Congratulations, your family is expanding!
If you are considering having your kids present for the birth of their brother or sister, go for it! I have had many sibling-attended births and see kids usually do great when they are well prepared.
Lucky for them they haven’t yet had the programming that birth is anything but completely normal- something that happens between lunch and dinner- so they take it in their stride.
The age of your child will dictate how much explaining is apart of the preparation and which of these suggestions are appropriate.
Children below the age of 3 children are especially connected with their mothers’ nervous system, as long as you remain calm they will also remain calm so make sure you’ve also done your preparation. For example they usually don’t mind low pitched sounds; screaming on the other hand will terrify the child quickly.
Try to include these 4 elements into their preparation: see, hear, watch and learn.
Here’s my top 8 tips to preparing siblings for birth:
1. Involve your little one in some of your prenatal exams
· They get to meet and know the midwife or doctor
· Listen the baby’s heart beat
· Feel the baby move, feel the position
· They will have a chance to get used to the physical examination of mummy- Blood pressure, pulse weight etc. Hopefully you care provider will include them as much as possible, helping measure your belly, using the stethoscope.
2. Read books together
There are many awesome books available on Amazon here a list of some favorite. Also get out their baby book and photos and talk about their birth.
· A Child is Born
· Before you were born
· We have a baby
· What Baby Needs
· Waiting for baby
· On Mothers Lap
· Hello Baby
· Before we met
· I’m a big brother
· I’m a big sister
· God gave us Two
· Baby on the way
· My new baby
3. Include them and have conversations about:
· A new baby coming into the family
· The magical human body
· Find out what fears they might have about the process
· Baby development in the womb
· Your feelings about pregnancy and birth
· Where the birth will take place
· What having a new person in the family will mean
· What the baby will eat
4. Get them familiar with:
· Anatomy of birth: bag of waters, umbilical cord, placenta, where baby comes out from
· The sounds mummies make while giving birth
· That blood is normal
· That cutting the umbilical cord wont hurt-its like cutting hair
· Possible appearances of newborn-purple, vernix, long head
· Everyone’s rolls at the birth: dad, midwife, doctor, doula, and that there will be someone there just for them.
· How important it is for mummies at birth for quiet, focus and rest
· If your planning to give birth in the hospital then to hospital edicate like no running, quiet, hand washing etc
5. Watch birth videos together
This is a great way for kids to see and hear the sights and sounds of birth. On my website under birth videos I have a category: Sibling attended births. Watch first yourself and then watch together the ones you like and think most appropriate
6. Plan what specific task they will be responsible for during the birth:
· Cool cloth on mummies forehead
· Keeping mummies water glass full
· Taking a walk together
· Announcing the sex of the baby
· Helping with the newborn exam
7. Explain possible special circumstances that may come up during the birth:
· She might miss it because sleeping or at school
· It might take a very long time
· Mummy might decide she needs more privacy or more quiet and ask her to wait outside the room
· Might need to transport to the hospital (if planning to give birth at home) or give birth with surgery
· If baby is sick will need to be seen by the doctor
8. Be creative
Have them do some ‘preparing for baby’ exercises with you like yoga, walking, swimming, shopping for baby/birth supplies, baking a birthday cake in early labor,
Art projects for baby coming and the family expanding
A gift from them for baby
Some parents prepare a special ‘birth box’ for the little one to open during labor. It is filled with new and favorite quiet toys, puzzles, books, game, a new movie to watch during labor if it is long.
Take a sibling-moon
Key elements during the birth
· A special person the child know well to be available for the child at all times during the birth-a grandparent, friend, babysitter-someone the little one knows well and feels comfortable and safe with. This is important, ideally there is someone there just for the kids so if they get overwhelmed the can do something else or have someone to cuddle
· That she knows she is free to come and go as she pleases. She decides where and when she wants to be
After the baby arrives
An opportunity to check out the placenta-put on gloves and feel it if interested
Include child in baby care
Allow to taste breastmilk if curious
Helping to keep socks on the baby
Encourage kisses to be on feet rather then face, hands
Give little one an opportunity to debrief the birth by
· Drawing pictures
· Writing a story
· Letting the story with family and friends
Remember it is important for kids to know they can come and go whenever they want, that when they get overwhelmed or bored they have other options. Stay fluid and don’t get attached to it being any one way.
