Ever since I found out we were pregnant, I have been really concerned with how our toddler will deal with no longer being an only child.
I don’t want him to feel pushed out, jealous or insecure in our love for him just because he has a sibling.
So we’ve worked really hard to make sure we’ve shared this journey with him and with 4 weeks from potentially meeting our little girl I feel we’re ready as a family to welcome her into our unit.
Here are 10 things that we’ve done to help prepare our son meet his sister.
1. Reading Books
There are many books on the market which are great to read with your child. I bought all ours second-hand so they didn’t cost much, but what they’ve done is prepare our child massively for his sisters arrival.
Some days I just read the stories to him. And other days I ask him to tell me what’s happening in the pictures. On those occasions he picks out the characters and refers to them as mummy, daddy, Little London and baby sister. He puts himself in the situation, which is great.
Now that I’m in the late stages of pregnancy, certain books have my back 😉 There’s A House Inside My Mummy, for example discusses how mummy might be tired. And for a toddler that refuses to let anyone nap when it’s day time he actually cuddles into me in bed if I’m exhausted and will just lie with me until I fall asleep.
He fully understands that I’m tired because of baby sister. Don’t under-estimate the power of those books!
2. Getting him involved in hospital appointments and scans
Although every letter I receive from the NHS encourages us to not bring children with us, I personally feel Little London has every right to be in the room when it comes to discussing the new baby.
I suppose if there was any horrific news that it would be harder to deal with, but being there whether he’s with us or not if we were to hear bad news we’d still need to explain it to him so I’ve never questioned our decision. And also, to be honest finding care isn’t easy for the number of appointments I’ve had to endure.
He’s had to sit in on all my diabetic clinics which can take hours, he’s had to sit in fetal monitoring situations when there have been issues. And he’s been so good and very understanding about it all. He knows that I’m not well in this pregnancy and often talks about mummy’s medicine for baby sister.
When he sees me take blood samples for my diabetes machine he tells me ‘it’s ok mummy. It’ll get better soon.‘ And he knows I can’t eat what he eats because of baby sister, and he’ll let me have my meals in peace because it’s for baby sister even if he’s dying to eat from my plate.
He’s loved being there to see the scans and watch baby sister on the tv as well. He talks about how she’s in the dark and scared and wants to come out where it’s sunny to come play with him.
3. Referring to her as baby sister
This has been what we’ve called the baby from the very beginning. Even before we found out the baby was a girl, and it totally comes from him. It’s how he’s always referred to the bump.
Now we’re nearing the end it’s been a great nickname to have because it has given him an understanding of what his role in the family will be. He knows that baby sister is his. No one else can call her baby sister. She won’t be mummy’s baby sister, daddy’s baby sister or any other child’s baby sister.
It gives him that special bond which is solely his and hers before she even arrives. It’s made him protective of her already. When I take him to nursery he tells the other children to be quiet because his baby sister is sleeping in mummy’s tummy. He is so proud of her and loves to show off my bump and tell everyone his baby sister is in there.
4. Letting him help sort out the baby things
We’ve let Little London help us with the baby bits. We’ve never put something up in the house without him being there. He was so proud to help daddy build the Chicco Next To Me Dream crib. When it was done he came up to me and told me how he’d built her bed and showed me how to work the side panel which opens and closes with one hand.
We’ve also brought him into baby stores to buy some essential things and if something arrives by post I’ll let him open it with me and talk about what’s inside it. I often show him an outfit and ask him if it’s his, and he says ‘no mummy, I’m too big. It’s for baby sister.‘
5. Letting him regress
I think at some point most toddlers will regress when a new sibling comes along. Whether that regression happens before the baby arrives or afterwards it will inevitably happen. I’m not sure if we’ll have a regressive period after the baby is born, but we have been through a regression since I’ve been pregnant.
Potty training was going really well. During our time in Belgium he used the toilet perfectly never once having an accident. But as my bump grew he needed to become the baby again. And with that the potty training came to an end.
We just put him back into nappies and allowed him to transition through the difficult change in circumstance. He also became more clingy and wanted to be the baby. He would often pretend to cry like a baby and want to be picked up like a baby and rocked. Don’t get me wrong it was a difficult and frustrating time, but he’s come through it. And we’ve gone back to potty training again which he’s taken to much easier. He seems to want to be a big boy now. I think it just takes them time to take on that new role and you have to let them take on that challenge themselves.
6. Letting him have access to my bump
I’ve never stopped him having access to my bump and in the same way when the baby arrives I won’t stop him from having access to the baby. His bond with my bump is really special. He’s so gentle and just frequently hugs it and kisses it. If he’s feeling a bit down, he’ll come over and cuddle baby sister almost like my bump is a teddy bear. He talks to her and tells her his little secrets.
Whatever emotional attachment he has to my bump it seems to help him. And the bond just increases for him.
