Preparing the Family

Preparing the Family

Getting ready for your new baby
includes helping other family members adjust. A new baby brings new sounds, new schedules,
and new ways of coping for everyone. Most families soon find ways to adjust to the changes
that take place. But it’s helpful to prepare some family members for what’s ahead.

Preparing siblings for the arrival of a new baby

A new baby will bring enormous
changes to any family. These changes are often the most difficult for the older brothers
and sisters. Children older than age 5 often have an easier time, as they have begun to
have experiences and friends outside of the home. Toddlers often have a harder time. Not
only do they have to share their parents, but also the environment and their routines
are affected. It has a big impact on them.

To help your children adjust, start
talking about the new baby well in advance. In general, the older the child the earlier
you can bring it up. If possible, involve them in making some of the decisions. Books
are a wonderful resource. Explore the resources at your local library or bookstore. The
right books are those a child wants to read over and over again. Acknowledge that there
will be stresses and disappointments. But also talk about the positive parts of the
experience. Promise that you’ll set aside time for the older brother and sister, without
the baby.

Some toddlers love having a special
doll that’s their baby. This can be purchased in advance or brought home with the new
baby. A fairly realistic baby can give the child a chance to practice holding,
diapering, and feeding.

Let the older siblings know exactly
what they can expect. Talk to your healthcare provider or the hospital where you’ll be
delivering about sibling preparation classes. Visiting mom in the hospital can be very
important, if allowed.

The big brother or sister needs a
chance to welcome the baby at home. If someone other than mom carries the baby, she can
focus on the older siblings. 

Be sure the older sibling isn’t
ignored by visitors who come to meet the new baby. A small book or toy can help
counteract all the gifts which are showered on the new baby.

Right from the start, pick a
regular time, daily or weekly, that will be just for your older child. Ideally both
parents will be able to have their own times. You may already spend a lot of time with
your children at home. But it can be helpful for them to have this special time that
they can count on. It may help them to feel that they’re not always competing with the
baby for your time and attention. And when you’re busy with the baby and your older
child needs something, you can say that you need to take care of the baby now, but
“Remember we’ll have our special time later.”

Feeding time can be especially
hard. So think about having a basket of toys, books, and other distractions for your
toddler to use only during this time.

It’s very easy, as busy new
parents, to expect too much of the older siblings. A 2-year-old is still a 2-year-old,
even as a big brother or sister. Just like adults, children have limits to their coping
abilities. When the stresses get too much they may regress a little, with toilet
training or dressing for example, or wanting a bottle again, like a baby. Don’t belittle
these needs. But be sure to give your older child a little extra attention. Remind him
or her how wonderful it is to be older and to be able to do so much more. It’s hard
enough for them to act their own age. Don’t fall into the trap of expecting
your 2-year-old to act like a 5-year-old.

If there are any changes planned
for your older child (such as changing beds or bedrooms), make these changes well before
the baby comes home. Don’t try to make any big changes (such as potty training) around
the time the baby is expected.

Keeping your family routines and
rituals, at mealtimes and bedtime for example, can also help reduce stress for the
entire family.

Preparing grandparents for the arrival of a new baby

A new baby may be the most
wonderful gift you can give your parents. Their excitement matches your own, and they
look forward to a very special relationship with this child. And being close to
grandparents is a very special gift for children. Depending on your relationship with
your parents, becoming a parent can also give you a new realization and appreciation for
your parents and make your relationship closer as well.

Many grandparents love being
involved in the plans and decision making. Some will hardly be able to wait to get their
hands on the new little one, others will be more reluctant. There are so many new
products and changes in baby care (all the new vaccines for example) that some
grandparents will feel a little worried about things. They may appreciate taking a baby
care class or, if available, a special grandparenting class.

Grandparents can provide vital help
when the baby first comes home. Give them a chance to get to know the new grandchild.
But also happily accept any help they give with housecleaning, laundry, and meals. This
can also be a chance for them to spend some special time with older siblings.

There are possible problems, of
course. You’ll be developing your own knowledge of your baby and your own philosophy of
child rearing. So happily accept any help and suggestions. But don’t let grandparents
take over, or make you feel like you can’t handle things, or like a bad parent. Trust
your instincts and your knowledge. Be true to your own values.

Preparing pets for the arrival of a new baby

Most parents with pets have questions about how a new baby will affect their dog or cat. This is especially true if the pet has played a very central role in the home for many years.

It’s important to start preparing
your cat or dog for a new baby before the baby comes home. A thorough veterinary exam is
essential to examine health and to test for any infections such as intestinal parasites.
Flea and tick control on the pet is important as is killing any existing pests in the

Some parents are concerned that
their pet (especially a dog) is too aggressive and may harm the baby. Professional
trainers can offer advice on managing an aggressive dog. But you may want to consider
keeping your dog outside if it has dangerous tendencies. If you plan to change the
routine for your pet, such as sleeping in a different room rather than in your bed,
start early.

The entrance of a new baby can often be chaotic. Pets may be curious. Or just like children, they may have some jealousy of the competition for their owner’s attention. It’s often advised that you bring home a blanket, a worn article of the baby’s clothing, or a used diaper with the baby’s scent for the pet. This way the baby is more familiar to the animal.

When your baby comes home, allow your pet to sniff the new baby. Some experts recommend that someone other than a parent bring the baby into the home for the first time. It’s wise to keep a close eye on all contact between your baby and your pets. Even an animal that is normally very gentle can injure a young infant or child.

Keeping interactions positive is important. Many pets can sense stress and emotional upset, and crying babies may be upsetting for them at first. Treats and rewards are helpful in reassuring your pet. Talk with your veterinarian if you have concerns about your pet and your new baby.