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Preparing your child for a new sibling

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Little kids aren’t always great at sharing, especially their mum and dad, so a new baby in the family can be regarded with suspicion, if not hostility, by your older child.

There are plenty of ways to prepare your child for a new brother or sister beforehand so they don’t think of it as a demanding interloper who’s stealing all of their parents’ time and attention.

Here are some tips to prepare your child beforehand:

Talk to your child

Tell them about when they were tiny, and look at photos of them as a baby being held, fed or in the bath.

"Children love hearing stories about themselves when they were little, so tell them what they were like as a baby, like how old [they were when] they began to crawl and hold a bottle and how often they used to wake up in the night," says Karen Doherty author of Sibling Rivalry-Seven Simple Solutions.

Explain to your child

Let your child look at the scan photos of your growing baby, maybe attend antenatal visits, hear the foetal heart monitor or feel the baby kick.

Explain to your child, in age appropriate language, what’s going to happen, that a baby’s growing inside mummy and it’s going to be their new brother or sister. Look at books about how the baby is developing. Use books with pictures of babies and discuss what babies can and can’t do.

Involve your child

Talk to them in a way they are going to understand. "Be honest and reassuring but talk in terms of it being a real family adventure," says Lorraine Thomas author of Brilliantly Behaved Toddler.

"Find a doll or even a Peppa Pig and get them to practice handling it gently, and praise them when you catch them red-handed looking after their toy."

Having a baby doesn’t always happen on time or to plan but try to prime your child in advance about what’s likely to happen when the new baby is born. Are you having a home birth? Are you going to hospital? Who will look after them?

Prepare for the new baby

Your child can help you get the baby’s room or sleeping area ready. Perhaps they can paint a picture to go above the new baby’s bed. They can be involved in discussion about the baby’s name and help you pack an overnight bag with the new baby’s first clothes.

"Go and see a friend with a new baby," recommends Lorraine," so your child knows what to expect in terms of what a baby looks and smells like."

When baby is born

When the baby is born you want to make sure all of your preparations have paid dividends. "The more your child is prepared for what to expect with the new baby’s arrival, the less surprised, disappointed or angry they are likely to be," says Karen.

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