first child was well-behaved, learning on-schedule, your little angel. Feeling like you’ve got this parenting thing nailed, you decide to add to your family. After nine months of helping your child prepare for being an older brother or sister, the day has finally arrived: you bring the baby home.

We’ve said before that everyone reads the birth plan except the baby; the reaction of older siblings to your bundle of joy can be just as difficult to script. Bringing home a new baby changes the family dynamics in sometimes unexpected ways. In addition to verbally reassuring your child that you love them just as much as ever, here are a few tips for helping big brother or big sister adjust to the new addition.

Decision-making. While you may have been reluctant to let your older child choose the baby’s name, picking out an outfit or selecting the lullaby to play at bedtime are decisions in which they can be involved with fairly minimal consequence.

Caring for the baby. Give your child age-appropriate tasks to help care for the baby. For younger kids, this could include things like entertaining the baby during diaper changes, fetching the teddy bear or finding the baby’s missing sock. Older children may be excited to hold or burp the baby; help them get ready for this responsibility by giving them a doll to practice with.

Household responsibility. In addition to letting them know what an important role being a big brother or big sister is, help your child feel like an important member of the family by increasing their responsibility around the house, too (in an age-appropriate way). For example, politely asking guests to talk quietly when the baby is sleeping.

One-on-one time. Initially, it can be challenging to separate yourself from the schedule of feeding and changing to spend quality time with your firstborn. Enlist the support of your partner or nearby grandparents; this can be the perfect time for them to reinforce their bond with your oldest. Also, look for little ways to give your older child attention from mom. While you may not be able to plan a whole day with them in the first few weeks, invite them to run a quick errand with you while the baby stays home with dad, or include them by inviting them to cuddle and read a story during feeding time.

Reinforce the positive. Don’t be surprised if your oldest child reverts to some baby-like behavior. This is completely natural. Rather than scolding her or him, reinforce “big girl” and “big boy” behavior with praise.

These are just a few ideas that we share in our early prenatal visit for returning mothers. While you may be a seasoned mom, early prenatal care is still important. Call us when you find out you’re pregnant – we want to help you get the healthiest possible start.