Finding out you’re expecting is a time of many conflicted feelings and emotions. And often times, all those big emotions can be magnified when it’s not your first baby and you have your other children’s feelings to consider and navigate. It’s easy to feel guilty about having to split your time and attention; to feel saddened for your older children and the big changes they’re going to endure; or to feel worried about how they’re going to react to the news and the adjustments. All those intense feelings can cloud the joy and excitement you have about welcoming another a baby into the family.
As a mommy to four who has successfully navigated the transition multiple times, I can confidently there is only one thing you need to know when preparing kids for another baby:
No matter what you do when preparing kids for a new baby, don’t be negative about any of it.
Kids are very perceptive of the feelings of those around them and they will be looking to the people they trust most to show them how to feel about another baby coming. By being honest but positive, it will put little minds at ease throughout the pregnancy and newborn stages and also help to create an environment of love and happiness around the new baby rather than one of resentment, jealousy or dislike.
Here are a few ways to positively help kids ease into life with another baby:
1. Begin talking about the new baby early
I believe in telling kids about big life changes as soon as possible in order to give them time to process and adjust though some people advocate for waiting to share baby news until later in the pregnancy. Some people feel better waiting until the second trimester when the risk of pregnancy loss goes down, but I always preferred to tell my kids there was a baby before I might have to tell them that I was so sad because there was no longer a baby. Other people recommend waiting because 9 months is a really long time and young kids aren’t known for their patience (or understanding of the calendar) but I always felt the longer we had to discuss the big change the better everyone did.
2. Talk about the new baby often and honestly
Spend a little time each day from the time you announce your pregnancy talking about the baby with your other kids. Discuss what the baby is doing, how s/he is growing and answer any questions your kids might have. Being truthful and honest, but also positive, will help them to feel more comfortable with everything going on. And whenever possible, validate your child’s feelings about the new baby with statements like “I understand you’re feeling ___ but the new baby isn’t going to change ___.”
3. Involve your kids in the pregnancy
If your practitioner allows it, bring you kids with you to prenatal appointments and ultrasounds. Hearing the baby’s heartbeat and seeing his/her little face on the screen does a lot to help kids feel connected to the baby and to understand the abstract concept of a baby growing in mommy’s tummy. Some midwives or doctors will also let siblings help with holding the doppler, measuring mommy’s tummy and doing other prenatal checks which can help them feel like they’re already helping to take care of the new baby.
4. Let your kids plan a party
If you’re going to have a baby shower or gender reveal party, let your kids help plan the event. Put them down as the hosts on the invitation and give them a starring role at the shower/party. It’s a great way to help kids to build and show their excitement for the new baby and it gives them a chance to be in the spotlight before baby comes.
5. Involve your kids in the baby preparations
Get your kids involved in selecting items for the registry, decorating the nursery, preparing and arranging baby gear, or washing, folding and putting away baby clothes. Involving the kids helps them to feel important in all the baby preparation and sets the stage for being little helpers once baby arrives since they’ll know exactly where the clothes, diapers, burp rags and other items are whenever you need them.
6. Read books together about pregnancy and babies
One of the best ways to help kids understand pregnancy and life with a new baby is to read together. There are a ton of great books that help with the transition.
A few of my favorite books for younger kids include:
- Baby on the Way and What a Baby Needs by William and Martha Sears
- Hello Baby! by Lizzy Rockwell
- When you were Inside Mommy and I’m a Big Sister /I’m a Big Brother by Joanna Cole
- The New Baby by Mercer Mayer
- Usborne First Experiences: The New Baby by Anne Civardi, Michelle Bates and Stephen Cartwright
And for older kids I recommend:
- Watch Me Grow by Stuart Campbell
- The Pregnancy Journal: A Day-to-Day Guide by A. Christine Harris
- It’s So Amazing! by Robie B. Harris