Help! This is something I know was happening but now it has I don’t know how or what to feel about it. What might help me feel much happier when meeting the baby for the first time?
I may feel worried, excited, scared, proud and maybe all of these at once so this may cause me to behave in what might be ‘babyish’ or regressive ways. I may refuse to go to the toilet and want a nappy on or I may throw tantrums but then again I may be very loving and overprotective of my new sibling. I am hoping that my parents and family see this as me getting used to my new role and figuring things out. Surely it wont be that long until it all settles down again so please be as patient and loving as you can everyone.
So this is my eldest boy Sam meeting his new baby sister Megan. Throughout my pregnancy especially in the last few months I was keen to prepare him as best I could for her arrival which included taking him to the scans, getting him involved in getting things ready (clothes, bedding etc) and reading books about new babies. I also thought it a good idea to get him settled at nursery before Megan arrived so he wouldn’t feel pushed out by her if he had started after the birth. He enjoyed seeing the baby on the screen but I think he still found it confusing that there was a baby in my tummy. Starting nursery was a bit fraught to begin with but he soon settled in and continued to enjoy his time with the childminder (who he had been with since he was 11 months old).
Not only was I keen to prepare him I was also aware that making the first time they met a special and memorable one. I read up on tips on how to do this and used the ones that I thought would work for him. We read that it was recommended to get Sam to visit the hospital on the day I was being discharged so there would be less chance of him getting upset about leaving me or him worrying why I was still in hospital and what a nice memory for him that he came to collect his sister too. I asked my husband to take him to a café for lunch before coming to the hospital so a) to make the day a special one for him and b) so he wouldn’t be hungry as that might affect him or distract him when he met Megan. I also wanted to make sure I made a fuss of him when he walked in and that we took it at his pace when it came to seeing Megan. Funnily enough he came running in, calling out my name, giving me a big cuddle and then going straight to the cot to have a look at his new sister. I can remember him being very inquisitive and excited when we all had a cuddle together.
A hospital visit might not always be possible so maybe get the older sibling to plan a welcome home party for mum and baby.
We knew that buying Sam a gift from the baby would be something to help him feel like not all the attention was on Megan and hopefully initiate the bonding process between the siblings. I can’t remember what we bought exactly, only his reaction and how proud he was telling people who had bought it for him. I have read that this might also work the other way as well and we got Sam to choose something for his little sister before she was born.
Getting friends and family to make a fuss of Sam when coming to meet Megan for the first time was also a tip we thought might help him feel less pushed out.
Finding out you are pregnant holds many blessings, but it can leave you asking one big question; When should we involve older siblings?
You may be wondering about how to approach and the challenges of introducing the idea of having a baby. Well look no further!
Why it is important to plan and prepare this.
Having a baby is not only going to change your life but your family life. Some siblings can and may find it hard to adapt to a new baby. Let's face it babies get a lot of attention; attention that once was on your first child will now shift. Preparing older children in advance can make a huge difference later on and increase the chances of an overall smooth transition. The more time you allow your kids to mentally prepare the better. At the end of the day, a change is a change and therefore it requires time to get used to. Remember: research shows that children over five adapt better to change.
Here are some top tips from helping siblings prepare for a baby:
The recommended time to tell siblings about mum being pregnant is after the first scan is confirmed. The reason for waiting till after the first scan is kind of obvious, it allows for those just in case scenarios.
However, I know mums who have struggled with morning sickness and have found it difficult to be around the older children who are witnessing it. As a mum you naturally don’t want to cause any worry or stress to your kids, so you may want to make your own personal plans on what you feel is best. For me personally, I told the odd white lie to my 5 year old son, who accepted mummy's tummy was poorly.
You know your kids better than anyone so trust your gut. I would always advise whenever you choose to let your friends and family know you should also let your other children know. You don't want to risk confusing them.
When you do feel that now is the time, try and make it a personal family occasion. Just you and partner are ideal. Try and include pictures of the scan and be prepared to answer some interesting questions. For me I was continuously asked, why mummy? Something that completely threw me! In my head I was picturing the perfect older sibling response, of him being overcome with joy and us celebrating in a bubble of love. Instead we got "Why?" followed by "Can I go play now?" So be prepared for them to react in a way that we would not expect
Don’t oversell the baby
Babies are not all fun and games and its going to be tough for siblings to adapt. So be honest about the challenges of having a new baby. Yes, you can absolutely talk about the pros, the “you will be able to teach this baby so much” and “ you are going to have someone to play with” but don’t big up the baby too much. It’s important to remain realistic and not plant an image of brilliance. Be honest. Tell them that babies poo and are loud. Let them ask questions and be open.
