Preparing siblings for new baby

Siblings are usually nearby when their moms give birth at home and at birth centers. Increasingly, siblings are present at hospital births, too. However, based on a lack of research, it's unknown how often this occurs.

Parents who have had their children with them, according to a study inthe Journal of Nurse Midwifery, would do it again. They also thought the children's presence enhanced family unity and added to the positive feelings of the birth experience.

Childbirth educator Penny Simkin wrote about siblings at birth in Special Delivery. "In every case," she wrote, "the children were a positive addition, and by being themselves, contributed to the atmosphere of normalcy and family closeness."

In fact, there may be a sensitive bonding period between siblings at birth, a conclusion suggested in Birth.

Whether you invite your child to be with you at the birth depends on your own level of comfort with the idea as well as your child's interest. If you want your child there, discuss the hard work of labor, how you might look and sound, who will be there, what will be done, and how long it might take. Explain time in their terms--such as two Sesame Streets. Also, makesure it's okay with the hospital staff and arrange for your child's helper well in advance.

Your Child's Helper

It's essential that each sibling present at the birth has a familiar adult who will be with the child all the time and who will offer cheerful and confident support. Here are suggestions for your child's helper:

Talk in advance with the child about what you will do while Mom is having the baby. Bring the child's favorite food, drinks, toys, book, blanket, and pillow. Get down at the child's level and see what he is seeing and explain things at his level, for example, why the nurse is listening tothe baby's heart beat.

Respect the "open door" policy. The child always has the choice to come and go during labor, and you must accompany him. Small children often wander away.

Helping children get ready for a new baby is not only interesting and fun, it helps them understand birth--one of the most fundamental events inhuman experience.

A Video for Preparing Siblings. Lizzie and the Baby: The Childbirth for Children Video is for children ages 2-8. This is the standard sibling class video in more than 2,100 hospitals. To order call 1-800-326-2082.

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