When you find out you’re pregnant with your first child, it’s all about you, your partner, and your precious new baby. If you end up having more than one child, the subsequent pregnancies become about your child(ren) becoming siblings as well.
As you now know from having your first child, a new baby is quite an adjustment. It was hard enough for you as an adult to adapt to this change. Imagine what it will be like for a 2-year-old or a 4-year-old! Luckily there are some things you can do to prepare your children for the arrival of their new brother or sister so this time is a bit less stressful for all of you.
Go through your child’s baby pictures with them. Talk about their time as a baby to help them get an idea of how the new baby may act. Tell them about how small they were, how you used to hold them and snuggle them. Share how much they fussed and cried and how you’d wake up in the wee hours of the morning with them. Anything you can share from their babyhood will not only inform them about life with a baby but will make them feel special at the same time.
Bring your child to your prenatal appointments with you. If your care provider supports it, and many do, bringing your child to even just one prenatal appointment gives them a special opportunity to learn more about your pregnancy and their sibling. They can hear the baby’s heartbeat, see how the midwife or doctor measures your growing belly to show them how big their sibling is getting, and, usually, the provider will give them some individual attention while answering any questions they may have.
Read books about new babies and becoming a big sibling. Some suggestions include The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby by Stan and Jan Berenstain, What’s’ in Your Tummy Mummy? by Sam Lloyd, and I’m a Big Brother/I’m a Big Sister by Joanna Cole. Be sure to ask your local library for other titles they may have about new babies and becoming a sibling.
Share the details of where your child will be during the birth. Let them know where they’ll be staying, what they’ll be doing, who will be with them, and other important details. Talk about the plan often to allow questions to come up so they can feel secure, and not left out, on the day of the birth.
Involve your child in the birth and welcoming of their new sibling in an age-appropriate way. Creating a role for your child during the birth will help them bond with their new sibling even from afar.
One idea is for them to spend this time baking a birthday cake with their caretaker for their new baby brother or sister. Take them to the store before the birth to buy ingredients and special decorations. Then, they can bring the finished cake home with them or to the hospital when they meet their new sibling for the first time.
Children may also enjoy making a card, picture, banner, or other items during the birth to welcome their new sibling. Be sure to ask them for ideas and involve them in the preparations.
Build a stash of quiet, entertaining new books and toys to give them during the first few weeks after the baby is born. The new baby will be getting all kinds of new gifts. Gathering some things before the birth to have on hand for your older children not only includes them in present time but also becomes a way of entertaining them so you can get some much-needed downtime. The gifts don’t have to be expensive. A new box of crayons and a coloring book, or a new toy car is often all it takes to get you a few hours of peace and help them feel included in the celebration.
Even with all of these preparations and more, your older children will likely still have an “adjustment period” after their new baby brother or sister is born. With some care and consideration, you can ease your child into the world of being a big sibling and help your entire family build stronger bonds in the process.