Preparing the Family
Getting ready for your new baby includes helping other family members adjust. A new
baby brings new sounds, new schedules, and new ways of coping for everyone. Most families
soon find ways to adjust to the changes that take place. But it's helpful to prepare
some family members for what's ahead.
Preparing siblings for the arrival of a new baby
A new baby will bring enormous changes to any family. These changes are often the
most difficult for the older brothers and sisters. Children older than age 5 often
have an easier time, as they have begun to have experiences and friends outside of
the home. Toddlers often have a harder time. Not only do they have to share their
parents, but also the environment and their routines are affected. It has a big impact
To help your children adjust, begin talking about the new baby well in advance. In
general, the older the child the earlier you can bring it up. If possible, involve
them in making some of the decisions. Books are a wonderful resource. Explore the
resources at your local library or bookstore. The right books are those a child wants
to read over and over again. Acknowledge that there will be stresses and disappointments.
But also talk about the positive parts of the experience. Promise that you'll set
aside time for the older brother and sister, without the baby.
Some toddlers love having a special doll that's their baby. This can be purchased
in advance or brought home with the new baby. A fairly realistic baby can give the
child a chance to practice holding, diapering, and feeding.
Let the older siblings know exactly what they can expect. Talk to your healthcare
provider or the hospital where you'll be delivering about sibling preparation classes.
Visiting mom in the hospital can be very important, if allowed.
The big brother or sister needs a chance to welcome the baby at home. If someone other
than Mom carries the baby, she can focus on the older siblings.
Be sure the older sibling isn't ignored by visitors who come to meet the new baby.
A small book or toy can help counteract all the gifts which are showered on the new
Right from the beginning pick a regular time, daily or weekly, that will be just for
your older child. Ideally both parents will be able to have their own times. You may
already spend a lot of time with your children at home. But it can be helpful for
them to have this special time that they can count on. It may help them to feel that
they’re not always competing with the baby for your time and attention. And when you're
busy with the baby and your older child needs something, you can say that you need
to take care of the baby now, but "Remember we'll have our special time later."
Feeding time can be especially difficult. So think about having a basket of toys,
books, and other distractions for your toddler to use only during this time.
It's very easy, as busy new parents, to expect too much of the older siblings. A 2-year-old
is still a 2-year-old, even as a big brother or sister. Just like adults, children
have limits to their coping abilities. When the stresses get too much they may regress
a little. , with toilet training or dressing for example, or wanting a bottle again,
like a baby. Don't belittle these needs. But be sure to give your older child a little
extra attention. Remind him or her how wonderful it is to be older and to be able
to do so much more. It's hard enough for them to act their own age. Don't fall into
the trap of expecting your 2-year-old to act like a 5-year-old.
If there are any changes planned for your older child (such as changing beds or bedrooms),
make these changes well before the baby comes home. Don't try to make any big changes
(such as potty training) around the time the baby is expected.
Keeping your family routines and rituals, at mealtimes and bedtime for example, can
also help reduce stress for the entire family.
Preparing grandparents for the arrival of a new baby
A new baby may be the most wonderful gift you can give your parents. Their excitement
matches your own, and they look forward to a very special relationship with this child.
And being close to grandparents is a very special gift for children. Depending on
your relationship with your parents, becoming a parent can also give you a new realization
and appreciation for your parents and make your relationship closer as well.
Many grandparents love being involved in the plans and decision making. Some will
hardly be able to wait to get their hands on the new little one, others will be more
reluctant. There are so many new products and changes in baby care (all the new vaccines
for example) that some grandparents will feel a little worried about things. They
may appreciate taking a baby care class or, if available, a special grandparenting
Grandparents can provide vital help when the baby first comes home. Give them a chance
to get to know the new grandchild. But also happily accept any help they give with
housecleaning, laundry, and meals. This can also be a chance for them to spend some
special time with older siblings.
There are possible problems, of course. You'll be developing your own knowledge of
your baby and your own philosophy of child rearing. So happily accept any help and
suggestions. But don't let grandparents take over, or make you feel like you can’t
handle things, or like a bad parent. Trust your instincts and your knowledge. Be true
to your own values.
Preparing pets for the arrival of a new baby
Most parents with pets have questions about how a new baby will affect their dog or
cat. This is especially true if the pet has played a very central role in the home
for many years.
It's important to begin preparing your cat or dog for a new baby before the baby comes
home. A thorough veterinary exam is essential to examine health and to test for any
infections such as intestinal parasites. Flea and tick control on the pet is important
as is killing any existing pests in the home.
Some parents are concerned that their pet (especially a dog) is too aggressive and
may harm the baby. Professional trainers can offer advice on managing an aggressive
dog. But you may want to consider keeping your dog outside if it has dangerous tendencies.
If you plan to change the routine for your pet, such as sleeping outside rather than
in your bed, begin early.
The entrance of a new baby can often be chaotic. Pets may be curious. Or just like
children, they may have some jealousy of the competition for their owner's attention.
It's often advised that you bring home a blanket, a worn article of the baby's clothing,
or a used diaper with the baby's scent for the pet. This way the baby is more familiar
to the animal.
When your baby comes home, allow your pet to sniff the new baby. Some experts recommend
that someone other than a parent bring the baby into the home for the first time.
It's wise to keep a close eye on all contact between your baby and your pets. Even
an animal that is normally very gentle can injure a young infant or child.
Keeping interactions positive is important. Many pets can sense stress and emotional
upset, and crying babies may be upsetting for them at first. Treats and rewards are
helpful in reassuring your pet. Talk with your veterinarian if you have concerns about
your pet and your new baby.