Preparing Your Child for a New Sibling: Informational Outline and Resource List
I recently joined Patty Wipfler of Hand in Hand Parenting for a teleseminar on Preparing for Siblings. I shared information on how to make the transition easier for your child during pregnancy and immediately after birth, and Patty talked about building a healthy sibling relationship from birth and beyond.
In creating an outline to work from during my portion of the teleseminar, I compiled some fantastic information from some of my favorite parenting books and blogs. Below is my bare bones outline of information and a thorough resource list on preparing children for pregnancy, childbirth and a new sibling.
If you’d like to hear more about each of the points below, check out the mp3 of our teleseminar, which I will make available as soon as I can get it from Hand in Hand Parenting.
I. Involve Your Child in Your Pregnancy
- Start preparing him early. The more time your child has to prepare for a new baby, and the more you can involve him in the process, the less likely he is to resent baby’s arrival.
- Use pregnancy as a time to talk about reproduction in an age appropriate way. Share information according to your child’s cues; don’t inundate him with information.
- Actively involve your child in your pregnancy. Take him to midwife appointments, let him help pick out clothes, encourage him to sing to baby and feel baby kick.
- Resources for Parents:
- How to Prepare Your Child for the New Baby, by Aha! Parenting
- Preparing an older sibling for a new birth, by Hobo Mama and published at PhD in Parenting
- Preparing siblings for a new baby, by The Hippie Housewife
- Second Child on the Way? Are You Ready?, by PhD in Parenting and published at Code Name: Mama
- What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children, by Sarah MacLaughlin
- Resources for Kids:
- A Child Is Born, by Photographer Lennart Nilsson and Obstetrician Lars Hamberger – one of our personal favorites
- Books for Helping Mama Welcome the New Baby, by That Mama Gretchen and published at The Artful Mama
- It’s Not the Stork, by Robie H. Harris
- Preparing an older sibling for a new birth, by Hobo Mama contains a great list of books to help kids understand pregnancy, including How Was I Born?: A Child’s Journey Through the Miracle of Birth, by Lennart Nilsson & Lena Katarina Swanberg and Baby on the Way, by William Sears, Martha Sears & Christie Watts Kelly.
II. Make the Necessary Changes
- Cultivate the relationship between your child and your partner. Celebrate that relationship, and help them find more varied ways to connect.
- Foster independence. Keeping in mind development and age-appropriate abilities, gently help your child discover the freedom and joy of independent play and finding ways to take care of herself.
- Solo Engagement – Fostering Your Toddler’s Independent Play, at Janet Lansbury
- Surviving Pregnancy with Toddlers and Preschoolers, at The Hippie Housewife
- Tips for Encouraging Independent Play with Toddlers, at A Living Family
- Figure out breastfeeding. Mamas who are nursing their older child will eventually need to decide whether they want to wean or tandem nurse.
- Breastfeeding During Pregnancy – Common Concerns About Safety, by Code Name: Mama
- Breastfeeding During Pregnancy – Common Concerns About Supply, by Code Name: Mama
- Breastfeeding During Pregnancy – Common Discomforts and How to Help (Part 1), by Code Name: Mama
- Breastfeeding During Pregnancy – Common Discomforts and How to Help (Part 2), by Code Name: Mama
- Nursing During Pregnancy and Tandem Nursing FAQ by Kelly Bonyata (of kellymom.com) and Hilary Flower (author of Adventures in Tandem Nursing)
- Reducing nighttime breastfeeding without night weaning, by Code Name: Mama and published at Hobo Mama
- To tandem or not to tandem, by PhD in Parenting
- Figure out sleeping arrangements. If you are changing your older child’s sleeping arrangements, try to do so a few months before baby arrives so as to avoid any negative association with baby.
- Move over: making room for 1 more in the bed, by PhD in Parenting
III. Prepare Your Child to be an Older Sibling
- Read books. Let children experience what it is like to have a new baby through stories.
- Big-sibling books to prepare for a new baby, by Hobo Mama contains a great list of books along with notes on whether the books include any diversity and/or attachment parenting ideals.
- Preparing for a Second Child: Bibliotherapy, by Vibrant Wanderings shows how to create a book using your own pictures
- Spend time with babies. If you have any friends with babies, arrange a few play dates so that your little one can get used to what it is like to have a baby in the house.
