You’re becoming an old pro at this parenting thing. In fact, you’ve decided to have another baby. Now you’re wondering what you need to know to prepare your first born for the arrival of baby number two.
Start spreading the news. Let your older child hear the baby news from you before she hears it through the family or neighbourhood grapevine. Let her know that there’s a baby on the way and that she’ll soon be someone’s big sister.
Involve your older child in your pregnancy. Take your older child to your prenatal checkups so that she can hear the baby’s heartbeat and watch the doctor or midwife measuring your belly. This will help to make the pregnancy feel more real for her.
Do your best to answer your child’s questions. Speak to her about pregnancy and birth in an age-appropriate way. (Don’t start bombarding her with every fascinating fact you just read in your pregnancy book. Try to figure out what she’s really asking, and answer those questions in the simplest and most straightforward manner possible.)
Don’t oversell the new baby. Newborn babies are pretty boring (at least from the viewpoint of a preschooler who is looking for a playmate). Make sure your older child has a realistic idea of what new babies are really like so she won’t be too disappointed when the new baby shows up. Spend some time with a friend who has a newborn so your child can learn a bit about babies before she meets her new brother or sister.
Have a plan. Let your child know what will happen around the time of the baby’s birth. Will you be giving birth at home or in hospital? Will Grandma and Grandpa be coming to the house to help take care of her while you’re in labour? What will happen after the baby is born? Your child needs to know what to expect so that she’ll feel safe and secure.
Accept that you can never fully prepare anyone for the birth of a baby. Just as you were both surprised, amazed and more than a little overwhelmed by the birth of your first child, your firstborn will experience a range of emotions when she meets her new brother or sister. What matters is that you allow her to express those feelings and that you find ways to reassure her that she is still loved as much as ever. Having a new baby in the family won’t change that at all.