As a society we focus so much on preparing for birth (and this is marvelous) I do think we need to prepare for postpartum as well as preparing children that will be transitioning into a different roll in the family as well. Many people find that talking about a new baby helps siblings to be prepare, no matter what age they are. Helps to prepare and normalize what is to come.
If you are planning a home birth, hospital or birth centre it is a good idea to help normalize labour and birth for children as sometimes plans shift and change and it’s ideal to not be caught off guard.
Because babies wait for no one!
I can’t say how many times a child was present unexpectedly during a birth and I was in the place of giving them a crash course on what’s going on and that everything is going as expected.
Some of the things people will do to help their child(ren) be more climatized to birth and different experiences are;
– Reading books about birth written for children. There are ones about homebirths that talk about water births and midwives, and even doulas. I have yet to find a wonderful birth book for children about births in hospitals sadly.
– Watching YouTube, or BirthTube birth videos. I used to “screen” them prior but part of the learning in your child(ren) watching your body language and reactions. If it’s a very vocal birth, pausing to describe what’s going on might be helpful. I often would say “wow, look how strong that person is! I can really hear their strength/power in the sounds they’re making.”
– If considering birth in water, normalizing the water colour changing is a great idea. For example, a little bit of blood can look quite worrying when in water, so a bath with a drop or two of food colouring help them physically see how something so minimal can make a large impact.
– Explaining more about baby’s, how they eat and have their needs met, how they communicate can help a child know what is to come.
– Know your child’s wishes for the birth, how involved do they want to be? Is there something important to them that they want to do or take part in?
Some things I did that we found helpful;
– We always referred to the baby as my child’s baby. This was so that he had that feeling of being part of the experience.
– The midwives helped him use the doppler to hear the heartbeat, again so that he was taking part.
– We had two middle names chosen and my eldest got to choose which middle name we used.
– Lots of books and birth videos.
– We let him know that if things during birth every got to be too much or too intense that he could leave if needed. We had a few contingency plans for someone to care for him if needed.
– My son also was the one to cut the umbilical cord (with assistance.)
– When people came over to meet the new baby, they were to greet him first and ask him to introduce them to his new baby.
– If people wanted to bring anything for the baby or I, I asked that they get something for my eldest as well.
– New toys, gifts, crafts for my eldest went into a special bin that came out when I was nursing the new baby. But it was known as the special time bin, I just so happened to be feeding the baby at this time.
– I would respond to each of them crying and prioritize needs. For example, “I see that you’re upset, I am just helping your sister right now because she’s hungry but I will help you as soon as I can.” As well as vice versa “K, I hear you crying. Mommy is here, right now Q is needing me. I’ll be with you as soon as I can.” It helped my eldest know that his needs and wants still mattered.
– 1:1 time, we would alternate going on “dates” with my eldest. Doing small things like a walk together, the park, a tea out, dinner out, etc. It gave him something routine and to look forward to each week.
– Cleaning up accidents together. It is quite common for children to regress in the area of toileting after a sibling is born, this is for many reasons. Making sure there is no shame or negativity surrounding it does help it pass more quickly.
– Knowing there may be regressions with sleep and gently supporting him through the transition into being an older sibling with understanding and compassion.
Having a new baby is amazing, busy and a chaotic transition for adult(s) that have consciously made the choice to grow the family, it’s a totally different ball game for a child being put into a position that they may not grasp or understand.