How do I tell my child about my new baby?

Ten tips for preparing yourself and your child for baby number two

By Alexandra Smith

Here are 10 tips to help you out when you're expecting your second child:

1) First and foremost, who will look after your first child while you're in labour or at hospital? Find out as soon as possible, have a back-up plan and let the people involved know by asking them as soon as possible so they don't make holiday arrangements around your due date. Depending on your circumstances, it may be easier for you and your child if a friend or family member stays with them in your own home or a place where they are used to sleeping-over (like a grandparent’s house). Remember that you could be in hospital for a few days even if you planned a home birth and your eldest child may visit you there so it might help them to adjust to the place if you take them to some of your appointments.

What happens if I...?
2) Tell your first child that you have a baby growing in your tummy and give them ownership by saying it's our baby or their baby brother or sister. However, talking everyday about the new baby too early on may mean they become anxious as weeks go by and the promised baby still isn't due for several more months so try not to overdo it with story books in the first stages of pregnancy.

3) As your bump gets bigger, involve your child when you have to start getting things ready for the new arrival (like a double pram). Explain how you will be using the new (or hand-me-down) equipment and what you will be doing with the baby as well as suggesting ways they can 'help.' This will allow them to picture what's going to happen as they may not even know what a baby really is if they're still quite young themselves.

4) Most children have an instinct to look after babies (which they probably got from their parents) so let them know they'll have some new responsibilities when the baby is born. You could rehearse looking after a baby with them using a doll or cuddly toy.  Children can also make sense of their own changing family through playing with family figures and house play-sets.

I'm a what?
5) Many thoughtful friends and family may already be planning to buy gifts and cards for your first born to celebrate them being a big brother or sister. If they haven't then you could always give them something yourself when you come home from hospital and say it's from their new baby brother or sister.

6) Your eldest may like to make a card or gift for the new baby but you'll have to show the baby's gratitude yourself by gushing: 'Oh he/she loves it! What a good big brother/sister you are!'

7) At first, your son or daughter may be a bit bored of the new baby doing very little and try to flatten them with cuddles or toys. Assume they mean well; thank them for helping but explain they may squash him/her and show them safer ways to play with the baby instead. You may have to avoid leaving the two of them alone for the first few weeks and lying on the floor may be more hazardous for them than it was for your first child. Also make sure your baby isn't unattended on a raised surface and keep them strapped in to seats just in case your older child tries to pick them up or rock them.

8) As your new baby becomes more aware, they'll enjoy watching their sibling play. Use these opportunities to say things like 'Oh he/she's watching you! He/She loves you so much,' to your eldest. Also encourage them to show their little brother or sister toys to help them both learn about sharing early on (it'll make life easier in the long run). It's also normal for your eldest to want to play with your baby's toys on their own.  While the baby’s too young to mind, you can say that the baby is sharing the toy or the eldest is 'looking after' it for them; rather than setting up a possession rivalry between them.

Look Dad, I'm a baby too!
9) As you may have done with your first child, put baby seats around your home to make it easier to keep an eye on them when you need to do other things. A bouncer, swing or car seat outside the bathroom is particularly handy for when you want a shower or need to help your older child use the toilet for example.  You may notice your eldest needs a bit more attention when the baby arrives (they may rehearse this while you are heavily pregnant unfortunately) so you will need places to put the newborn down safely.

10) You should quickly remember how to care for a baby so you may find the second child easier to handle but you can’t give them 100% of your attention because you have two children now and this can leave you feeling torn.  Your eldest may want to be cuddled like a baby or be told they're handsome or beautiful if that's what they see you doing and what they hear you saying to the baby so indulge them to a point but keep reminding them that they are ‘big.’ Things will get easier once they've accepted the baby isn't going anywhere and that you love them both equally. You may even find your eldest comforting your baby when they're crying; then you know you're doing a good job.

Keep Reading: Toy Review: Baby Dolls

Do you have any more advice for second time mums? Perhaps you've had two children with a large age gap between them and can offer some insight on this. Also, if you've got any tips on having more than two children then please share your wisdom. There are plenty of picture books on this subject so feel free to recommend your favourites!

© This article and its photo(s) are the property of Alexandra Smith. Only use or reproduce with permission.

Disclaimer: These tips are created from lessons I have learnt during my own experience.  With regard to the content and advice on this blog, Alexandra Smith makes no representations or warranties about its accuracy, reliability or suitability for anyone. Any reliance you place on the blog or its content is at your own discretion and in no event will Alexandra be liable for any loss, damage or injury in connection with your use.