What to Do with Young Children at Childbirth

October 3rd, 2011 by Dionna | 14 Comments
Posted in Consistent and Loving Care, natural parenting, Pregnancy and Birth

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This post is the third in a three-part series on preparing for childbirth with young children. In “How to Prepare Young Children for Childbirth” I offered ideas on how to talk to your child about what to expect with labor and delivery. In the second post I shared “30 Natural Birth Videos and Slideshows to Prepare Children for Labor and Birth (Plus Additional Resources)” to help you normalize labor and delivery for your child. Today you can find ideas on how to plan for a birth with older siblings present. I welcome your feedback and experiences in the comments!

So you’ve decided you want your child at your birth, and you’ve done your best to make her comfortable. But how do you actually prepare for childbirth with an older sibling present?

Here are a few ideas you may wish to consider.1

  • Consider Asking an Adult Caregiver to Be Present for Your Child: As much as you’ve done to help your child feel comfortable with labor and delivery, you cannot anticipate exactly how he will react once he sees his mama in labor. If your child gets upset and you are unable to calm him, it may help to have a trusted caregiver present to help. Make sure your caregiver is someone your child knows and responds to, your birth is not an ideal time to hire a new babysitter.

    Having a trusted adult will also help you and your partner concentrate on your birth experience, rather than worrying about your child. It may be wise to talk to the caregiver ahead of time about how you’ve prepared your child for birth. Your caregiver may appreciate ideas on how to help explain to your child what is happening with you and how to meet your child’s needs if he seems frightened or anxious.

  • Let Them Sleep: As much as you might want your child to witness the birth, some mamas feel it is best to let sleeping children lie – at least until the last possible minute.
  • Prepare for an Evening In: Create activity bags for each of your children. You don’t need to spend a lot of money, you don’t even need to do all of the work – consider forming an “activity bag co-op” with a group of parents. Make some of the activities things kids can do alone, and some they can do with their adult caregivers.

    Pre-make snacks. Lots of snacks – the kinds your kids love. Have movies or other activities on hand that your children can relax and chill out with if they don’t feel like being in your labor room.

  • Give Children Jobs: Come up with simple tasks your child can do during labor. Kids can offer you sips of water, hold a towel for the baby, help your partner give you massages, or whatever other simple, age-appropriate activities you can come up with. Kids like to feel important and useful, and they’re often capable of much more than we expect.
  • Create the Mood: Just like you do to help young children get ready for bed, create an atmosphere that fosters calm, quiet, and relaxation. Turn the lights down and light candles (or turn on electric ones), have soft music playing, wear pajamas . . . whatever helps your little ones wind down.

    And think about ways you can get creative with your little ones. For example, one mama with an exuberant preschooler ended up saying “let’s play a game. When I say “ahhh,” it’s time for you to be quiet as a mouse.” Her daughter had fun pretending to be a mouse, and mama got the peace she needed during contractions. Since labor isn’t necessarily the easiest time to use our playful parenting skills, pre-plan and even practice a few other games you can play to help your little one calm down.

  • Have a Back-up Plan: We don’t want it to happen, but just in case, make sure your trusted adult caregiver has the ability to stay with your child (or take him somewhere else). Whether that is because your little one simply cannot calm down in the house, or whether you have to change your birth plans for other circumstances, have a plan in place for a trusted person to care for your little one without you present.
  • What did your children do during your labor and birth?

    1. Thanks to the wise women of the Natural Parents Network Facebook community for offering ideas.

14 Responses to:
"What to Do with Young Children at Childbirth"

  1. Heather   xakana

    Yeah, I’m not worried about freakouts in labor–I’m worried about BORED children driving me insane! Dh is in charge of the kids with my doula in charge of helping me, but I am hoping there will be friends who will want to come over and bring their children to distract mine while I’m in labor.

    I’m not planning for a 3-5 hour labor, though. I’m planning 24+ hours.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Yeah, I could see Kieran getting bored if it were a particularly long labor. However I don’t think I’d want other kiddos there while I was in labor – I think that would make me feel inhibited. KWIM?

  2. Kate

    My birthing center welcomes children (they even have a special class that older siblings can take to help prepare them for the birth) but they require that any children present have a designated caregiver other than the parents specifically to relieve the mamas of that stress.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I can see the logic in that! (although I think I’d want the option to have a caregiver *on call* rather than right there in the room)

  3. My mother-in-law came down to stay with us so she could take care of the older boy during my labour. Instead she ended up catching the baby while the boy watched from the doorway! We’ve already requested her services for any future children we have. ;)

  4. Charise@I Thought I Knew Mama   ithoughtiknewma

    Loved this series! Thanks for all the info!

  5. Diana   onyababy

    I had my son at home, my daughter was nearly three years old at the time. DH’s parents took her to their home, which worked best for us. Dionna, you mentioned feeling less inhibited with Kieran, and that’s exactly why we decided to have our daughter go to DH’s parent’s house while I labored. We also didn’t want to scare her. I personally don’t think birth is scary, but to a three-year-old, it could be incredibly scary to see her momma making all kinds of loud and (possibly) scary noises. I also knew that I needed to be completely present in myself for my son’s birth, and, as such, wouldn’t have been able to tend to or care for my daughter should she need or want me. She also wanted to swim in the birthing tub. (lol!) My midwife and DH focused on our birth when the time came, and our daughter came home shortly after my son entered Earthside. It all worked out beautifully. We do what works best for us, eh?

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Thanks for sharing your experience Diana! I definitely agree that it could be scary to a LO to see mama in labor – we’ve done a lot to prepare Kieran for that (watching videos of natural births, etc.), and we’re continuing to talk to him about it so that he knows what to expect. I also have a couple of people on standby who can either come hang out here or come get Kieran if he isn’t comfortable – hopefully that will do the trick!!

      • Diana   onyababy

        Sounds like you’ve got it worked out well, Dionne! It’s so great to have people that you know, trust and love to be there, just in case. Who knows, Kieran might be totally fine. It’s so hard to predict anything when it comes to labor and birth, isn’t it? Wishing you all the best, most positive birthing vibes…

  6. Terri   onelovelivity

    I love all the preparation you’ve been doing with Keiran – it’s getting exciting! My daughter was just 15 months when my son was born so we really didn’t do much more than talk to the baby and explain that while the baby was growing inside Mummy’s tummy, one day he/she would be ready to come out and we could all cuddle. She was asleep when I went into labour and stayed that way until my waters broke and I made a loud noise and crawled into the bedroom hurrying up my partner to fill up the birth pool! She was kept occupied during the next hour, which was all it took for baby to be born, and came up to meet him straight afterwards which was a joyful moment! The photo I have of her peering over the edge of the birth pool is one of the greatest!

  7. Kristi

    Thanks so much for this blog. I am working on preparing my 7 year old son for his brother’s birth and this site was a HUGE help!

    It was actually my son’s idea to be present at the birth. He didn’t even consider that his presence was an option. He is already so loving and protecting of a brother he has never met. I think he will do fine.

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