Allowing Children to Attend a Sibling's Birth – Would You?

My daughter "helping me" during my transition. Not scary, just interesting.

I realize this is a highly personal issue, but I also think it’s something that many women dismiss out of hand or don’t truly consider throughout their pregnancy – should they allow their other children to attend the birth of a sibling?

Recently, having children at the birth of their sibling is becoming a more and more common part of many pregnant women’s birth plan. We have always had our children present at our births (with preparation of course) and I want to share why – and when it would not be a good idea.

Familiar Environment is Less Stressful For Children

One of the reasons we had our children present at the birth of a new sibling, is simply that we were at home. With a homebirth situation we had a lot more freedom and flexibility, and we were in a familiar environment for the children.

If you plan a hospital birth, be sure you take your children on a tour of the hospital before you go into labor so it will be a more familiar environment for them.

Children Are Impacted by New Siblings as Well

Evan and my midwife, Gail, hanging out together during my labor.

As much as a new baby is a change for the one carrying the baby, it impacts the entire family as well. No one questions a father’s right to be present at the birth of his child, but a new sibling has a huge impact on the other children of the family as well. We always left it up to the kids whether they wanted to be present or not and so far they always have been. Except when my second baby was born – her older brother slept through her birth because of naptime and woke up 15 minutes later. Perfect timing!

Children Have Fewer Preconceptions About Birth

In my experience, especially with my third born, having the children there made labor more enjoyable. My kids had such a matter of fact attitude towards the whole thing it was very reassuring to me more than anything. They didn’t bring any preconceived ideas about what birth was or wasn’t – their world view hadn’t been warped by Hollywood drama. They simply knew what we had told them – that mommy would work very hard to help their baby brother come out.

Being Present From the Start Can Ease the Transition to “Big Brother” or “Big Sister”

In my experience, being there for the birth of a sibling, can help ease the transition for a child. This has been especially true of mothers who delivered in the hospital. When a mother goes away for two days and then comes back with a new baby it isn’t like any other trip she’s ever gone on before. Perhaps it’s the first overnight separation for a child, and now his mother isn’t even fully his anymore…it can be a rough adjustment. Being present for the birth can help smooth those feelings and a child will instinctively understand that change has taken place.

There are definitely times when a child should not be present for the birth of a sibling and here are a few that come to mind offhand:

  • When no caregiver will be available for the child. Children at birth should have a caregiver dedicated solely to them.
  • When the birth is premature or high risk and a child may be in the way of necessary medical interventions.
  • When no preparation has taken place. We often spend weeks preparing fathers to be present at a birth, but little thought is given to the children. Here are tips for preparing children to attend a birth that parents should find helpful.
  • When a child has special needs that would make the hospital or birth environment trigger them emotionally. In this case they may not be able to process the change of routine that birth represents and parents should use their best judgement in determining whether to invite a special needs child to be present or not.

Have you brought your children into the birth of a younger sibling? Would you ever consider it? Why or why not?

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