You are pregnant with your second (or third or fourth) child and are over the moon to be adding to your family! But, your eldest child does not understand what it means that mommy has a baby in her belly. In fact, no one fully comprehends the impact bringing home another child will have in your home until it happens.
Your concerns are different this time around, less focused on childbirth and having a baby to how your older child will react to having a new sibling — and how you’re going to care for both of them. We will respond to that first question today and tackle how to prepare yourself for two children in another article.
It is important to prepare your existing child for that special day when he or she will become an older sibling.
How can I prepare my older child for a baby sibling?
No matter how old your first child is when you discover you are pregnant, it is helpful to let them be a part of the whole process. Talk to younger children about what it means that mommy has a baby in her tummy. Make the concept of being a Big Brother or Big Sister fun and exciting. Let them take part in decorating the nursery, picking out clothing, and other baby needs. Help them to feel like their role as the “baby” is transitioning to big boy or mommy’s helper instead of feeling they’re being replaced. She may feel a range of emotions, from excitement to jealousy or even resentment. These are all normal. Her age will directly affect how those emotions are acted out.
Younger toddlers who are unable to verbalize their feelings may regress after the new child is born. They might suck their thumb, drink from a bottle, forget potty training skills, and communicate using baby talk in an effort to get your attention. Any big changes like a change in a room, move to a toddler bed, or potty training should come well enough in advance that it’s a “normal” behavior by the time the baby comes. Or, wait a few months after the new baby is home so that the events are not connected.
For younger children, use picture books as a way to help explain what it happening. Roleplay can be a good tool, as well. Try to carve out time for your older child that is their special time with mommy. This can involve an outing to the library or maybe just a few extra books at bedtime. Always assure them that nothing can change your love for them.
Older Toddler and Kids
Older toddlers and kids might express their feelings by testing your patience, misbehaving, throwing tantrums, or refusing to eat. These problems are usually short-lived.
Explain that a new baby cries, sleeps, and needs diaper changes frequently but that no matter how much time is required to care for their baby sibling, there will be plenty of time and love for him or her. Think of ways that your child can help you once the baby is born, so he or she is a part of the baby’s care. Your oldest might get a diaper or a burp cloth when needed, help pick out the baby’s clothes, or make silly faces for the baby when he is cranky.
Practical Things to Consider
While making sure your older child adapts as well as possible to a new sibling, don’t forget to make arrangements for the day the baby is born. Make sure to have someone who is able to care for your child while you are in the hospital. Also, ask your hospital what the visiting rules are for children so that you have a plan.
Bringing Baby Home
When the new baby arrives, have your older child brought to the hospital or birth center for a brief visit. Allow someone else to hold the baby for a while so that you can give your older child plenty of attention and love.
Consider giving your him a gift that’s from the baby, such as a T-shirt that says big brother or big sister. When you’re home, find a way to celebrate the new baby’s arrival whether it is a favorite treat, meal or trip to a favorite park.
We will write more about how to cope with the changes that are happening in your home, both for your older child and for yourself – stay tuned! And if you are expecting, remember to focus on your health, the health of your baby, and your EXCITEMENT! Don’t let worry distract you from the absolute wonder of the time of life you are in.