Currently I am pregnant with our 3rd child. Which means my oldest daughter has experienced me being pregnant before. She is 3.5 years old, so this pregnancy I have already been able to tell a difference in her involvement and curiosity regarding her future sibling.
With my second, and also this pregnancy, we wanted to keep my oldest in the loop and involved with what changes were going on. Obviously she isn’t experiencing the same bodily changes or mood swings that I am, but her world is changing too. Let me share some helpful ways we have involved our oldest daughter in my past two pregnancies.
1. Bringing her to my appointments
Going to my appointments is usually a family affair. Although not always easy or convenient, my husband and girls have come along to my prenatal appointments and ultrasounds. I appreciate having them there, even if we do fill up those small rooms rather quickly.
Thankfully our doctor and midwife have done an excellent job including my daughter in these routine prenatal check ups. Now my daughter looks forward to helping hold the Doppler to find the heart beat or see how much my tummy has grown. At the ultrasounds the technicians have been so kind and patient as they help point out the heartbeat or little hands on the screen. She’s even consoles me after I get an “owie” when I have blood work done.
Since the beginning my daughter has been part of this pregnancy by simply coming along to my appointments. And she genuinely looks forward to these appointments and how she can be my little helper.
2. Involving her in small decisions
We are by no means giving our 3 year old the responsibility of picking out this baby’s name. If that were the case we probably would end up with another baby named Emma (our second daughter’s name) or a random color or smashing together of random consonant sounds. But we have involved her in some of conversations about baby names and also some smaller decisions.
Another way to involve her in small decisions is when it comes to shopping for the baby. Do we need new pacifiers or wipes? It’s not going to hurt anyone if I let my daughter help pick something out for the baby. Even giving a few choices of outfits, hats, or socks can make her feel included and involved in something for the baby. And in the end it’s not really a hard thing to do.
Before the baby comes we will also let her pick out a stuffed animal to give to the baby. Although a newborn won’t really care or notice this gift, it will mean the world to my 3 year old! We let her do this when my second was born, and the pure joy and excitement she had in giving her new sister a gift was priceless!
3. Updating her on the baby’s growth and development
There are so many fun and educational apps out there to help you track your pregnancy. I love the ones that have some type of video or animation to show what the baby might look like inside the womb. My daughter loves looking at these and learning simple things about the baby’s development. It is fun for her to be able to hear how big the baby is and how the baby is growing.
While this is my 3rd time around, a lot of the information or tips in these apps isn’t new to me, my daughter loves it! It’s fun for her to know the baby’s ears are developed, so the baby can hear her voice. Or that the baby can get the hiccups in my tummy.
Sometimes this information can bring up questions she has too. Questions like, what does the baby do in there all day? How does the baby eat? And my favorite so far, “Mom, how in the world are you supposed to push that baby out of you??” Needless to say, we have had some pretty interesting conversations about this baby. I love that she is learning and curious through this process of my pregnancy.
4. Talking about the baby often
We talk about the new baby often in our home. Obviously we don’t want to overdo it, but we want to talk about the new baby that will be joining our family. Again this is as simple asking and wondering what the baby will look like once he or she arrives? Do we think it will be a boy or a girl? Where will the baby sleep? Or even having my daughter talk to the baby and give my belly goodnight kisses and hugs.
We also talk about some of the practical changes that will happen once the baby comes. For example, we will have to shuffle some car seats around in our van, and that’s something we have talked to her about. Or talking about who might help babysit when it’s time to go to the hospital so it’s not a surprise later on.
My 3 year old isn’t a fan of change, so we like to help prepare her as much as possible ahead of time! And simply talking about it is one easy way to help with that. There are some really great books out there to help prepare a child for the birth of a new baby too. These can be another helpful tool to consider. And if you don’t want to go out and buy a bunch of new books, check out your local library for some options.
5. Keeping special time for just the two of us
With all of the changes going on and also yet to come, it’s important to try to keep some things special. Not going to lie, I am tired a lot of the time and of course I always have a list of things to get done. But I need to remember the needs of my kids and also make the time to invest in them.
With my oldest daughter that might mean letting her stay up a little past her bedtime so we can have some extra cuddles while we watch a movie. Or maybe it means taking time to play just the two of us while her younger sister naps. It could even mean a special girls shopping trip or meal out together. It’s those little things that I know whe absolutely loves and helps her still feel valued and important in the midst of all the change.
Our family will still have adjusting to do once we grow to be a family of 5. Changes and transitions are hard! But I feel confident that we are doing our best to help prepare for that transition.
How did you help prepare your older child to meet their new sibling?