As soon as you've told your child about your pregnancy, try the following strategies to help ease the adjustment to having a new brother or sister:
- Get a baby doll for your child and some clothes and equipment she can use to practice helping you care for her new sibling.
- If your child is ready, try to toilet train your child well before the arrival of the baby, or postpone it until later. With any major change, the emphasis should be on your child growing up, not being shoved aside for a baby.
- Socialize your preschooler so he can learn turn-taking, sharing, and having other children around. Leave him with your spouse and other caretakers so he can grow accustomed to them and to less of your undivided attention.
- Read stories about babies and siblings. Tell stories about when your child was a baby, or look at her baby pictures together.
- Enroll her in a sibling class if your hospital offers it.
- Involve her in shopping missions for baby gear. Let her make some of the choices where possible. Emphasize her role as helpful caretaker.
- Work on expanding your child's independence before the new baby arrives. Then your child will feel privileged that she's permitted to pour herself some juice from the fridge rather than being denied your assistance.
- Some weeks before your due date, start reviewing with your child the plans for the baby's arrival.
- Make sure she understands exactly what's going to happen when you go into labor. If she's staying with a relative, or if a friend or caretaker is going to watch her when you go to the hospital, discuss it thoroughly. Then repeat the details until she's comfortable with the idea of your leaving.
- If your hospital offers a tour of the birthing facility, bring your child with you. Show her where she'll visit you.
- Let her help you pack your hospital bag.
- Plan your homecoming. Have a cake and big sister present on hand to help your child feel the new baby's arrival is an occasion as joyous as her own birthday. It may help to have several small wrapped gifts on hand for your child to open when the baby receives gifts.
- Explain in advance the rules of handling the new baby—for example, if your child will be allowed to sit down and then hold the baby, or only hold the baby while you're holding the baby. Be sure to remind her that she is never to try picking up the baby by herself, and make this clear before you bring your newborn home.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.