So you’ve decided to take the plunge and welcome a new baby to your family. Whether you’ve got one toddler under two, or a gang of older kids, it’s an equally exciting yet unsettling time for all involved. You may be feeling like death warmed up thanks to dreaded morning all-day sickness, or be plagued with doubts about how little Charlie/Lottie will react to a new kid on the block.
Grab a cup of tea and pull up a comfy chair. We’ve got some tried and tested tips that will prepare your child for the arrival of a new sibling, from how to share your news to books to read, plus tackling that first encounter at the hospital.
Telling your child the happy news
In an ideal world we wouldn’t break the exciting pregnancy news to older sibs until the 12-week scan comes back all clear. No parent wants to see their little one’s dreams crushed in the event of miscarriage. However, if you’re a Vomiting Violet like Kate Middleton was, your little buddy’s brow may be creased with worry. Young active kids are also wont to accidentally kick you in the stomach. If you let the cat out of the bag early, be sure not to blame the baby for your sickness, lest your child plots an evil revenge plan. Make your child feel a part of your special secret – which can’t be shared with anyone else until the doctor checks the baby is all healthy.
How you actually tell your child about the pregnancy will depend on their age. For the young ones (under two), it helps their understanding if you are showing a nice little bump. Time passes excruciatingly slowly for a child, so the longer you can wait the better. Just don’t let them overhear you telling someone else, as they’ll feel excluded. You can have some real fun with older kids, like handing them a newborn nappy, or showing them your scan. You can even mark it out on a calendar together, crossing off the days one by one.
Great books for helping prepare your child for a sibling:
1. Ruby’s Baby Brother by Kathryn White and Miriam Latimer
If you’re after a book for an older-sibling-to-be, Ruby’s Baby Brother is a wonderful choice. It’s a modern, eye-catching tome dealing with more complex concepts such as fear, jealousy and rejection. It is through the liberal use of magic and wild imagination that Ruby learns to accept and love her little brother Leon, so will appeal to kids who like a dash of adventure. It’s also refreshing to see an ethnic family and gritty subjects, like dad changing a pooey nappy, depicted in vibrant colour.
2. My New Baby by Rachel Fuller
They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and this is certainly the case for the gorgeous, colourful board book, My New Baby. It’s pitched at toddlers, and gently raises and answers questions they’re likely to have about a baby, including why a baby needs milk, naps and nappy changes. The toddler will also be reassured that they won’t be left out, as they feature on every page as an integral part of the process.
3. There’s a House Inside My Mommy by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Vanessa Cabban
There’s a House Inside My Mommy is marvellous read, and is suitable for all ages with its simple illustrations and catchy rhyming prose. After a read or two your little one will be chiming in with the delightful story. We love the heartfelt intimacy of this paperback, as the little boy searches for the windows on his mum’s ‘tummy house’, and empathises when his mum feels sick and sleepy. It’s focused more on the pregnancy, but culminates in the birth of the baby – a fitting end. Check out this YouTube video of the book.
4. Angelina’s Baby Sister by Katharine Holabird, illustrated by Helen Craig
Angelina’s Baby Sister (of the wildly popular Angelina Ballerina series), is aimed at the older child. At its core, it’s a story about dealing with anger when attention moves to the new baby. Angelina feels cross that everyone is fussing over the baby and goes on rampage, smashing her most valued prized trophy she won at a ballet recital. She soon realises that the diversion was temporary, and not only does everyone love her more than ever, but now she has a little sister Polly to love. Sweet.
5. Mommy Has A Baby In Her Tummy: A Colouring Book to Prepare Children for a New Baby by Jo Crowley
This new release (March 2015) colouring-in book, Mommy Has a Baby In Her Tummy, is a hands-on way to flush out any niggling worries your child may have about a new little person taking up residence in the house. The child is given the opportunity to create their own version of a happy family. You’ll both get the most out of the experience if you do this as an activity together.
Why not snap a pic of your little one holding your book of choice, and share it on social media as a cute birth announcement!
Tips for making your child feel involved in the process
Looking for tangible ideas to reassure your child that the impending arrival of the new baby doesn’t mean you don’t love them anymore? We’ve got a few suggestions up our sleeve sure to get them involved:
- Take them to your doctor’s appointment and watch their face light up when they see the baby moving, and hear its heart beat on a scan.
- Refer to the baby as ‘our’ baby, not my/mummy’s baby. Make it clear that the baby is not a replacement, but rather an addition to the family.
- Be ready and willing to answer all questions (no matter how trivial), and and ask them if they have any concerns. Warning: you might end up having to tell them about the birds and the bees!
- Let them think of a cute name for the bump (e.g. Chicken, Mungo, Barry the Bump).
- Snuggle up together, leaf through their baby photos and regale them with funny stories about when they were tiny. Talk about how much they can teach the baby (setting a good example), and what a big help they will be (choosing outfits, fetching nappies, helping with the bath etc).
- Allow them to help prepare the nursery, such as buying clothes, choosing furniture and decorating the room.
- Spend time with friends who have a baby, so they see just how fun siblings can be.
- Consider buying them a pet to take care of. We’re thinking low maintenance, like a fish, not an energy-sapping, slipper-chewing puppy.
- Invest in a baby doll with the all the kit (pram, bottles, blanket, high chair). Teach them to be gentle with their doll, and hopefully they’ll be the same with the real thing.
- Give them plenty of opportunity to connect with the baby. Ask them to talk and sing to the baby, and feel it kicking as they rub cream into your belly. This is also a beautiful, intimate time to share with your soon-to-be big brother or sister.
- Subscribe to an online pregnancy app (like BabyCenter) and share updates (the baby is now growing fingernails; it can hear your voice; it can see light, so let’s shine a torch on the belly).
- Strengthen the bond between your partner and your child, as they’ll have to step up more when you’re busy feeding, sleeping, etc. This is especially important for younger kids, who tend to be more attached to mum. They’ll both enjoy doing a special activity together (like going for ice-cream, to a movie, or spending time at the art gallery).
- Arrange a person that the child knows and feels comfortable with to look after them while you give birth.
The big introduction at the hospital
Joy – you’ve made it through the birth unscathed and have a fresh, rosy-cheeked newborn to show off! How you manage the moment that your child meets the baby is super important. Time the visit with when the baby is fed, changed and sleeping peacefully in the bassinet next to your bed. When your little one walks in, make sure to welcome them with open (baby-free) arms. Tell them you love them and how much you’ve missed them. Ask them what they’ve been up to while you’ve been apart. Pre-arm them with a gift of their choosing for the baby. Have a reciprocal gift ready from the baby – perhaps something they can play with in a hospital like a cool bag of crafty stuff. Let them hold the baby during the first visit and take loads of photos. Enjoy!
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