These gorgeous photos are of Liam and his baby sister Abby, captured wonderfully by The Unison Photo.
Mummy Louise shares how she helped prepare Liam…
How Liam and I prepared for Abby’s arrival:
Creating a spiritual sense of meant to be:
My Son Liam and I are of the belief that our family is pre-ordained. Quite simply put; the spirits of the people that are waiting and meant to be are waiting for the right time and body to join our Earthly Existence. Liam’s understanding from the beginning was that he had a sister who was waiting to join us.
Philosophically, making ideas concrete:
It was a little surreal that Liam and I were thinking of this girl’s name when we both felt her name was Abby. In one sense, you could say I let Liam chose his sister’s name. In another sense, you could say I trusted him to create his own image of her and supported his effort to make this idea of a sibling seem concrete, for instance by naming her. And on yet another level, he was able to trust me to value and respect his own journey towards receiving a sibling, in his own language. To some adults, it might seem outlandish, ego-maniacal and even delusional to allow a child to believe he could dream a sibling into being. I believe that respecting Liam’s ideas of being a sibling and receiving a sibling gave him a sense of ownership.
Developmentally, pre-empting any challenges your child might face and creating strategies for transformation:
As a 6 year old, we were facing Liam not having as much time with me and me not being able to be as physical in our play and exploration. There was also an impending independence required of Liam.
I went with our strengths and loves to create opportunities to explore and transform upcoming challenges. Liam and I, our strength lies in communication, language and emotional awareness. We love reading. So we read books that depicted complex family relationships (Harry Potter, the Berenstain Bears, Horrid Henry, Enid Blyton). We read anatomy books. We read his old baby books that he wanted to share with Abby. Through this channel, Liam created his own understanding of jealousy, loss, excitement and joy. Liam lead the way to the creation of a language to discuss these issues and feelings.
Liam started acting out like a younger child to get my attention (which could developmentally be expected of a child his age). We used our new language to identify the feeling of jealousy and loss. He decided that if he felt this way, he would transform by bringing me a glass of water or packing/unpacking his school bag so that he could 1) feel good about doing something constructive and 2) honestly receive positive reinforcement. Transformation!
For love and joy, a sibling-moon:
Liam and I made a trip to Phuket. We read and played our favourite games. We swam and went down waterslides. We talked about Abby and what adventures we would like to share with her. We had permission to forget she was there and just go about our lives as they were. Now that I’m up and charging around again, able to wakeboard, stand up paddle, Sail, kayak, pitch, bat and tackle, Liam still talks about that holiday before Abby where we just hung out.
1. Have a conversation! Hear, listen then listen deeper. (Somebody way smarter than me said this first)
2. Remember that not only are your children receiving a sibling, they are also birthing themselves as a sibling.
3. Top them up; spend time with them.
1. Go with your family’s existing strengths and loves to create opportunities to explore and transform challenges that are developmentally appropriate to each child.
2. Re-appropriate! Design! Decorate! Shop! Does your child want to give one of their baby books, toys or clothes to their sibling? (We found Liam’s blanket and his favourite onesies) Could they make them something? (we made prayer flags and assembled furniture together) What could they buy for their sibling? (He chose a wooden teething necklace for her)
3. Top them up; spend time with them.
1. Have a conversation about birth and any fears they may have.
2. Sibling’s birth plan. Liam and I created plans for what he would do during the birth. Where would he go, who would he be with, what he could do.
3. We packed a birthbox for Liam together. This included a package of surprises like new pyjamas, a movie and snacks, Lego, a craft project.
4. Take a sibling babymoon! Aka top them up and spend time with them.
After the birth:
1. Watch the magic unfold
If your had an experience of your little one attending please share you experience in the comments below.