Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Introducing a new baby

I have a friend who is expecting baby number two and she has been asking about some of things we did to prepare our son for the arrival of our new baby. I thought it would make a good post, some ideas on how to introduce both the idea and the physical new baby to your child.

Let's start with the pregnancy. It's very much a personal decision as to when you decide to bring up the topic of a baby in mummy's tummy to your child and is probably somewhat dependent on the age of your child too. As time is not a concept young toddlers have much of a grasp of, we didn't want to tell our son too early. In fact, we were somewhat forced into telling him a little earlier than we might otherwise have done, due to too many adults asking him about what was in mummy's tummy!

Books are always a helpful and enjoyable way to explain situations to children, whether it's toilet training, starting school or in this case, a new baby joining the family. We had a couple bought for us and both were enjoyed by our son: I'm a Big Brother and the similarly named I'm a New Big Brother. They were good in explaining very basically some of the things to expect with a newborn, like crying, the eating / sleeping / pooping routine and also little ways in which an older sibling could help or engage with the baby. Our son's favourite line in one of these was on a page about helping feed the baby food and it says, 'I try not to get peas on his face'! They are also good about highlighting some of the fun things an older sibling gets to do that a baby can't - like going to bed later and being able to eat pizza and ice-cream, as a way to reinforce the fun in being a 'big boy or girl'.

As a parent, we can do our best to talk about what it may be like when the new baby arrives to help prepare the older child but I think it's important not to overdo it. It's good to focus on the time you have together before the baby's arrival, maybe do some special outings or activities together to make your older child feel really loved and secure.

I was lucky to have a couple of close friends who had had their second babies towards the end of my pregnancy and it was immensely handy to spend time with them so my son got to experience being around a newborn before ours arrived on the scene. He got to see how tiny a baby is, to hear their crying, see them being fed, nappies changed etc. I think that was a real benefit for my son to get a glimpse of what it might be like when his baby sister was born.

Finally, a few words on the physical introduction to the baby. Even though it was eight months ago now, I can still picture the moment my son came into the room of the birth centre to visit me and see his new sister for the first time. I had heard that it was best not to be holding the baby when the sibling first sees them so I made sure to have arms free for a big welcoming hug for my son. A midwife had told me he was there (I think I was eating rather than holding the baby!) and so I was ready for an enthusiastic greeting. I had missed him so much during those hours of the birth!

We involved our son in little ways like having him count the baby's toes. Another tip I had heard was to have a present from the baby so we had a present in our 'hospital bag' ready to give him too. That definitely went down well!

Those are my experiences and some things that worked for our family. Obviously the whole concept of a baby in mummy's tummy and having a new baby brother or sister is one that must be incredibly abstract and impossible to really explain to a young toddler. All you can do is try to make the introduction of both the idea and the baby itself one that is positive and inclusive for the older child.

For those of you with two or more children, what do you remember from introducing the new baby to your older child? Do you have any additional tips to share?
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