When the first born becomes the older sibling: children's books to help with the transition

Baby bookworm is in for a big change come January — she's becoming a big sister.

Despite the fact that she REALLY (and I mean REALLY) wanted a little sister, a little brother is on his way whether she likes it or not! I've gotten a few remarks from her like, "but I'm getting a sister, too" since breaking the news (um….that's a big nope), but she's slowly warming up to the idea.

Introducing a new baby into a family can be an exciting time for parents, although a first born child may not see it that way. New baby news can signal lots of mixed emotions which can often result in a display of not-so-pleasant behaviors (e.g., tantrums, clinginess, or regression such as potty accidents or thumb sucking). We have gotten a little bit of this in our household, already — and still have a few months to go.

Important ideas

Books, however, are a fantastic way to help children with life changes and events such as this one. I wanted to find some books to read with baby bookworm that not only focused on the "I'm a proud big sister" theme, but that incorporated these important ideas:

  • It's OK not to be happy that a new baby is coming.

    • (I wanted baby bookworm to know that it's "normal" to feel jealous or sad or mad that she will be sharing my attention with another child.)
  • Newborns and babies do a lot of crying, sleeping, and eating — and sometimes that's it!

    • (I wanted baby bookworm to realize that a baby isn't an automatic playmate in the beginning and needs lots of attention from adults.)
  • Big sisters (or big brothers) have a very special role in a family.

    • (I wanted baby bookworm to realize that being a big sister can be fun, and that she'd have the new responsibility of helping to care for the baby, and that doing so would make us proud of her.) 
  • Mommies go to a hospital (at least in my case) for a few days to have a baby.

    • (I wanted baby bookworm to know that I couldn't take care of her while I was in the hospital with the baby, but someone else who loves her would.)
  • It takes time for a baby to grow (in Mommy's belly).

    • (I wanted baby bookworm to know that a baby doesn't arrive immediately. We waited until the first trimester was over to break the news to her, but wanted her to realize having a baby is a process.)

Recommended books

I managed to find some really cute books that encompassed all of these ideas. Check them out:

Brand-New Baby Blues by Kathi Appelt & illustrated by Kelly Murphy — A story of a big sister who is not so thrilled about the baby brother in the house. It's a good book to help a child relate to the negative emotions that may come along with the arrival of a new sibling. This book could be read before or after the baby is born, and hopefully will initiate an important discussion about feelings.

We Have a Baby
by Cathryn Falwell shows all the things a family does with a new baby, with the most important being "to love" him. It's a simply worded book that would resonate with a young toddler who is eagerly awaiting little sis or brother. The book also shows a child that a baby needs to be taken care of by everyone.

Finn Throws a Fit!, A book by David Elliott and illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering, isn't your typical "big sibling" book, but it portrays the "joy" of having a little one. What it will show to a soon-to-be big sister or brother is that often times babies cry…A LOT…and for no reason. But eventually, everything goes back to normal. Finn Throws a Fit is a humorous and enjoyable look at baby behavior.

Baby Knows Best by Emily Henderson and illustrated by Brita Granstrom is a book that will show an older sibling how babies act – which is peculiar at times! Babies eat the newspaper, play with daddy's keys, and like to be naked. But most of all, babies like to snuggle. This book is a cute way to let big sister or brother know what to expect from babies.

Waiting for Baby shows the experiences a sibling-to-be will have while "waiting for baby"…from watching mommy's growing belly, to check-ups for the baby, to picking out new clothes. It shows how a big sister or brother will be involved in the process, and that there's lots to do before baby arrives.

Arthur's Baby by Marc Brown is about Arthur's experience when his new sister baby Kate arrives. This book provides a great opportunity to discuss with your child what will be happening as the date approaches for the baby to be born, and how things might change once the baby is here. It shows how Arthur's parents announce the pregnancy to the family, how they prepare, how Arthur's grandmother comes to help out while his mother is in the hospital, and how baby Kate behaves (and Arthur deals) once she's home. An all around great portrayal of what a family might be going through during this exciting time.

I'm also going to check out these books which have been recommended to me by friends and readers:

I'm a Big Sister by Joanna Cole
On Mother's Lap by Ann Herbert Scott
Baby On the Way by Dr. Sears
What Baby Needs by Dr. Sears
My Heart is a Magic House by Julie Jacobs

Aside from reading books, we are going to try out these ideas too to help with the transition:

  • Watch videos or view pictures of when your first born was a baby to help your child feel special and know that she is loved.
  • Visit a friend or relative who has a newborn baby.
  • Allow your child to act out his emotions through play such as with puppets, dolls, or play dough.
  • Buy a baby doll for your child (boy or girl!) and let him or her roleplay.

I have a feeling that just like anything in life, especially with change and transition, there will be ups and downs, good days and bad ones, but in the end we'll all be blessed with becoming stronger!

Marissa Kiepert Truong, PhD is a Chester County, PA mom and early education consultant. This post is adapted from her blog Land of Once Upon a Time.

Categories: MomSpeak