Pregnancy and Siblings: Introducing Baby [Part One]
Preparing Your Child For a New Sibling
As the weeks grow closer to my due date (January 26, 2013), I am beginning to think of the details of how this is all going to workout, or actually play out I suppose. My son is currently an only child and quite spoiled by mom and dad.
My son is the center of ALL our attention and care. Whatever he needs, mom and dad are there to do it. However, I am starting to recall what my days were like when he was a demanding and needy newborn. I am quickly remembering how demanding a newborn can be and wonder how I will divide my attention.
The last thing that we would want is for our son to feel neglected, or second priority. These are concerns that any parent will have when a new member of the family is about to be introduced, so I have done some significant research (and worrying) about the best methods we can use to begin to prepare our son for baby, but also introduce him to his new sister in January!
Address the upcoming changes in your family before the new baby arrives. Whether or not your child seems to have a prepared personality, there will be a huge adjustment period once the baby is born. Begin to share the excitement, discuss any important household changes, and allow your child(ren) to express their feelings and concerns beforehand.
During the Pregnancy
Sharing the Big News:
There isn’t a step-by-step rundown on how this should play out. You will know and be able to decide when the moment feels right to share the news of a pregnancy with your children. Consider how far along you are and the age of your children to help you pick the appropriate moment.
If your children are under 5-years-old, there may be difficulty trying to explain the length of time that it will take before the new baby arrives. Use a timeline that uses holidays and weather to help your child understand that this is going to take time.
I explained to my son that we had to wait for pumpkin picking, Halloween and trick-or-treating, Thanksgiving, snow, Santa, and THEN our new baby would arrive. His initial reaction of anticipating a baby "tomorrow" changed and I watched his perspective modulate into a "waiting for baby" mood. He was able to recognize that there was a lot to do before we would meet his sister.
Your little one is likely going to ask a lot of questions and grow quite curious about how this could have possibly happened to his mommy. Explain as much as you can, but remember that he is not writing a textbook! Don’t feel like you have to explain everything.
Your little one is curious and wants to know where this baby came from, but he is not looking for a literal answer. Responses such as, "inside of mommy’s belly" or "because mommy and daddy love each other sooo much!" will suffice. Guide your answers through the help of your child’s questions.
If your little one asks for details, don’t feel you have to explain everything. A preschooler who wants to know where a baby comes from is looking for a literal answer. Saying, "Inside mommy’s belly," is likely enough. Let your child’s questions be your guide.
Remind Him He Was a Baby, Too:
Although your little one wil not remember what it was like when she was a baby, rehash the memories through photo albums and sorting clothes that you put away in storage. Remind your child that she was also a baby at one point.
Talk about how excited you were when she arrived, how adorable she looked in her pink onesie, and how much fun it is going to be to have another little baby in the family.
I’ve been asking my son for his best tips that we can give to the baby on how to have fun, play, and drink his bottle! His answers have been adorable (to say the least!) and we’ve had a lot of fun writing down his ideas, which include: "Make sure you tell her she has to hold a ba-ba with TWO hands so it doesn’t fall! Then mommy has to clean the mess and that’s not nice!".
Ask for His Advice & Tips:
Even though you may want to skip on asking your little one for baby naming tips, asking your child for their opinion on other important parts of your pregnancy will help keep them involved and interested. While you are shopping at a local baby store, ask your child for their opinion on a bumper set, infant toys, or even an adorable piece of clothing.
Keeping your child actively interested in the baby process is going to help her connect what is going on and encourage a much more gradual adjustment period once your newborn is welcomed into the family. If possible, purchase at least 1-2 of the products that your child picked from the shelves (baby rattle, pajamas, onesies). This will help her realize that she is an important part of the family and her contributions are warranted.
Begin Preparations with Explanations:
Just as I have begun to concern myself with how the addition of a sibling will work in our family, chances are you are doing your own research on the new baby, help your preschooler to do the same. Head to your local library or bookstore and pick out some books that will explain what is going on.Depending on your child’s age, select an age appropriate book that will gently (and vaguely) describe the excitement, changes, fun, and adjustments that are going on in your family.
Put Milestones on the Back Burner:
Use your own judgement and parenting knowledge to decide what is best for your child, but consider holding off on larger milestones that will create larger changes and more drastic changes to your little one’s daily routine. If your child is ready for a big boy bed or potty training, go ahead! If not, don’t apply too much pressure and stress.
You don’t want your child to feel replaced and lost because of the new baby. Giving up half of his parents attention is a huge adjustment, but having to hand over his crib will really add a lot of confusion and anger. If you need the crib for your newborn, but decide to use a cradle for the first few weeks, consider putting off the big boy bed until the major adjustment period has settled after baby is born.
Accept & Expect Mood Swings:
Your child is going to have mood swings, which is perfectly normal as mom becomes less and less available. You will slowly begin to show signs of ‘something going on’ and as much as you try to keep things as normal as possible, your child is a smart cookie. He will figure it out once you are unable to bend down and pick him up, or the space on your lap grows smaller.
Whether your child is reacting in a little or big way, listen to his feelings and show as much love as you can. Remind him that he is still (and always will be) loved very much by mom and dad. Listen carefully, but don’t make your child feel bad if he is not overly excited to the idea of a new baby.
Lead & Learn By Example:
Purchase a baby doll similar in size to a newborn and use it to demonstrate baby care to your child. Let your little one practice holding, feeding, changing, and touching the baby.
Try to treat the baby doll as you would a real newborn. If you plan to make it a requirement that your preschooler sit on the couch while holding his new baby sister, do the same while you are practicing.
Don’t let your son catch you holding the doll by its foot or grabbing it quickly from the couch while you are cleaning up. Lead by example and demonstrate just how gentle we need to be with our new family member!
* Next Up…
While I have explained some great tips on how to prepare your baby for a new sibling during your pregnant, I wonder what will happen once baby is born and at home with our family.
Discover more great tips on how to prepare your child as the days grow closer to the birth and how to deal once your newborn is home in the next Introducing Baby post here at MamaNYC (coming soon)!