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Preparing Your Child for the Arrival of Baby

You are expecting your second child.  There has been a lot of hubbub in your household related to the impending miracle of birth:  painting and decorating a new baby’s room; shopping for furniture, clothing, and supplies; and a variety of baby showers and excited visitors.  It’s easy to see how your first-born child may feel like s/he is losing significance in your world.  How do you prepare your first child for the arrival of the new baby and reinforce to your first-born that s/he is just as loved as always?

  1. Tell your first-born about your pregnancy as soon as you think your child is capable of absorbing the information and in a manner that is consistent with your first-born’s level of comprehension and interest.  For example, you might say to your two-year-old, “You are going to have a baby brother or sister next summer.” Or you might say to an older child, “We are pregnant.  The baby is due in August.”  Discuss the special relationship between siblings.  Does your first-born have friends with siblings?  Can s/he tell you stories about those sibling relationships?  Tell your first-born positive stories about the relationships you and your partner have with siblings. 
  2. As your pregnancy ensues, ask your first-born how s/he is feeling about getting a new sibling, what his/her hopes and fears are about life and/or the baby, etc.  In an age-appropriate manner, share information as proactively as possible and respond to all inquiries from your first-born.  Most of your first-born’s fears will be fears of the unknown (“Will Mommy still love me?”), so by providing as much information as is age-appropriate, you limit the number of unknowns.  In large part, let your first-born decide what is age-appropriate.  If s/he asks where babies come from, assume that the question is literal (i.e., “The baby is in my tummy.”).  If your first-born seeks supplemental information, provide the level of information that the child seeks.  Let your first-born know that you are open to his/her questions, and answer his/her questions honestly, age-appropriately, and as positively as is realistic.
  3. Include your first-born in planning for the arrival of baby.  If your first-born feels that s/he has voice in his/her outcomes, s/he will be less likely to feel like s/he is being marginalized by you, the new baby, or circumstances.
  4. Frame and hang a picture of your first-born in the baby’s room to reflect the significance of the connection between siblings.
  5. In private, ask people who express excitement about your pregnancy to share positive comments about your first-born as well.  For example, your best friend may say, “I am so excited about the birth of your new baby!  And Chris, you are going to be an awesome older sibling!  You are so kind and loving: I know you’ll be great!” 
  6. Ensure that not all conversation around your first-born is about the baby.  Your first-born needs to know that some conversation can be just about him/her.  For example, how was his/her day at school?
  7. Spend time reinforcing your connection with your first-born.  Look through his/her baby pictures together.  Tell him/her stories about all the excitement when you were pregnant with him/her.
  8. If your first-born is old enough, read an age-appropriate pregnancy-related book together, visit a friend with a newborn and let your first-born hold and relate to that newborn, let your first-born learn to attend to a newborn by practicing on a dolly, take your first-born with you to a doctor’s appointment so that s/he can hear the baby’s heartbeat, etc.  As noted in #1 above, you should be as proactive as is age-appropriate on these activities.  So, it’s best to expose your first-born to another newborn or a dolly as early as possible in (and frequently throughout) your pregnancy.
  9. Keep schedules as routine as possible.  If you alter your first-born’s wake and sleep cycle, you will increase the likelihood of emotional upheaval.
  10. Minimize the number of not-pregnancy-related changes happening around your first-born.  If you are moving to a new home or going through other major changes while pregnant with your second child, your first-born can become overwhelmed.  For changes that are pregnancy-related, the earlier they occur in the pregnancy, the better for your first-born’s adaptation.  If your first-born will be moving to a different bedroom in anticipation of the birth, have your first-born relocate as early in your pregnancy as possible.  If you will be hiring a nanny for additional help when the baby arrives, introduce the nanny prior to the arrival of the baby, so your first-born is familiar with them.

By following these 10 steps, you can prepare your first child for the arrival of the new baby and reinforce to your first-born that s/he is just as loved as always.  For more useful tips, visit Nannies4hire.com.

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