Preparing Big Sibling for a new baby…

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With the new baby boy coming any day, one of the biggest concerns in the back of my mind is my “big” girl and how this huge change in our lives will affect her. She is our crazy 2-year-old right now, asserting herself in many, many ways while still the sweet little princess of our everyday. She rules the morning and the afternoon and the evening, and even though she is a little “momma” already, she is in for a big surprise, and I can’t help but worry sometimes about losing some of our special time together. For instance, when we went into the library the other day, it was an especially cold day, and when I was getting her out of her car seat, she requested to snuggle in with me from the cold. So, I carried her inside with her arms wrapped tightly around my neck and her hooded head pressed into my shoulder, and I thought, how will I do this when I’ve got another little baby to carry inside…I know it’s irrational and becoming a big sister will be great for her, and we will still have time to snuggle with and without baby brother, but I know a big change is coming!

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In these last few weeks, we are “partying” while we can, having mommy-daughter dates during the day and living it up, in our own way 🙂 We make it out of the house in our own timing (sometimes we do a craft before we leave) and pack plenty of water and snacks.

Here’s some of our recent dates:

  1. We treated ourselves to drinks and a shared scone at a coffee shop near the library, to which we walked and picked out books afterwards.
  2. I wanted to get a pregger walk in at the mall, so we treated ourselves to a food court lunch (Pen Elaine ate French fries for lunch that day…), used up a gift card in one of the shops, and then I hustled through a brisk 20 minute walk with her in the stroller, eating raisins.
  3. I had a return at Hobby Lobby, and I promised her a trip to the pet/pet supply store next door afterwards. So when we arrived at Hobby Lobby, I let her pick out a small bag of “gummies” to eat while I shopped, and after checking out, we walked to the pet store and looked at all the animals (birds, ferrets, guinea pigs, reptiles, fish, etc.), and she got to pet someone’s dog and play pretend with a stuffed dog on display that was modeling some sort of harness.
  4. At-home date – we play pretend together with whatever small dolls or people she wants (prince and princess in a castle is a current favorite) or pretend to be animals together (she made herself a hippopotamus the other day and me a lion), with no deadline or rush…other than lunch time.

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Here’s my list of other ways we’ve been preparing Pen Elaine to become a big sister for the past several months:

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1. Pack a wrapped present in hospital bag, from baby brother. We bought a no-mess coloring kit and wrapped up the pieces to be opened at the birth. The present is “to my big sister” and from “baby brother.”

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2. Treat real and pretend babies with gentleness… Pen Elaine is already a little momma, so she loves baby dolls, and I’ve just been more aware of how she treats her dolls and remind her not to leave babies on the ground, or hit them, or yell at them, etc. even if she is pretending that they are getting into trouble since babies don’t know any better when they do something silly or that she is not allowed to do (e.g., play with their food, put toys in their mouth, not share toys…). She has informed us several times that she will have to tell baby brother not to play with his food (she loves to play with hers). We also have been reading books about having a new baby in the family (see upcoming post for some of our favorites).

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3. Practice holding real babies! Somehow, God worked it out where Pen Elaine has had a ton of practice being around new baby boys for the past several months. We have close friends and family having babies while we are still waiting for our own, so we’ve taken advantage of this great opportunity for Pen Elaine to be a big helper and hold new babies, at her great excitement and request. She looooooves holding babies and is concerned when they get upset. So, she has practiced jobs like finding the pacifier for the baby, throwing dirty diapers in the trash, and making funny faces and sounds to entertain a baby. She has also learned about holding a baby the right way, while sitting down, supporting his head, and being gentle, making sure to ask permission before holding a baby and letting an adult take the baby back when she gets tired.

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4. Discuss how real babies used to be in their mommies’ wombs. This comes easily when you are around other pregnant friends who have their babies. I think Pen Elaine really got this concept down by knowing about other friends and relatives who were pregnant, “had a baby in her womb,” and then when we get to see the actual baby, we talk about how the baby was ready to be born and come out of his mommy’s womb! Thus, our baby (brother) will be ready to come out of my womb one day (in January), and we talk about that coming up when he is done growing. We also talked about how when she was a baby, Pen Elaine used to be in my womb too!

20131231-162314.jpg5. Look at ultrasound photos. From his first photo, we’ve been sharing baby brother’s pictures with Pen Elaine, so she has a physical, visual representation of the new person inside my womb. Even before we went to the doctor appointments, I would tell her how we were going to go see a picture of her new baby brother (or sister, before we knew). In fact, when she didn’t get to go to the big ultrasound appointment, she still knew that her daddy and I were going to go see pictures of baby brother and would get to show her some afterwards. Then, when she was at appointments where they did quick sonograms, she recognized the images as pictures of the baby! Also, as soon as we decided on a name, we told Pen Elaine and enjoyed all referring to him as a real person with a name.

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6. Talk about where the baby is…in Mommy’s womb! So, we didn’t use the word “tummy” since that is where food goes, plus, as a developmental psychologist, I don’t see any reason not to use the word “womb” since it is not a bad word or socially inappropriate. Plus, I’ve had experiences where little kids thought someone had eaten a baby, and that’s just got to be confusing…This also helps answer questions that come up about a baby in daddy’s womb, since the fact that he doesn’t have one is an easy response. Plus, with a growing belly, it gets pretty obvious that the baby is inside of mommy somewhere! One of my favorite memories from this pregnancy is when Pen Elaine was playing at a McDonald’s playground and told any kid who would listen that she had a baby brother in her mommy’s womb. She has also impressed teachers and strangers about her knowledge of “wombs,” ha! Just switching out “womb” for “tummy” makes her sound like a smart cookie.

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7. Encourage big sib to talk to the unborn baby. The most delightful part of being pregnant with a second child is sharing the joys of pregnancy with a toddler. To begin, I would encourage Pen Elaine to talk with me to baby brother and sing to him, and I would try to get her to feel his kicks, but that was hit-or-miss. However, once it clicked with her that her baby brother was inside my womb, nestled in my growing belly, she spontaneously loved to “interact” with him. She started making funny faces at him and told us that she made him laugh. She loves giving him hugs and saying how she loves him, especially before bed and first thing in the morning. She tried to tickle him and blow raspberries on him…you can imagine how that looked. One morning, during a snuggly mood, she told me she wanted to snuggle with baby brother and laid her head on my belly and nestled in her little arms. She gives him kisses all the time.

We are also going to the free “sibling class” offered at the hospital. So, I think she is as prepared as possible…of course, I still know that a big sister can never imagine what’s coming until the baby arrives, and with it, all the emotional lows and unimaginable joys that a new little person can bring to a family.

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