How should I talk to my child about the new baby?
Once you’ve told your child he’s going to have a sibling, you’ll most likely have several months to wait before the baby arrives. During this time, you can follow your child’s lead regarding how much he wants to talk about it or be involved in preparations.
Your child won’t want to talk about the baby all the time, but you can continue to answer his questions as they come up. He may ask you what the baby is doing in there. “Is she moving around? How does she eat? What is she thinking?”
You can also ask what he thinks: “What do you think she is doing in there?” Children usually have an idea about the answer when they ask the question. You don’t always have to correct your child’s “misconceptions” or creative thinking.
Let your child feel the baby kicking once the movements are pronounced enough. You can invite him to sing to or pat the baby. Consider bringing him to a short prenatal visit to hear the baby’s heartbeat.
Keep your talk about the new baby light and positive. You don’t need to tell your child that you’re feeling sick because of the pregnancy. Simply tell him you’re not feeling well, just as you would if you were sick for another reason. If you want to explain your fatigue, you can say, “Growing a baby is a lot of work. I sometimes felt tired when you were growing inside, too.”
How can I help my child understand what it will be like to have a new baby around?
It’s helpful to talk to your child about the new baby as a person with her own thoughts and feelings. You’ll also want to give him the scoop on what newborn babies are really like. “The baby won’t be able to play with you at first, but we will be able to kiss her toes or hold her hand. She’ll spend most of her time sleeping, crying, and feeding. Sometimes babies cry because that’s the only way they can tell us what they need.”
At some point, you may want to show your child some photos of what you looked like when you were pregnant with him. And of course, you’ll want to go through his own baby pictures with him, tell stories of what he was like when he was a baby, and tell him how excited you were when he was born. This will help him understand that he was once the baby who got that special attention. It will also help him learn what a newborn looks like and how babies grow.
Visiting friends or relatives with babies is also helpful now. If your child isn’t used to seeing you hold another child, he may have some strong reactions at first. It’s great if you can spend relaxed time with other families so he can get used to the idea that his parents can hold other babies, but they still love him and will take care of him.
Check out our collection of Parents’ Voices to see how other parents helped prepare their child for a new brother or sister on the way.
How can I involve my child in the preparations?
If he’s interested, invite your child to help you make simple decisions about the baby’s room or pick out furniture or supplies: “Where should we put the rocking chair?” “Do you think we should buy this bunny blanket or the one with the ducks?”
Have him help sort, wash, and put away the baby’s clothes. Let him play with the baby’s things and unwrap any presents that arrive for the baby. That will help him feel that he’s a part of the welcoming committee.
If you need to move your child out of his crib or into a different room, this should be done as long as possible before the birth so that he doesn’t feel displaced by the baby. As the birth approaches, it may help him to hear stories of how you were proud to have your own sibling sleep in your crib or wear your clothes when you were little. Ask if he would like to choose a few of his old toys to give to the baby.
How will things change as the birth approaches?
Your child may become anxious in the month or so before delivery. As you get bigger, less energetic, and more focused on the birth, he may become more needy, develop new fears, and even regress. This is normal. Acting like a baby may be his way of exploring how babies behave and what it felt like to “be your baby.” Loving support and acknowledgment during this time help kids regain their confidence and prepare to be the big brother or sister.
Try to avoid any major changes during this time, such as moving or starting a new school. Don’t pressure your child to complete toilet training or give up security items like pacifiers. Keep to the regular routine as much as possible.
Spend as much time as you can with your child in these last weeks and try to stay present with him when you’re together. This can be a time to savor the special relationship that you’ve shared before things change.
See our article on supporting your child during the birth of a sibling for tips on how to make sure your child is cared for during the birth, ease his fears about your absence, and introduce him to the new baby.
NOTE: This article was reviewed by Janis Keyser, parenting educator, co-author of Becoming the Parent You Want to Be, and a member of the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board.