- Consider enrolling in a big sibling class. Some hospitals offer classes for kids that talk about safety, what to expect with new babies, and other basics that can help prepare your child for the realities of life after baby.
- Play with baby dolls. Both during your pregnancy and after your baby arrives, engage in play with your child that allows him to work out his feelings and frustrations.
- Reinforce his important role in the family. Ask him to help you – set the table, pick up toys, put away clothes – and then genuinely thank him for his help.
IV. Help Your Child Work Through Her Feelings
- Let her express any negative feelings she may have. Depending on the age of your child, you may see an increase in tantrums or other “negative” behavior.
- Playful Parenting, by Lawrence Cohen; learn why play is your most important tool in helping children work through fear, anger, and transitions.
- Raising Our Children Raising Ourselves, by Naomi Aldort; check out her SALVE method for listening to and helping children work through anger and frustration.
- Respectful Parents Respectful Kids, by Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson; this book can help parents really focus on the needs behind their children’s behavior.
- Avoid painting her as the “big girl.” While you want her to be excited about being the “big sister,” you don’t want to pressure her to act like a “big girl.”
- Spend one on one time with her. Reassure her she is special by spending quality time with her.
V. Prepare for and Involve Your Child in Childbirth
- Tell him his birth story. Not only can it help prepare him for his sibling’s birth, but it can also be very therapeutic for you.
- Involve him in birth preparations. From daily yoga to creating your birth kit or hospital bag, actively seek your child’s participation.
- Create a picture of what birth may look like. Help him visualize what birth may look like, and make sure to let him know that you will look and sound different.
- Read books. There are several books available that will help children understand what happens during childbirth.
- Books To Prepare Children For Childbirth, Homebirth Or Waterbirth, by Diary of a First Child includes several books, including Hello Baby, by Jenni Overend
- Mama, Talk About When Max Was Born, by Toni Olson
- Welcome with Love, by Jenni Overend
- We’re Having a Homebirth!!, by Kelly Mochel
- Preparing Toddlers for Birth, by The Artful Mama
- 30 Natural Birth Videos and Slideshows to Prepare Children for Labor and Birth (Plus Additional Resources), by Code Name: Mama
- Preparing an older sibling for a new birth includes a list of several videos
VI. Make Plans for After Baby Arrives
- Make plans for spending time with her once baby is here. Be mindful about creating opportunities to connect after baby arrives.
- Make her feel useful. Once baby arrives, give her special jobs to help her feel involved.
- Make plans for how you will care for two children. Learn how to nurse in a carrier, make a list of activity ideas for your older child.
- Babywearing while Breastfeeding, by Ask Dr. Sears
- Breastfeeding While Babywearing: Part 1 (mei tai), Part 2 (stretchy wraps), Part 3 (ring sling), and Part 4 (soft structured carriers),by Code Name: Mama and published at NursingFreedom.org
- How to Breastfeed in a Baby Carrier, by Organic Baby Atlanta
- How to Breastfeed While Babywearing in a Mei Tai, by Hobo Mama
- Nursing your Newborn in a Wrap, by Nursing in Public
- Playing with One, Playing with Two, by PhD in Parenting
- Toddler and Preschooler Activity Bag Fun!, by Intrepid Murmurings and published at Natural Parents Network
- Arrange for help in those first few weeks – meals, cleaning, laundry. Take advantage of help!
- 20 Ways to Help Parents of Newborns, by Code Name: Mama
- Pregnancy When It’s Not the First Time Around, by Walden Mommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door and published at Natural Parents Network
VII. Take Care of Yourself
- Mamas might not be as excited about subsequent pregnancies, and that’s ok. Use the time to work through your feelings, and know that the connection will happen on its own time.
- Inform and empower yourself. Delve back into research regarding natural birth, the benefits of leaving babies intact, etc.
- Be aware of the signs of postpartum depression. Make a conscious effort to take care of yourself through yoga, meditation, time alone, etc.
- Don’t be afraid if connecting with baby feels differently than it did with your first. Many mothers have shared with me that it took them longer to fall in love with baby #2.
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"Preparing Your Child for a New Sibling: Informational Outline and Resource List"
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