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Preparing your child for a new baby in the family

This article is part of the Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy.

A new baby is an exciting event for the whole family! Big brothers or sisters are experiencing a lot of feelings as they watch mom's belly grow and hear all the talk about the new baby coming.

As the parent, you might be wondering how you can best help your child transition to your new family dynamic. What is the best way to tell children about a new baby coming? Are there tips for making the announcement as positive as possible?

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The American Academy of Pediatrics states that how a child responds to the news of a new baby depends on their age. At all ages, letting them know what to expect, in an age appropriate manner, is important. Here are a few tips from the AAP:

How to tell toddlers | 1-2 year olds

Toddlers won't really understand the news but they will understand your joy and excitement. Make sure you talk about the new baby with enthusiasm. Reading picture books about a new baby arriving can be helpful as well.

How to tell preschoolers | 2- to 4-year-olds

This is a hard age for sharing - including sharing parents. A new baby may make a young child feel threatened. Ease those feelings by

  • Waiting to tell them about the new baby until later in the pregnancy or when Mom's growing belly evokes questions.
  • Reading picture books about new siblings.
  • Being honest. Tell them a newborn will be cute but also may be fussy and need attention. And remind them that it may be a while before a new brother or sister can play with them.
  • Before the delivery, let little ones know Mom will be in the hospital for at least a couple of days.

How to tell school-aged children | Ages 5 and up

By age 5, kids usually don't feel as threatened by a new baby, but they may resent the extra attention given to a newborn. The AAP offers these tips:

  • Explain what is happening in a way they can understand.
  • Let them help prepare for the baby. They can help shop for supplies, pick out toys and clothes, and help decorate the baby's room.
  • Give them the schedule so they know that when the baby comes, Mom will need to stay in the hospital for a couple of days.

Tips for the transition

Once the new baby arrives, be sure to give your older children some extra attention too. Some alone time or a special treat will reassure your older children that they are loved just as much. This is a great time to ask relatives and friends to help out. Both help with the newborn so you can spend some alone time with your older children and help by taking the older children out for some special "big kid" time.

The AAP has a few more tips that can help kids of all ages once the baby is born:

  • Let them visit the hospital once the baby is born so they feel included.
  • Encourage them to help plan and shop for the new baby.
  • Let them play with their old baby toys before they are passed on to a new sibling.
  • Plan major changes in kids' routines around the newborn's arrival. If possible, potty training should be complete before a new baby comes home. If that's not possible, wait until things settle down.
  • Expect setbacks. Preschoolers may have bladder or bowel accidents or want to drink from a bottle. This is normal. Give them extra attention and praise them whenever they act "grown up."
  • Help them feel they have a role in the new baby's care.
  • Praise loving and gentle gestures toward the newborn.

The best thing you can do to prepare your child for the arrival of a new baby? Remind them often that they are loved and are special. Tell them that they won't be loved any less. Even children who are 10 years or older will benefit from these reminders and your time and attention.

Learn more at our FREE Preparing for Siblings class

This class is designed to help big brothers or sisters adjust to a new baby in the family. Talking about what it means to be a big brother or sister helps them explore the new feelings they are experiencing. Mom is encouraged to schedule the class nearest to her due date. An adult must accompany the child. The class will include:

  • A tour of the Family Birth Center, to see where baby will be born
  • Lessons in holding a baby and helping take care of "their" new baby

All prenatal classes are free for mothers planning to deliver at Logansport Memorial Hospital. And all classes are now offered in Spanish - just let us know at the time of registration. 

TO REGISTER CALL 574.753.1488

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TOPICS: OB/GYN, Women's Health