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