Preparing Your Child for the Arrival of a New Baby
Posted on April 25, 2019 by CHS
Bringing a new baby into your family is an exciting and joyous time. This is also a life-changing event for the whole family. Your older child may feel excited about the new baby coming home, but once the day-to-day routine starts, he might experience anxiety during this new adjustment period. . By preparing your child for the arrival of a new baby, you can make the transition smooth and positive for everyone.
The following ideas can help you prepare your older child for the arrival of a new sibling. Keep in mind that how you choose to prepare your child will depend on his age, maturity, and needs. Read through the suggestions below to decide which ideas will be most helpful for your family.
Talking about Pregnancy
Pregnancy may be easier to talk about with children when they start seeing your abdomen grow. The idea of growing a baby is a little easier to understand when they have something visual they can make a connection with. Children may ask questions about what is happening to your body at this time. Answer questions honestly, but simply. If children want more detailed answers, they will continue asking questions, so let their questions guide your conversation.
Young children understand the concept of time in the general terms of past, present, and future. They struggle with thinking of time in terms of months. When you are ready to talk to your young child about your pregnancy, try linking the upcoming birth to another known event or season. For example, “The baby will be here when it gets really cold outside and it’s time to celebrate grandma’s birthday.” If your child is in elementary school, and able to better understand the concept of time, then you can tell him the baby will be here in November, for example.
Visit your local library and ask the librarian to help you select books about pregnancy, childbirth, and life after the baby arrives that are appropriate for your child’s age. Read these books with your child as you talk about your pregnancy. Understanding what is going to happen will eliminate the fear children feel when confronted with the unknown. Provide children with a realistic description of what to expect. For example, “Our new baby will be so cute and she will smile a lot, but sometimes she will cry too.”
Look for ways to include your older child in preparations for the new baby. Begin by drawing your child’s attention to babies when you see them in public or while reading books together. Pull out old photos and invite him to look at pictures of when he was a baby and share stories about the things he did when he was little. Begin referring to him as “a big brother” so he understands he has an important role in the family. If your child does not seem to be interested in babies that is okay. There is no need to force the issue. Eventually his interest will develop.
Give your child a special doll that he can care for. Teach him how to gently hold the doll, swaddle it in a blanket, feed it, and gently rock it to sleep. If you have friends or relatives who have an infant, ask if you and your child can visit. During the visit, talk to your child about using soft touches with babies and explain that they are fragile and must be held carefully. You can also check with your health care professional to see if they have any recommendations for Sibling Birth Preparation Classes where children learn about childbirth in an age-appropriate manner and about safely handling an infant.
Include your child in the preparation for the new baby by asking for help when choosing blankets, clothes, room decorations, and even possible names for their sibling. Include him in the plans you make for when you begin the labor process. He can help you pack your overnight bag if you are giving birth at a hospital or birthing center. If he will be staying with a friend or relative then you can help him pack his overnight bag. Explain who will be caring for him while you are having the baby, and reassure him of your love for him and how you are looking forward to him being a big brother to his new sibling.
Speak to friends and relatives in advance about helping you make your child feel special. Encourage them to plan a special date with him, or talk about the things he is interested in. It may be difficult for siblings to feel important when the new baby is getting everyone’s attention. Prepare a special gift for your child that is from the baby, and have it ready for him when he sees the baby for the first time.
As your due date approaches, continue following your child’s usual routine and spend time reading or playing with him. If your child is approaching a milestone, such as toilet learning, consider postponing this until after the baby is born. Think of ways to include your child as a helper in caregiving tasks. For example, he can hand you a clean diaper and wipes, he can use a wipe to wash the baby’s hands after diaper changes, or he can sing to the baby. Practice these routines with your child using a baby doll.
Place a small basket in each room of your home and fill them with a few books and toys. These can be welcome distractions for your older child once the baby arrives.
After the Arrival of the Baby
If you are comfortable with it, allow your child to visit you and his new brother or sister in the hospital or birthing center. Keep the number of visitors to a minimum when your child comes to visit so it can be a family bonding experience. Allow him to gently touch the baby’s hands or arms and talk to her. Introduce him to the baby as her brother, making his role in the family clear.
Once you have been home for a few days, your child may begin asking you to pick him up and hold him more often, or he may begin using baby talk, sucking his thumb, or having toileting accidents. This is normal. Your child is expressing his emotions through his behavior. Listen to your child and guide him in expressing his emotions, but continue to be consistent with your usual behavior expectations. If you believe he is feeling left out, try to think of more ways to help him feel included, or plan a special activity for him to do with you, your partner, or a favorite relative.
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