Preparing your baby for a new bundle of joy

Preparing your baby for a new bundle of joy



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SALT LAKE CITY — I can vividly recall sitting on the couch trying to nurse my newborn with my leg fully extended and planted gently yet firmly in the center of my 2-1/2 year old's chest, desperately trying to keep him at a comfortable distance from the tiny infant.

It's not as if my little boy was trying to hurt the baby. Far from it. However, his exuberance and excitement over his new tiny little brother sometimes made things like "nursing" and "rocking baby to sleep" challenging. He loved that little baby with every happy, bouncing ounce of his 2-, almost 3-year-old soul and he had been waiting a long time to be near him, hold him and play with him.


How do you prepare your beloved firstborn for the imminent arrival of a sibling? A thought provoking question I took to heart. I knew expanding our family would be a huge change for all of us. I remember personally wrestling with the issue, and actually feeling guilty.

How do you prepare your beloved firstborn for the imminent arrival of a sibling? A thought provoking question I took to heart. I knew expanding our family would be a huge change for all of us. I remember personally wrestling with the issue, and actually feeling guilty.

I loved my beautiful firstborn baby boy so deeply and completely that I couldn't fathom loving another baby as much. I knew I would love and care for the new baby, but there was no way I could possibly adore him as much as my first one. It added to the burden of my second pregnancy, because not only was I carrying around the extra weight of the new baby, but also the heavy weight of my guilty conscience.

It was amazing how quickly the fear and guilt vanished after I delivered that second beautiful baby boy. I fell head-over-heels in love with the new baby so astonishingly fast that I felt foolish for having ever worried about it. I felt no love diminish for my first son, just an enlarging of my heart, a swelling of love that encompassed us all. I am still amazed, five children later, at the endless and infinite capacity to love that a mother's heart holds.

Considering the change in my little boy's world, who up until the baby was born was the center of our lives, I wanted to make the transition as easy and pleasant as possible. Looking back, I now realize I focused on three important teaching elements to prepare him.

1. Talking about the baby

As parents, we do so much of our teaching through our voices and words. This is our biggest teaching tool, our communication. This was our first element of preparation and we began talking about babies incessantly! We told and read stories about babies, we talked about and showed him pictures of himself when he was a newborn baby.

When we were out in public places we pointed out little babies to our son and said positive things like, "That baby is so sweet and special. Won't we be excited for our little baby?" We took every opportunity to verbalize to him how wonderful and adorable babies were and how lucky he was to get the opportunity to be a big brother! We wanted our little toddler to associate "new baby" with happiness, fun and love.

2. Activities with the baby

The second element of our preparation was our planned activities having to do with babies and big brotherhood. One of the first things we did was run out to the toy store and buy our son a doll. Our little boy who was, at that time, a Thomas the Tank Engine fanatic and monster truck enthusiast was ecstatic to own a little baby doll. He carried it around with him everywhere. The doll ate next to him, rode in the car by his side,and slept, swaddled in a blanket in his big boy bed.

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He loved practicing being a big brother, holding the baby gently, pretending to tenderly feed the baby with a bottle, and diapering the baby, softly with real diapers. We also enrolled him in a New Siblings community class, held by the hospital where we were planning on delivering. This was a great opportunity for him to learn with other children in a classroom type of environment. The hospital staff also escorted all the children up to the nursery to see the newborns, which was a big highlight. They were also taken to the delivery rooms to see where Mommy would have the baby. The staff was sensitive and kind, encouraged questions and gave comforting, reassuring answers.

It also helped to let our young son be part of the home preparation for the baby. Our son "helped" fold blankets, stack diapers, sort baby clothes and assemble the crib. He also became an expert inspector of baby toys, using them before the baby was born. Since he and the baby were to be sharing his bedroom, it was even more important for him to be a part of this process and to feel excited, happy and hopeful about it.

3. Building him up as an individual and a big brother

The third element we used to prepare our little boy, a baby still himself, was to pour on the love and reassurance. It was crucial to us that our firstborn never felt replaced or second best. He was used to being the center of our world, and we needed him to feel like he was still very, very important and special to us and to the unborn baby. We made sure that as the new baby received gifts, he did too. When the baby was complimented, so was he.

We again talked about his important role as a big brother and caregiver. When a mother is expecting, the pregnancy and anticipation of the newborn can become all-consuming to the family. I personally made an effort to single out my little toddler and to let him know that he was valued. We emphasized the things he liked and the activities he enjoyed doing and continued to do them — like going to the park or playing with his big boy toys with him. I did not want him to associate the new baby with taking good things out of his life, only adding more wonderful things to his life.

When the new baby finally arrived I'm happy to say that my husband and I and our firstborn were all prepared and ready! We transitioned fairly pleasantly, not without challenges, but it was definitely smoother than we had expected. We happily realized that having another baby took nothing away from our previous family unit but only enriched it, by deepening and thickening the love and bond we shared. A side note: My two boys still to this day share a bedroom and are best friends.


Shannon Badger is a graduate of the University of Oregon, and a frazzled mother of five. Correspondence is welcomed at kellydame@yahoo.com.

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Shannon Badger

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