What to Do with Young Children at Childbirth
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?
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"What to Do with Young Children at Childbirth"
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