Preparing your child for the arrival of a new baby

Writer and mum of three Kat Storr shares her experience of introducing her firstborn to his younger siblings, and how she prepared him for their arrival.

Kat Storr
An image of two parents, mother and father, sitting with their toddler on a sofa. The mother is pregnant and talking to her child about the arrival of a new baby
Image: djile on Adobe Stock | #330834681

The excitement of finding out you’re having a baby can sometimes be matched by anxiety about how your older child will react. Their little world, as they know it, will soon be turned upside-down by the arrival of a tiny, yet noisy creature that will demand a lot of their parent’s attention and time.

When we found out we were having twins our eldest child hadn’t even turned two yet and one of my immediate worries was about how he would cope. One new baby and a toddler seemed (sort of) manageable but juggling two newborns and giving our firstborn the attention he needed felt impossible. But we also knew that he was a loving and gentle boy who would be excited about having some new playmates and little brothers to boss around.

Preparing your firstborn

In the months before the twins’ due date, we did a lot to prepare him for their arrival. While he was still a bit too small to understand what was really going on, we made sure the language we used was inclusive. We talked about him getting ‘two new baby brothers’ and tried to avoid ever saying ‘mummy and daddy’s new babies’. It was really special to let him cuddle my bump, feel the babies’ kicks and talk or sing to them with me. Of course, we also asked him what their names should be – ‘mango’ and ‘bear’ were put on the long list!

We spent a lot of quality one-to-one time together during my pregnancy – going on days out to the zoo, farms, and playgrounds. I knew that for at least the first few months I would be recovering physically and feeding the babies which would mean he’d be spending more time with his daddy. I wanted to make sure we had some fun together before they arrived. Towards the end of my pregnancy, my husband had to do more with him as I was uncomfortable and tired. This meant that they grew even closer and made it less upsetting for him when I wasn’t always available once the babies were born. I think this really helped him to adjust to the two new people in our home.

Finding out we were having twins was a big shock, not only for us but also for our family and friends. This meant that there were a lot of adult conversations about the practicalities, changes to family life, and my health and the birth. For this reason, we made sure his grandparents and our friends made an extra fuss of him and didn’t use any language that may cause him to worry or feel left out. This is sensible no matter how many babies you’re having.

There are lots of books you can read with young children to prepare them for the arrival of a new baby. These can help reassure your child, get them excited, and address any questions or concerns they may have. Ladybird favourites Peppa Pig, Topsy and Tim, Pirate Pete and Princess Polly all have books about welcoming a baby brother or sister which I really recommend. There are many examples of special sibling relationships in books for older children too.

The first introduction

It’s worth thinking about how you’d like your firstborn to meet their new sibling for the first time. If they’re able to come to the hospital to visit you, then consider where you want the baby to be when they arrive. Some parents choose not to be holding the baby and instead put them in a crib. Seeing a tiny baby in their parents’ arms may make an older sibling feel like they’ve been replaced. If you’re going to make the introduction at home, then perhaps choose to leave the baby in their car seat or a crib. Your older child will still be able to give them a kiss and a stroke but again hopefully won’t feel like the baby has ‘stolen’ their mummy or daddy. I was in the hospital for four days when I had the twins so I was especially conscious that our eldest would have missed me and feel a bit confused. We brought the twins into the house in their car seats, and I gave him a huge hug and kiss before introducing his little brothers.

A top tip given to me when I was pregnant was to buy and wrap our son a gift, or two, from his brothers and have gifts ready for him to give to them. These gifts could be anything from books to cuddly toys, or whatever your older child is interested in at the time.

They will probably do it naturally, but I think it’s also important to make sure visitors give plenty of cuddles and attention to your firstborn. Our friends would bring him gifts and play with him, so he wasn’t just left looking a bit lost when guests came to cuddle the newborns. I’d also ask friends and family to look after the babies for even just half an hour so I could collect him from nursery and have a walk and a chat or take him for a babyccino. Even just small activities like this felt really special and important.

As well as preparing your firstborn for the arrival of your new baby or babies, it’s also worth putting together some items which might make your life at home easier. Toddlers are notorious for getting up to mischief in the blink of an eye and their attention span can also be very short. In the early days, you may end up spending a lot of time feeding, winding, and rocking your newborn. Try putting together a basket of toys that will keep them occupied and safe while your attention is diverted. This could be building blocks, lift-the-flap books, stickers, water paint, magnets, a busy board, and of course, snacks! Older children may be better at playing independently but having some new toys to enjoy might help with their boredom and will keep them close by so you can chat with them while jiggling your baby.

Our oldest will never remember a time without his brothers being by his side and while his dad and I have lovely memories of those first years as a trio, it’s becoming a family of five that has made us complete.

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