Preparing your kids for the new baby

When Children will be at the Birth

"I agreed to look after Stephen, age 3, and take him out if he became bored. We went off and made gingerbread men in the kitchen. Then David called us back in because the baby was about to be born. We could soon see the crown of the baby's head. I explained what we were seeing and what was happening. With the next push, the baby's head emerged. Stephen was enthralled! Soon after the baby was born, he sat in the armchair and cuddled her."

(A mother's helper quoted in Homebirth by Sheila Kitzinger, Dorling Kindersley, New York, New York, 1991)

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 in the 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, make sure it's okay with the hospital staff and arrange for your child's helper well in advance.

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