Safe Siblings: Introducing Baby To Older Children
Bringing Home Baby
Even the most loving siblings can endanger a newborn. Children under three are still babies themselves and don’t understand that infants need special care. A big sister eager to hold her baby brother doesn’t know to support his head. She wants to hug him, but squeezes too tightly. Toddlers also are naturally curious, and climb up the sides of bassinets or changing tables to get a glimpse of who’s inside.
Two-year-old Benjamin Lieberman of Highland Park, Illinois, relished his role of big brother. “It was love at first sight,” says his mother, Alicia. “He was always kissing and hugging Raizel. We wanted to encourage the relationship, but we had to be right there all the time to make sure he didn’t hurt her.”
The close tabs Benjamin’s parents kept on the siblings proved valuable. When Raizel was two weeks old, Benjamin lost his balance leaning down to hug her as she lay on the floor. Lieberman caught him before he fell on his sister, but she says, “I hate to think what could have happened if I hadn’t been in the room.”
Experts agree that constant supervision is your best safety tool. “Never leave a two- or three-year-old alone with a baby,” says Dr. Flaura K. Winston, MD, PhD, pediatrician and director of TraumaLink at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In just a second—less time than it takes to go to the kitchen for a cup of coffee—a toddler can pull over a bassinet, throw a toy at the baby or sit on him.
Dr. Winston also urges parents to recognize a big sibling’s need for time with mom and dad. If you meet that need—for example, by having a tea party while the baby sleeps—your toddler will be less upset at the baby for grabbing your attention.
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