7. Talking in advance about the birth
It’s very likely that I’ll be having a c-section with this baby. So I’ve been trying to prepare him for that.
I know already that he is able to comprehend when someone is post surgery. Last year my mum was very close to dying, and he knew instinctively not to go near her or try to touch her while she was in hospital. Even when she came around he wouldn’t go near her for fear of hurting her further and he let her dictate when she was ready for cuddles again. My dad has just come out of surgery recently for gallbladder removal and again he’s been really gentle with how he approaches him.
It might sound strange but I’ve not hidden the way in which a c-section happens. I have a scar already from his caesarean and I talk to him about how he came out my tummy through the cut that the doctor made. We’ve watched some of the gentle caesareans on you tube together so he knows exactly what will happen to mummy in the hospital when he goes and stays with my parents.
I suppose for many that wouldn’t be an approach they’d want to take with their child, but it fascinates Little London and he knows the doctors are there to help mummy get the baby out.
Of course I may end up having a VBAC, but I don’t find it necessary to watch those videos with him obviously. My main concern is that he knows I can’t be cuddled in certain ways or sat on post surgery however much he wants to get on my bed. So I’m preparing how he might approach me in the hospital in advance so there are no tears because that will break my heart and his.
8. Letting him play with dolls and prams
I’ve been getting some of my old dolls out of hiding and letting Little London pretend they’re baby sister. He loves role-playing and I encourage him to role play with dolls and prams to help prepare him for the next stage of our lives.
The iCandy MiPeach is the cutest little pram (and £5 from every sale is donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital) and it’s perfect for helping him to understand the upcoming changes. He’s very gentle with the doll and loves to put it in the pram to go to sleep and push the pram around proudly.
Don’t get me wrong he is fully aware that it’s still just fun and games right now because he loves to watch the pram roll down hills really fast too, but I can see through his play that he has this nurturing side which this kind of play actively encourages.
When the weather is warm the doll gets a bath and I know that when the baby arrives we’ll be taking walks together, him pushing his pram while I push baby sister (or vice versa). It keeps him involved and in the loop and part of the experience of becoming a big brother.
9. Talking about the future
I love to discuss the future with Little London and see how he’s thinking. I know already that there are a few toys that baby sister is not allowed to play with. She is not allowed to touch his Paw Patrol characters under any circumstance!
And I fully intend to respect his barriers as a toddler.
I will want to encourage him to share, but I’m not expecting miracles over night and I fully expect many tantrums over toys to happen when the baby starts to move and grab but I’ll come to that hurdle when it happens.
I also discuss holidays with him and put all of us in the situation. It gives him something to look forward to and also for him to realise that baby sister will be a permanent fixture.
Everything right now seems to revolve around being preparations for baby sister. And with that I’m conscious of Little London feeling left out. He’s not a spoilt child by any means. But I also don’t want him to feel like he’s no longer important and all of our thoughts are suddenly filled with baby things.
And so we do go out of our way to provide some treats for him. Especially because he’s not the kind of child to get jealous if yet another package arrives by post for baby sister and not him. He’s been handling it all really well.
With his great passion being Paw Patrol, we have a Tomy Paw Patrol Aquadoodle Mat for him to have when the baby arrives.
We want him to have something that he’ll love that’ll keep him happily occupied in the hospital (with minimal mess). But it’s also something he has to look forward to. I’ve not hidden it from him, and it’s one of many reasons why he’s excited about the upcoming birth. It also means that while other family members might fawn over the baby he’ll be busily engrossed in some Paw Patrol play.
Again these are to use post the baby arriving when I do bath time with the two of them. I’m hoping the excitement of new bath time toys will give me the chance to wash the baby and get her dry and dressed before he demands to get out the bath.
Again he’s seen both these toys and he knows they’re for him to share with baby sister (not that she’ll be interested for a while). When his twin cousins came to play recently, they found the toys and Little London did have a bit of a fit at them for touching the toys meant for after his baby sisters arrival.
We’ve also made sure we’ve not stopped parenting him the way we enjoy because for us enjoying parenting is paramount to us as a family having these amazing joint experiences.
For us, we love to go away and take our son to new places. Travel abroad is obviously out of the question because of how heavily pregnant I am coupled with my high risk pregnancy. So instead we’ve stuck to having time with each other near home.
I’m hoping of course that things don’t change when the baby comes. But until we know her personality and what she’s like I can’t guarantee that. So these little trips have become all the more important for memory building and having shared stories that we’ll always be able to discuss.
We took a day trip to Mersea Island recently and rented an amazing beach hut and came home feeling really fulfilled and happy with wonderful stories to talk about to each other.
Each little picture we took is part of that story that Little London loves to re experience. These little day trips will be things I hope he can look back on when she arrives and remember what life was like before she arrived and how much we loved him the whole way through. And hopefully with her those experiences become richer and more exciting for him.