The answer to this question is dependent upon so many unchangeable factors such as your older child's age and big brother/sister's personality. However, equally dependent is what type of preparation you have done leading up to the arrival of your little one.
*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or specialist in any way. I am a licensed teacher and mom of four who is writing about views and experiences all my own. If you are experiencing significant problems, contact your doctor for more advice.
The preparation my husband and I choreographed for our first, second, and third child was both intentional and timely. The mindset we instilled was based around how this new sibling was equally "their" baby just as much as Mommy and Daddy's baby. It was important to develop this attitude in order to instill a sense of leadership rather than replacement inside our older children's minds. Many discussions were had which centered around the helplessness of baby and the importance of how baby cannot feed, change, wipe, clothe, or do anything by themselves. We spoke of the job God had bestowed upon us when He entrusted us with one of His new creations. We spoke of the importance of this privilege. We were baby's teachers, family unit, supporters, and caregivers until they can one day take care of themselves. This wasn't just my job or Daddy's job--it is and was everyone's job.
I remember the transition I, myself, had with the birth of my baby brother. It had been a long hot summer for my mother, and my brother did not make his arrival until the end of August. I knew I was going to be a sister but was not prepared for the changes which were to take place in order for that role to be assumed.
My mother and father left late one evening, and I awoke to my grandmother in the house. I did not know her very well, she was different, and I didn't appreciate her arrival and absence of my parents. I missed my mom and did not understand why she had left me behind.
It wasn't until the second day after my brother's arrival I was allowed to visit with my mom and see him. Brother's bassinet was pointed out by my parents as I stared through the glass wall separating us from the hospital nursery. I saw my mother for a brief time and then returned home. After three (total) agonizing days, she returned with a bundle of wailing limbs who took so much of her time I immediately wanted to send him back. Looking back, I felt replaced. To my parent's defense, they did not know about the intense emotions and internal turmoil a small preschooler could have over a new addition to the family. My brother's arrival and consistent illnesses created a gulf in our relationship which did not begin to close until my 14th year. When I revisit these memories, I am filled with grief for both myself and him. His relationship with me was tainted before we had the chance to meet. I vowed to do things different for my children; not because I am better than my parents, but because I KNOW better through my own experiences and remorse.
My pregnancies were shared by all members of our family. Sure, I was mom; but I was also the vessel used to bring the new member into our family. This was everyone's baby and we all had a part to play in order to influence their life. So, all ultrasound visits were attended by everyone, doctor's appointments were filled with questions from both mom and siblings, the bedroom was decorated with everyone's help, and the siblings bought gifts for baby while baby (ahem, mom and dad) secretly bought gifts for them too.
Birth was no different. Everything was appropriately communicated upon the need to go to the hospital and siblings came as soon as baby was close to arriving. Everyone sat in the waiting room eagerly awaiting their first glimpse of baby. Special arrangements were made with hospital staff for the siblings to help with the baby's first bath and my oldest was even old enough to watch the birth of her last baby sister and cut the cord!
Although we still had our ups and downs as a family, because our children understood they were not being replaced; rather, they were being promoted, our transitions were pretty smooth. Including the new siblings continued at home as we read stories while I nursed baby, baths were still assisted with, diapers were changed (tediously) with the help of big sisters, and so much more. If there was any way to include a sibling, we tried.
Siblings need to know they are not pushed aside, but they are promoted, appreciated, and a definitive part of helping this new little one navigate the world. Every child reacts to a new family member differently, whether it is a brother/sister or a new aunt or uncle. Transitions are hard. There are ways to ease transitions and the best way is through communication and love. There are so many ways to be inclusive in this process. Share with us some ways you, yourself, were able to ease the transition of a new sibling.