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Before the baby is born
by Dr. Susan Bartell

  • Make sure relatives/friends don't tell your child about the baby before you are ready to do so.
  • Tell your child about the baby in a way that is focused on him (e.g. we're having a baby, you're going to be a big brother).
  • Show your child as many small babies as possible (even before you break the news to her) so she gets used to what to expect.
  • Get your child a baby doll, so he (yes, I mean he and she) can play out positive and negative feelings about having a real baby. He can also practice feeding, diapering and caring for the doll.
  • Include your child in baby preparations-choosing names, sorting through old baby clothes, painting a room, washing bottles, etc
  • Discuss with your child what she should expect from the baby-sleeping, eating, and crying.
  • Don't tell your child he will have someone to play with, as a way to get him excited about the baby, because when the baby is born he will feel disappointed and resentful that it isn't true.
  • Encourage your child to express both positive and negative feelings about having a baby.
  • Encourage your child to talk, sing and read, to the baby in your belly. This will help her feel closer to the baby and possibly even give the baby a chance to get used to her voice while still in utero.
  • Develop a "Plan" for who will take your child when you go to the hospital.
  • Two or three weeks before your due date start to discuss the Plan with your child. This will assure him that he will be taken care of when you go to the hospital.
  • Have your child help you pack your hospital bag, and be sure to include a picture of her, as well as something she gave you (e.g. a drawing.)
  • If possible, take your child to an older sibling class-offered by many hospitals.
  • Read good books with your child. One good book read over and over may be enough for many young children (see our recommended reading list.)
  • If your child is interested, take him to prenatal visits and let him hear the fetal heartbeat-it will probably be a real thrill for him. However, don't push children who don't seem to want the experience.
  • At a baby shower, arrange for your child to receive some small gifts too.
  • Try and avoid making big changes in your child's life during the last two or three months before your due date (e.g. beginning toilet teaching, changing her bedroom, moving out of a crib.) If you have to make changes (e.g. moving to a new home) prepare your child well but expect her to have greater difficulty than usual with the change and be tolerant of acting out behavior (e.g. crying, clinginess, tantrums.)
  • Remember to emphasize to your child how much you love him and that you will continue to do so after the baby is born (this sounds obvious but children need to hear it often.)

Read more tips:
After the baby is born
by Dr. Susan Bartell

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