How to Prepare Your Family for a New Baby

Bringing a new baby into your family is a joyous and momentous time, but it can also be traumatic. Preparing your children, both emotionally and psychologically, is an essential part of ensuring the transition is happy and stress-free.

Here are some guidelines for preparing your children for what is to come.


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    Choose your moment carefully. If you’re thinking about when to talk to your toddler or preschooler about the impending arrival, it’s important not to address the issue too early on in your pregnancy. Young children have a fairly vague sense of time, and trying to explain to them that there is still six months to wait may be asking them to grasp a concept beyond their comprehension.
    • For older children, it’s a good idea to share the news sooner rather than later, as they’ll feel hurt and excluded if they hear it from someone else. It can make a child feel special if they know they are in on the secret before anyone else, even close relatives. But be warned: chances are the secret won’t remain a secret for long if your children know.
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    Think about what to tell them. One of the first questions you can expect after you tell your children that there is a baby growing inside you is how it got there in the first place. Questions about reproduction are inevitable at some stage in your child’s development, but if they are fairly young you may not wish to get into an involved discussion about the birds and the bees at this point. Toddlers, in particular, can probably only handle a simple explanation along the lines of “the baby is growing inside mommy and will come out when he’s big enough”.
    • If you feel uncomfortable about discussing reproduction with an older child, draw upon the many books that are available on the subject to introduce the topic in a simple way. Books that focus on what it’s like to have a new baby brother or sister are also widely available and are great for younger children to prepare them for what’s ahead.
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    Help them feel involved and interested.
    • If your child expresses curiosity about the new baby and what it will be like to have a younger sibling, try to show him or her what to expect by visiting other friends who have babies, or offering to babysit them at home.
    • Take out your child’s baby pictures and talk about how you used to care for him, bathing and rocking and feeding him, so he has some idea of what the baby will need. Explain that at first, the baby will not be much of a playmate, and will spend most of its time feeding or sleeping.
    • Involve your child in your preparations for the baby by decorating the nursery together, getting him to help you get a bag ready for the hospital, or picking out baby clothes together.
    • You could also ask your child to help you draw up a list of potential baby names.
    • A good way to get an older sibling excited about the new arrival is to take them along to an ultrasound appointment and let them see exactly how the baby looks inside mommy’s tummy.
    • Look out for sibling birth classes, which some hospitals offer to help prepare older brothers and sisters for the new addition to the family.
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    Offer repeated reassurance. Children are notoriously self-absorbed, and your little one’s main concern will be how the new baby will affect their life. Toddlers have little concept of the risk of being supplanted, but older children may worry about how their importance as a family member will be affected. Most of all, they will wonder how your love for them may change once there is a new baby in the family.
    • It is crucial that you use this time to reassure your child that he or she will always hold their own place in your heart, no matter what. Focus on the fact that the new baby will belong to you all – “our baby,” not “my baby.”
    • Explain to your child that his role as a big brother (or big sister) means he will be an even more important member of the family, with new responsibilities and a position of seniority.
    • Strengthen your relationship with your older children by showing them lots of affection and setting aside quality time to spend together.
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    .Be prepared for regression. When children feel threatened, they can start exhibiting regressive behavior. Warning your child that a new baby is coming may make him try to ‘test’ you by acting like a baby himself. Toilet-trained children might have ‘accidents’; preschoolers may suddenly demand you give them their afternoon milk in a bottle or rock them to sleep. This is very normal behavior and simply demonstrates your child’s way of reassuring himself of your love and attention. Instead of berating them, give them a little extra attention and encourage them when they exhibit more positive, grown-up behavior instead.
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    Plan a special surprise. The time when you go into hospital for the delivery will be a difficult period for your older child. Try to plan things so that this period is presented to your child as a special time – a little holiday at grandma’s house, for example. If you can arrange for a friend or relative to do something special with your child, like a trip to the zoo, this will make it seem more like a treat.
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    When your child finally gets to see you and the new baby, make it a stress-free meeting.
    • Ensure the baby is in a cot or crib, rather than in your arms, so you can hug your older child and then ‘introduce’ him from the comfort of your embrace.
    • Ask family and friends to make a fuss of both children when they come to visit, not just the new arrival.


  • Buy a special present from the newborn to his or her older sibling so that you’re prepared for that crucial first meeting. This way, you can let your child know that the baby has brought them something to begin forming the sibling bond.
  • If you need to make major changes, like moving a child into his own room before the baby arrives, do it well before the birth so that the older child does not feel ‘pushed out’ or excluded.

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Categories: Babies and Infants