A new baby is currently ‘baking’ and, as its arrival gets nearer and nearer, I am thinking more and more about how to prepare my little man.
How can you know that toddlers really understand what is going on? The concepts of ‘brother’, ‘sister’ and ‘new baby’ are abstract concepts for a toddler that I feel at a loss to explain at the moment.
I am 31 (ish) weeks pregnant and my wee 20 month old will soon have a new little brother or sister. They have already played gentle sleepy kicking games through the walls of my belly but neither of them is truly aware of the other yet. Or are they? Here are some of the things we are ‘trying’ to do to help prepare for the new sibling.
I wish I had a clever smack down comment for the people who tell me how horrible it is going to be having a new baby with a toddler in tow. Consequently, I have been doing some careful culling lately so that I am surrounded only with positive and supportive people. (Call it avoidance tactics!)
I know it will be tough managing a new baby, a business and a toddler – but I don’t want to hear horror stories thanks very much.
PREPARATION: Talk, Show and Involve
On a daily basis I try to talk to my son about ‘the baby in mummy’s tummy’ and how soon he will be a big brother. In preparation he has a ‘big boy bed’ and we have hiked his high chair up so that he can sit at the table with us in his ‘big boy chair’ – but he is still very little and it seems silly to me to be calling him a big boy so soon. (The big boy bed is mostly decoration still and the big boy high chair just means that I have a very sticky dining table rather than a very sticky clip-off high chair tray…)
We have also been showing my boy photos of himself as a baby and what we looked like when we were in hospital. A new project on my ‘to do’ list is also making him a book that has all of our favourite photos in it. I have needed to organise all of the photos for ages and I am using my nesting and nurturing instincts to ‘finally’ start tackling this job.
We have similarly tried to involve our toddler in the pregnancy. He has come along to scans and to heartbeat monitoring and measuring sessions with the midwife – but so far he has shown little interest (other than in the buttons you can push!). (TIP: If you are taking a toddler to your midwife appointment make sure you write down all of your questions and get them to make clear notes about their answers for you AND pack a mega-snack-pack so that your toddler can have a deliciously entertaining feast to help entertain themselves AND take a push chair to try to contain them a little bit more easily!)
The new baby is currently mostly referred to as ‘YOUR new baby brother or sister’ so that he can (hopefully) feel a sense of ownership and we plan to let him choose a gift (or probably help Mummy make one more likely) for the new baby too.
Using de Bono’s Thinking Hats theory has more uses beyond the classroom than I could have thought and if you haven’t stumbled across this as a general brainstorming tool before, then I recommend you take a look. (http://www.debonothinkingsystems.com/tools/6hats.htm)
I have been using the ‘Black Hat’ as a prediction tool so that I can try to tackle problems before they arise. Problems I can see: toddler extra-stressed with long drives to birth centre (over an hour each way), dogs unsettled with no walks while man has to drive to and from hospital, unhappy toddler being away from parents for first time…)
Some parents like to send older children away while the parents adjust to the new baby. Whilst I understand where these families are coming from, I really want my son to be near us.
We have a couple of contingency plans in place that all involve our son being near and still on track as far as his daily routines go. He will stay at home rather than be taken away to stay with others and I plan to return home sooner than with my first birth (rather than have a three night stay in a birthing retreat) this time around so that my man has less driving. Whilst a retreat would be AMAZING for me – I have made the decision that it will be best for all of us if I try to come home for recovery and set home up to cater for us all. I am hoping that this will make it easier for us all to adjust to having a new little mini person in the house.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR LOVED ONES
With my first baby I was not clear enough about my needs because I didn’t know what they were and it was all really overwhelming. My toddler can be unsettled from too many people in the house/too much stimulation and too much change in his routine so I am trying to be clear with friends and family about our potential needs so that we can all adjust nicely.
Please come to help in the ‘horror hour’ so that dinner/bath/bedtime routines can stay the same for our little guy while Mummy might be busy with the new baby.
Please feel free to hang out the washing and prepare cloth nappies for me.
Please help me wash my floor and lift things for me so that I don’t injure myself (C-section ouchies)
Please bring food.
Please come for either the morning OR the afternoon but do not stay too long and be aware that toddler nap times are at lunchtime.
Please recognise my attempts to ‘predict the needs of a family with a new little brother or sister’ and listen to my ‘pleases’.
AN UNEXPECTED SIDE EFFECT
As a final thought – it is worth sharing that an unexpected side effect of wearing my Outie tees and designing baby bump images is that I think they have actually helped us to prepare.
My son can actually ‘see’ the growing baby as the images stretch with my belly.
And because kids love the belly bump designs, older kids talk about the baby they can see on my belly and I think that it all helps contribute to some kind of understanding for him that ‘change is afoot’.
The ‘brother/sister’ concept might not be so hard to grasp after all…
See more Baby Bump/Belly Bump tees here: http://outie.co.nz/products/outie-maternity-tees/all-belly-bump-maternity-tees