Remember to spend time with siblings that’s special to them
It will be hard to not have your mind consumed by baby brain. Everyone will be talking about it to you and its easy to forget to that siblings will be surrounded by that too. Spend one to one time with siblings without talking about baby. Do something that they enjoy, with a focus on them. This will remind them that baby is not taking over.
Whilst preparing for baby, get them involved!
By getting the other children involved it will help them to feel more apart of the change and growth of the family. There are so many ways you can do this including:
Buy a doll
Dolls are great way to help teach younger kids what a baby is. It's also is a great learning tool for siblings. You can use it to teach them how to hold a baby, change nappies and what not to do. It does not matter if your older child is a girl or a boy, buying a doll has many benefits. In many recent articles’ including this one from the Boston globe
“boy toys are often developed and marketed to promote aggression and competition while girl toys promote nurturing and relationship building,” notes Jennifer Shewmaker, associate professor of psychology at Abilene Christian University. “Healthy people know how to balance all of these traits. Giving boys the chance to explore nurturing and connecting with others opens up opportunities for them to build important life skills
I think it's fair to say that when it comes to siblings, always listen to your gut. Like I said before you know your kids better than anyone. A baby brings big change, so it's important to prepare your other children. Whatever you choose and however you choose it know there are some great books out there including one of our personal favourites:
Baby on the Way by William Sears, Martha Sears, Christie Watts Kelly, Renee Andriani
When should I get a doula?
So you have decided to hire a doula to support you on pregnancy journey, but when does the work actually start and what can you expect?
Let me break it down…
There are many different types of doula out there, we are creatures of many gifts and talents, so depending on what you want will determine the type of doula you need.
There are doulas who support antenatally; for birth or postnatally. There are doulas that help with mental health and grief. There are doulas that will cook and clean, and pick up your other children from school. There are doulas for breastfeeding and massages, hypnobirthing, reflexology the list literally goes on and on.
So planning what support you want and the method of birth that you are choosing will really help you decide what kind of doula you wish to have in your life.
You do not see many doulas doing this role. For me personally it’s so vital in building up strong relationships with my client and helping to prepare them for birth!
There are many reasons why you might want to talk to a doula prior to birth:
So what’s the difference between this and what a midwife can offer?
Its so important to make it personal to you and what you want this birth to be. Talking one on one at a pace that is not rushed or medical can help ease you into a positive state of thinking. In your half an hour check up it can be extremely hard to get all those questions out without feeling pressure to hurry up. Also, having a familiar face that you are building a one to one relationship with is so beneficial.
For me personally I keep things flexible when it comes to booking. You can book antenatal support on a flexible approach or book a lump block of sessions. You may just want to talk about the birth plan and therefore just want a single session. Whatever you need we adapt things for you and your requirements.
The main reason for hiring a doula will be to have us there to support you in your birth.
There are many different reasons behind this choice-
What does it involve?
Its important to understand that a birth doula does not take away your chosen partners role at birth.
Each doula will have their own approach to how they can support you. The norm is that there is a standard price and that will include a meet and greet, the birth and then a follow up session after baby is born. Prices vary from doula to doula.
My approach is slightly different, I do offer the above but also offer the birth alongside 4 appoints before and 4 after. The reason being is that personally I would like to have an established relationship with my doula if I was going to have her at my birth. Those extra sessions will allow for that. Furthermore, knowing that my doula would be there when I bring baby home is a real reassurance. Mums will tend to want food and bed when they bring baby home and a doula can provide both for you.
Booking a birth doula
If you are wanting a birth doula its best to start looking around month 4/5 so you have enough time to interview your doula. You will want to make sure there is a natural connection between yourself and your doula so give yourself plenty of time to find your perfect match.
You may decide that you just want a doula to support you when baby is here. Lots of mums enjoy having a support system in place back in the home for many reasons:
How to plan for your post-natal doula.
Whatever your reasons make sure you are clear with your requirements. Like I said before, some doulas will be more than happy to help around the house others are not, so before you choose your doula make sure you have been clear with your requirements.
Most sessions will last three hours. Don’t panic it may seem long, but it will fly by especially if you are sleeping which does happen.
You can book a postnatal doula at any point, but keep in mind they tend to be high in demand, so the sooner you book the better.
So when should you hire a doula?
Whenever you want!
It’s that simple, this is your pregnancy and your choice. You may decide that having a doula is not the right fit for you and guess what; that is fine. You might be able to build your own package of support, like you can at Derbyshire Doula and keep things flexible. Just ensure you have done your research and make sure that they are trained. Putting all the stereotypes about what a doula is and does aside; there is significant research supporting doulas and the benefits that they bring to you and your pregnancy.
See link below.
Doula UK doula.org.uk/research/#
Images used from Vecteezy