Now that I’m getting pretty close — less than 6 weeks until my due date — I’m thinking a lot about preparing my older kids for the upcoming arrival. They’re now about 3.5 and almost 2 and quite fascinated by babies and baby things. Of course, being so young, they’re not always gentle and they don’t really understand what’s going to happen. My daughter doesn’t really have any memories until my son was around a year old, so she doesn’t even have ‘last time’ to compare it to.
Essentially I’m teaching both of them what it will be like to have a new baby. It’s something I think is very important to do so that they are prepared for a lot of the realities when the baby does arrive. So what am I doing?
We’ve started to pull out some of the baby things recently. That means the baby’s bed, the baby swing, the car seat, etc. I deliberately chose to get these things out now so they can get used to seeing them around and learn the rules about them. Here are our rules so far:
- Big kids don’t climb in or on baby items
- Only babies or baby dolls are allowed in these (baby dolls so they can ‘practice’)
- We treat them gently (not pushing the swing roughly)
Once the baby comes we won’t allow them to touch the items when the baby is in it, to avoid any “accidents.” I’m also explaining to them that, for example, if they were to tip a swing forward, the baby could fall out and get hurt. (I may demonstrate this with a doll so they really get it!)
We’ve also been watching birth videos and talking about what it will be like when I am in labor, since they will likely see the early part (if it doesn’t occur at night) and may choose to be present for the birth. My daughter knows that it will hurt me, but that it is okay, and that I will be getting into the water to help the pain. She also knows that once the baby is born that it won’t hurt anymore. She really enjoys watching these birth videos and seeing what it might be like — every time she comes over to my computer she asks to watch “ladies having babies.” I will also be teaching her how to call Daddy on my cell phone, just in case I am in a position to need her to do so! I don’t think I’d have a sudden, fast labor such that I wouldn’t even be able to use a phone, but…better to be safe than sorry.
If I weren’t birthing at home, I’d be preparing them for what it would be like to wake up and find someone else here to stay with her, and how Mommy wouldn’t be here for a night or two, but Daddy would, and Grandma (or whoever) also would, and I’d take the kids on a tour of the hospital. I might also have them stay overnight with whoever their caretaker was for a night or two prior to the birth so they could “try it out.”
Since we’re tandem nursing, I’ve been talking about how the baby will have milk, too. I’ve explained that since the baby will have only milk, that the baby will get “both” while they will each just have “theirs.” (I switched them to each having their ‘own’ breast when my son was over a year old.) At first my daughter was confused — “No, the baby can share that one with Daniel and I get this one” — but now she gets it “The baby will get both, and then I will get mine after.” This is acceptable to them. If they weren’t nursing, and didn’t remember doing so, I’d be explaining that’s how I plan to feed the baby and why, and maybe showing them with dolls.
Soon we’ll be talking about ‘what it will be like.’ So far we’ve just talked about how babies are little and you have to treat them gently. Both will softly stroke anything if told to ‘touch gently.’ We’ll talk about how babies eat, sleep a lot, and cry and don’t know how to sit up or play when they’re first born. We have seen a few friends’ babies so they “sort of” know that. We’ll practice some things, like holding babies, changing babies, etc. with baby dolls so they can “help,” and we will have baby dolls available to both of them once the baby arrives.
We’re reading books and talking about babies and birth in general, too. As much as possible we want them to know what to expect. Sure, we won’t *really* know until baby arrives, we get to know him/her, and we arrive at a “new normal,” but hey. That’s life with a new baby!
How did/will you prepare your older kids for a new baby?