We are now about 7 weeks away from welcoming a new baby into our household, basically sh*t is getting real. The hospital bag is packed, the bassinet is ready and I am savoring the last few moments with my little girl who is about to become a big sister!
If you're getting ready to make the introduction of a lifetime too, here is part two of my series on preparing your kid for a new baby!
Draw up a Game Plan
As the due date gets closer, talk to your child about what will happen when mom (and dad) have to go to the hospital. Explain who will be caring for them and that not only will they be able to talk to mom on the phone (if this is an option) but that they’ll be able to visit mom and the new baby after the baby is born. In the days before giving birth, try to keep a regular routine. You want life to be as close to normal for your preschooler. We have made a little photo album for little Pie of the hospital and her birth so she can become familiar with what she might see. We also plan on doing a hospital tour with her, even though we are familiar with where we are giving birth.
Let your preschooler be the first member of the family to meet the baby, as close to its birth as possible. And keep the meeting private, just immediate family members so your child can react naturally, without a crowd present. The first time your preschooler sets eyes on a new sibling could be overwhelming emotionally for him, so it’s important that you stay in tune with what he’s feeling. When it’s time for other visitors to stop by, let your preschooler play whatever role he’s comfortable in. Some will want to act as the master of ceremonies, introducing their new sibling to grandma, while others may prefer to hang back and watch the action. If possible, ask a relative that your child is especially close with to take him for a walk or maybe get a snack, just to help him get away from it all for a little while.
Celebrate! (With Presents)
Above all else, a new baby is a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your preschooler pick out a gift to give to her new baby brother or sister and likewise, have the new baby “bring” a present to your little one. While you are at the hospital after the baby has been born, it’s likely the new addition will get lots of gifts from well-wishers. This could be hard for your preschooler, so you may want to stock up on little items like coloring books, crayons, stickers, and small trinkets to bring out.
As your family adjusts to its new dynamic, remember that your “big kid” may not be thrilled in her new role yet. Don’t be surprised if she asks to drink from a bottle or nurse, has bathroom-related accidents, engages in “baby talk,” or even ask to sleep in the crib (especially if the crib was once hers). Try not to get angry; in fact, it’s important you don’t. This is your child’s way of expressing anxiousness about her role in the family. Just keep giving her extra hugs, and when she behaves like the big girl you know she is, heap on the extra praise.
Get Their Help
There are lots of jobs your preschooler can do to help you care for the new baby like get you diapers, push the stroller, or even assist in getting it dressed. It may take longer with the extra set of hands, but if your preschooler wants to be involved, welcome his efforts. There are, however, some things mom will do with the baby, such as breastfeeding, that will make older kids feel left out. Be sure to keep books that a nursing mom can read with an older child nearby or have mom sit near the television and let mom and preschooler watch a show together while baby eats.
Set Aside Special Time
With all the attention a new baby needs, it will be easy for your little one to get lost in the shuffle. Make sure mom and dad have some special time to spend with the new big sibling without the baby present. Those first few days at home can be difficult. No one is sleeping properly and it’s likely your routine has been thrown out the window. Enlist the help of a relative or close friend to do some fun things with your preschooler while the household adjusts. Thankfully for us, we have our little girl in preschool M-Th and have the help of a nanny until dinner time. That is all part of her normal routine. Fridays are usually our Mother- Daughter day, the plan is to keep it that way and have additional help on that day with baby.
We're expecting the unexpected
I know some kids may welcome the new sibling with open arms and never express any discontent. Others may say hurtful things. Most fall someplace in the middle. It’s important to be patient as your little one adjusts. Encourage her to talk about how she’s feeling through words or even a picture. Try to relate. If the baby won’t stop crying, tell your preschooler that it can be frustrating for you to hear too.
My brother and I are also 3 years apart. My hope is that my kids will find the life long friendship in each other that my brother and I have.
Photos of the Nelms Family
Bothell, WA, US