First, let me be clear, I don’t think I have the perfect recipe for introducing a new sibling. But almost a year on from his arrival, my oldest still seems to adore his little brother, and it got me thinking about what we did to prepare him.
He was two and a half when we told him he was getting a baby brother or sister after we’d been given the okay at the twelve week scan. I think it helped that many of his nursery buddies had recently got new siblings, or were about to get one. He was so excited to show all his friends ‘his baby’. We got him his own copy of the twelve week scan picture, which he still keeps on his bedside table to this day. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite as embarrassed as the day I took him to his nursery, and he showed anyone that would listen to him the picture of his baby. I don’t think they’ve ever had a bigger pregnancy announcement!
We also bought the Pirate Pete ‘I’m a new big brother’ book (also available as Princess Polly for girls) to help explain the process to him. It’s a great book that explains at a high level the baby is in mummy’s tummy and mummy needs to go to the hospital when it is time for the baby to arrive.
We spoke to him regularly about the baby; about what would happen once it arrived, and how things might change. Once we knew the baby’s gender, we told him what the baby would be called, and asked for his help in choosing a middle name. Our aim was to ensure he felt he had a stake in the process, that the baby belonged to him, just a much as it belonged to us.
The concept of the baby ‘popping out’ was a subject that was of huge interest to him, and he would regularly talk of ‘when my brother pops out’. Oh, how I wished the baby would just pop out. He talked as if I would just do a little sneeze and the baby would arrive. If only. We were probably fortunate he didn’t ask too many questions about exactly how he would pop out!
I encouraged him to speak to his brother, and many hours were passed with him chatting to my expanding tummy about all the things they would do together once the baby arrived. We explained the baby would be small and unable to do much when first born, apart from sleep, eat, cry and poo. Which led to a question about when the baby would grow legs and be able to walk. That was an interesting conversation I can tell you!
I took him shopping a few weeks before the baby was due, and he picked out some clothes, and a toy that he thought the baby would like, and we put them all together in a bag ready for when the baby was born.
When ‘labour day’ arrived, he had been suitably prepared that Grandma would pick him up if Mummy and Daddy were at the hospital. Cue much excitement when Grandma duly picked him up from the nursery and he wanted to come and meet his brother straight away!
The baby was born at 9.52pm, and so Daddy went home to get some sleep and come back the next morning with the proud big brother. We’d already purchased a box of books we knew he’d like and I took them with me to the hospital as a present from the baby. We had also purchased a small Poang chair from IKEA to put next to the feeding chair for him to use whilst I was feeding the baby. I explained we could read together whilst the baby had his milk.
I could hear him before I saw him coming into the maternity ward. ‘My mummy is here with my baby brother and I’m the first one to meet him’. The look on his face when he saw us both in the hospital bed was one of happiness and wonder. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. He climbed on the bed, and we sat, the three of us cuddling and holding hands for about 30 minutes.
Once we were home, if anyone popped round to visit, they were met at the door by a proud big brother who asked ‘would you like to come and meet my baby?’. We felt it was important that he got to introduce his baby to everyone. We also made sure that in the times the baby was sleeping, we had special time together where we did some of the things we weren’t able to do whilst the baby was awake and feeding.
Almost 12 months on, and their bond is so strong. They are the first thing the other looks for when they get up, smile and cuddle when they see each other, and the oldest ‘reads’ stories to the baby. I’m sure they’ll have their moments as they grow (and they’ve already started), but I hope that bond continues throughout their childhood and into their adult years.
Outnumbered. Wife to one man. Mother of two boys. Owner (slave) of one cat. Sales Account Executive. Football nut. Follower of cricket and occasionally golf. Lover of American TV dramas. Once an avid reader, now occasional peruser of books I’d love to read. You can follow me on Twitter
Image credit: Wendy Kilgannon/Petra Harte Photography