So you've found out your pregnant... it's brilliant but not quite like the first time, not only do you have friends and family to tell, this time you need to plan for how this new arrival will impact your first child. Well planning is key, each little move can be carefully thought out. Here are my top tips for preparing an only child to become a sibling.
Telling the first child
This really can depend on their age and what the gap will be. For me first time around we never really told our first child, we just drip fed her information once my tummy really got bigger. The gap is only 23 months so until it was very close to the EDD she was too young to really understand. For an older child you might like to surprise them with a gift, or a scan picture to tell them about a new sibling. This time around we gave the both tops with BIG Brother/Sister on if they are old enough to read something like this can be a nice way for them to discover the news. However if you are worried they may not take it so well, ensure you don't surprise them in front of a group or let them guess. An honest conversation and asking them about their feelings towards the changes that will happen are important. You might be excited but at times the older sibling might not and that's ok.
Reading books together
I found that reading books about having a new baby and why mummy's' tummy was growing really helped Everley to understand and be involved in what was going on.
My top recommendations are:
There is a house in mummy's tummy
I am a big brother
Princess Polly/ Pirate Pete I'm a new big sister/brother
My new baby & waiting for baby
Involve them in your pregnancy
Encourage them to talk to the baby, show them when your tummy moves and let them feel if the baby kicks or has hiccups. If they are old enough you can even show them your apps, what fruit size is your baby this week etc. Help them to understand (in some degree) about whats going on in your tummy and to try and start building a bond before the baby even arrives.
Actually get them involved with everything
Before, during and after the baby arrives, younger children especially toddlers and pre-schoolers love to be 'helpful'. So ask them to do little jobs for you. If you are decorating a nursery involve them in choosing the wallpaper or colour scheme, as them to pick up a paint brush and lend a hand. Let them help you to hand up the baby's clothes or come shopping to choose a special outfit. On the day you're in labour don't hide it from your older child, it's a natural and normal event. Let them know mummy is going to have the baby soon, you might enjoy having them close by for a cuddle. If you are dropping them with someone else explain why and let them know you'll see them with their baby brother or sister soon.
Once the baby has arrived the best tip I was ever given was to give my daughter the same things I used with the baby. She had a baby carrier, push chair, dolls nappies and every thing I did with Rory she copied with her baby. I also involved her in caring for her younger brother, passing wipes, grabbing dummies, singing him songs....
Don't make any big changes
This is a really important one as it can have a huge impact on the older child. If you plan to move bedrooms around consider the timing of this, you don't want to turf out your older child the moment the baby arrives. Either swap rooms months in advance or wait and move once the baby has arrived but with plenty of time before the baby is due to move into their own room. if you are considering potty training, new childcare, moving to a bed etc etc plan this well. You want at least a month before and after the baby arrives before you even consider any other change to a toddlers life/routine.
Bring them a present
I love this tip and to this day Everley still talks about the present Rory brought for her. When you older child meets the baby give them a present that is from the baby.... it build a positive association and also a very welcome new toy for them to play with while you might be busy
Don't be holding the baby when they meet
Spend quality time with your first born
Make some time for your older child where it's all about them. Even if it's just 10 minutes reading them a book or going for a quick walk together. Show them they still have your love and you are still there for them too. I made sure I did Everley's bath times most evenings and she knew there would always be mummy cuddles for her every evening.
You can ignore a newborn but a toddler will remember
One piece of advice I didn't really understand until I lived it but in hindsight was definitely true. If both children are crying for your attention at the same time, go to the toddler. A newborn will cry until they have their needs met and are more likely to be simple/easier to calm down. A toddler may need you for a more emotional reason, such as a fall or a tantrum. If you don't know where to turn take a deep breath and then calm the toddler first.
You've got this... it may not always be smooth sailing, and some days will be harder than others but the best gift you can give your kids is their sibling and they will thank you for it one day.