by Stacey Feintuch
When you’re pregnant the second time, you have some extra issues to consider besides your growing belly. You may be thinking about preparing your child or children for the arrival of your newest addition. Tackle it head-on to set the stage for a sibling bond that will last a lifetime.
These tips will help your child welcome his sibling with open arms:
Reflect. To help your child relate to the baby, show him photos and videos of him as an infant. Ask questions like, “I wonder if the baby will have as much hair as you did?” Dig out the baby book to share milestones and reminisce about when he came home from the hospital or took his first bath. Share an ultrasound picture and photos of when you were pregnant with him so he knows that you were in his belly, too. This journey to the past can help your child understand what will happen when the baby arrives.
Keep it real. Don’t sugarcoat the first few months of a baby’s life. Explain that being a big brother or sister will be fun—eventually. Be honest that the baby won’t be a playmate at first and will spend the beginning months sleeping, eating and crying—and will require a lot of Mommy and Daddy’s time. But discuss all the fun things that can be done with a baby—singing a song, tickling her feet, hugging and kissing her or taking her for a walk.
Involve him in your monthly pregnancy milestones. If your health care provider allows it, let your child join you on a prenatal visit and have him listen to the heartbeat or watch a sonogram. Not allowed to bring children to appointments? Have her feel a kick, talk to the baby, sing a song to your belly and, of course, plant a kiss on it.
Show what it’s like. Use books and DVDs to discuss life with a sibling and what babies can and can’t do. If your child is too young to understand a story or video, try a picture book about families.
Role play. Get your child a doll or stuffed animal so he can practice taking care of “his” baby. You can show him how to feed, burp, bathe and diaper the baby. Imaginative play is also a great way to teach your child how to handle the baby, such as washing your hands before touching the baby and not touching the baby’s face.
Take a class. See if your hospital offers a sibling preparation course. Kids will learn how to hold a baby, find out what they can and can’t do with a baby and more. Plus they’ll meet other kids who are getting new siblings. Attend the class as close to the due date as possible to keep the information fresh in their heads.
Visit other babies. If your child has had little experience around babies, see if you can introduce her to a friend or relative’s baby. That way she’ll know what to expect and won’t be shocked when the baby cries or is so tiny.
Get ready for the baby’s arrival. Let your child help you choose names (only if you feel like they won’t blab it if you’re keeping the name a secret!). Or, you can or set up the nursery together or go shopping for baby supplies like diapers, wipes and a coming-home outfit.
Prepare for your hospital stay. Don’t let your child be surprised about what will happen when you go into labor. Discuss who he’ll be staying with when you’re in the hospital. Talk about how he can visit you and the baby at the hospital. When you’re packing your bag, include a gift from the baby to your child, such as a toy. And on the flip side, shop with your child for a gift (such as a picture frame to hold a shot of the siblings) that he can give to the baby at the hospital. These gifts will help your child love and appreciate the baby.