I hear this question asked often: how can I prepare my child for having a new baby sibling? While there is not a "one size fits all" approach, there are a number of things you can do to make transitioning a newborn into the family less difficult. During my second pregnancy, I made a conscious effort to prepare my son for what was to come and make him feel as included in the process as possible. There are many ways to do this while keeping everyone in the family content. Here are five things that may help your older children cope with welcoming a new family member:
1. Provide Information
Many times when children become sad or angry when told the news that they will have a younger sibling, it is simply due to a lack of understanding of what is to come. The more information we have about a particular situation, the more safe and comfortable we feel. You know your child best. Show him or her age-appropriate books about babies, pregnancy, and childbirth. Answer any questions they may have honestly. Tell them what might be different in your daily routine, and maybe even start implementing some of these changes ahead of time. Most importantly, let your child know that your role in their life and your love for them will not change.
2. Make it Fun!
You can help older siblings feel included by letting them help you prepare for the baby. Make a DIY mobile or paint onesies. Take them shopping and let them pick out toys, bedding, and clothes for the new little one (with a sweet treat afterwards of course). Including them in these activities will show them that being an older sibling isn't a bad thing. In fact, it can be fun.
3. Hire a Doula
Hiring a doula can help ease the stress of transitioning a newborn into the home. Birth doulas, sibling doulas, and postpartum doulas are three types of doulas you may consider. Birth doulas provide support throughout your pregnancy, during the duration of your entire labor, and for a couple of home postpartum visits. Sibling doulas are typically birth or postpartum doulas who specialize specifically in tending to siblings during a birth, especially home births. Postpartum doulas assist parents in the weeks after the baby is born in a variety of ways. Any of the above types of doulas will make the family transition easier by taking pressure off of you and your partner, providing helpful information, and offering a little extra support along the way.
4. Invite Your Child to the Place of Birth
Many parents choose to include their children in the birthing process by letting them come and go during labor, especially if the place of birth is at home or a birthing center. This depends of course on how comfortable you and your child are with this, which may depend on their age. This may be helpful in introducing how the baby arrived, instead of simply showing up at home with a new human, which can be confusing for our little ones.
5. Have New Baby Give a Gift
If having your older child attend the birth is not an option, you may consider getting a gift to give to your child from the new baby. Gifts may include coloring books, stickers, a new movie, or any other activities they can get excited about. Keeping them busy with fun activities will give you a chance to find a new balance with having multiple children.
In the Portland area and need a doula? Visit Sage Birth to see our doula package and rates.