Expecting a baby is exciting, whether it’s your first or fourth. During your first pregnancy, you may worry about how it will affect your relationship with your partner. By the time you’re expecting your second, you’ll likely be more focused on the needs of your first born child. After all, that gorgeous little kid has been your entire world ever since she joined you not so long ago. You can’t help but feel a little worried about how the arrival of the new baby will affect your first born. Will she feel left out, replaced or jealous as a result of the new baby? BellyBelly has a beautiful article which has been written for parents who are pregnant with their second child, called Loving Two. It’s a must read!
Luckily, there are things you can do to encourage and support a smooth transition for your child. Investing some time in preparing your child for the arrival of a new sibling could make all the difference here.
Here are some things that you and your partner can try:
#1: Tell Your Child First
It’s up to you when you decide to share the news of your pregnancy, but letting your child be one of the first people to hear about it could make things a little easier for you. Not only will your child feel special being one of the first to know, but you’ll avoid the awful situation of someone else unwittingly breaking the news for you. Your child is going to be one of the people most affected by the new baby, so she deserves to be one of the first to know about it. If your child is old enough to keep it hush, you may even want to tell her sooner so that she gets to be in on the secret.
#2: Start Your Countdown
Prepare your child for the new baby by starting a countdown. With older children, they can countdown the weeks and months with you. For younger children, who have little understanding of the passing of time, it is easier to tie the birth to an event (such as their birthday or Christmas) so that they know when to expect the new baby.
#3: Talk About Birth
There is no such thing as too young to learn about birth. Age appropriate information exists for all ages, allowing you to educate your child about what will happen at the birth. Try to talk about birth positively, and discuss the power and strength of the female body. Children really pick up on things you say and do, so if you speak about birth as something negative, unpleasant and dangerous, your child may develop a fear of birth.
Children are naturally curious and are likely to be interested in the details of birth, so expect a lot of questions over the duration of your pregnancy. There are lots of great books you can buy that cover the process of birth in an age appropriate way. See BellyBelly’s list of great books to explain birth and babies to your older children.
#4: Give Them Time To Bond
One way to get your child excited about the new baby is to encourage them to bond. Give your child plenty of opportunity to feel the baby moving in your tummy. Encourage her to chat to your bump, respond to the baby’s movements, and sing to the baby inside your belly.
#5: Involve Your Child In The Pregnancy
Invest in a book showing your baby’s development throughout pregnancy and make it part of your weekly routine to look through it together. Invite your child to join you at antenatal check-ups, listening to the baby’s heartbeat can be pretty exciting for soon-to-be big sisters! You can also involve her in other aspects of the pregnancy, such as antenatal exercises. There are plenty of fitness DVDs aimed at pregnant women, such as antenatal yoga, that you can do together at home. Take a shopping trip together and let your older child pick out a new outfit for the new baby.
Role play is a fantastic way of getting children to explore issues and open up about their worries. Use dolls to role play babies, and use this as tool for giving your child insight into what babies are like, and what they need. Through a game of role-play you can discuss sleep, feeding, changing and gentleness. You can also get pregnant dolls which give birth to baby dolls, allowing your child to role play the pregnancy and birth too. Pay close attention when your child role-plays about pregnancy, birth and babies, because this will give you an insight into any worries she has about the new baby.
#7: Introduce Your Child To New Babies
It’s not often that children get introduced to newborn babies, and many tend to think of babies as being a bit older and a lot more capable. To help your child set realistic expectations for what her new sibling will be like as a newborn, introduce your child to other newborns.
#8: Invite Your Older Child To The Birth
This one may not appeal to everyone, but if the idea of having your older child present at the birth sounds lovely, then you should absolutely do it. Take a look at our article Should Children Be Present During Childbirth? for more information.
Tips For Once The Baby Arrives
No matter how hard you try prepare your child for the new baby, you may still run into some teething problems in those first few months. All of a sudden, your older child is being forced to share all of her things (including her parents!), so it’s no wonder she’s struggling at times. It’s unavoidable that babies take up a lot of time and your older child might feel left out while you’re busy tending to the baby. To try and smooth out any of these niggles, here are a few more suggestions for things you can try once the baby arrives:
#1: A Baby Photo Album
Give your child a photo album filled with pictures of her as a baby and chat through each of the pictures. This gives you the chance to explain more about babies and helps your child to understand and empathise with the new baby’s needs.
#2: Let Her Help
However old your child is, there are ways she can get involved with caring for the new baby. For younger toddlers, this could simply be passing you things when it’s time to change a nappy. For older kids, they can help with bath and bedtime.
#3: Get A Doll
Give your child a special doll to look after so that she can mimic the way you care for the new baby. She will be able to set herself up next to you, and massage her doll whilst you try out some real baby massage before bedtime. A doll allows your daughter to role-play, and this will help to keep her entertained for short periods while you’re busy with the baby.
#4: Set Up A Breastfeeding Station
For mothers, a breastfeeding station is a place with television remotes, biscuits and water. For kids, it’s a place they can get hold of everything they need while you’re busy with the baby. Make sure there are snacks, drinks and activities set up, so that your older child won’t go hungry or wind up feeling bored during feeds.
#5: Use A Sling
Babywearing is a great way to free up your hands. As your baby snuggles soundly against your chest, you have your hands free to play cars, finish a craft project or read stories to your older child. This will give you a bit more freedom when it comes to making time to play with your older child.
#6: Compliment Your Child
Comment on your older child’s positive behaviour, and make sure she knows when she’s doing something sweet or kind for the new baby. Don’t fall into the trap of only commenting on bad behaviour, because this means you risk your child acting out for attention.
#7: Don’t Force Your Child To Share
Your child is likely to get annoyed if all of her stuff suddenly ends up in the baby’s crib. Give your child the chance to offer toys to the baby herself, which she will do, in time. Nothing will warm your heart like the sight of your older child offering her favourite teddy to her crying younger brother.
#8: Validate Feelings
Your older child isn’t always going to be the new baby’s biggest fan. In fact, sometimes she’s not going to like the new baby at all, and she won’t shy away from telling you that. Remember, it’s ok for her to feel that way, don’t try to tell her how she should feel ‘You LOVE the baby.’ Instead validate her real feelings, and explore the reasons why she’s feeling that way.