Mattina was around 9 months when we found out that we were pregnant again. We were surprised but super happy, ready for another round of sleepless nights (we weren’t done with the first round, anyway) but wary about how Mattina was going to react when the baby comes. Many waved it off saying was only a baby but for me, I wanted to make the change as smooth as possible for her. After all, she would have to go from being our baby to being an Ate (or our baby Ate) in such a short amount of time. Here are a couple of things that we tried in our home to prepare for Mattina for the baby’s coming:
- The talk– I think it is never too early to talk to your child. Most of us talk to our babies while they’re still in our tummies so why stop when they come out? We told Mattina that there was a baby in my tummy and that she would be a big sister soon. We kept it very light and made sure we accompanied it with a lot of hugs and kisses. As she was only 9 months, she only briefly looked at us before she went back to playing but I still think it was an important step in preparing her.
- Double up the love– We took every opportunity to show and tell Mattina that we loved her. It may sound too much but there were times while Mattina slept that I would give a whole speech expressing just how much I loved her, assuring her that even when the baby comes, I would love her just the same. I think with the craziness of child care, feeding and playing during the day, there is much to be gained in the stillness of when your child is sleeping. I believe that even while Mattina was in lala land, she could hear me and definitely feel what I wanted her to know.
- Read relevant books– I think there’s nothing that we can’t impart to our kids through story books. In school, we use one everyday and at home, I use stories when I want to instill something in Mattina. I looked for books that would show Mattina how to be a sister and found one by Joana Cole. We read this to her most nights and talked about how it would be the same for us when the baby comes. We made sure we read the story in a very enjoyable manner, repeatedly relating Mattina to the big sister in the book and the baby to the bulge in my tummy.
- Teach about baby– You can’t really prepare yourself for something you don’t know. It’s the same with your older child. It’s not enough to tell your child that a baby is coming. You have to educate him or her about what a baby is and what a baby needs. If your older child is, well, older, then you can even talk about how the baby will affect your family activities in and outside the home. This way, your child won’t be too surprised and feel out of place when all of a sudden, you can’t take him or her to school anymore. For us, since Mattina was not even a year old, we used pictures. We showed her pictures of babies (younger looking than she was) and emphasized how cute and happy they looked. We also took her with us during scheduled ultrasounds and pointed out her baby sister in the black and white screen.
- Encourage affection– As Mattina got older and learned how to kiss and hug when asked, we often requested for her to kiss my tummy saying ‘love the baby’. I think it’s important to establish a relationship between the siblings even before the baby comes out. This way, the older child also gets the needed practice to be affectionate and expressive towards others.
- Go the extra mile– This of course depends on how manageable your pregnancy is but I think amidst the morning (or all day) sickness and body aches, we mommies should try to not let these things get in the way of us being there for our other kids. I remember I was already waddling like a penguin because of my gigantic tummy but I still tried to do all the actions asked of Mattina and I during her music and movement classes. When she was getting
- too heavy for me to lift, I would sit Mattina on my lap to make sure I did not reject her request to be carried and held. This is not to say that you ignore your body’s pleas for rest. Listen to your body and know when you really need to take a break then get daddy involved. Schedule activities for daddy and your
- older child so you get your needed rest. Going this extra mile helps ensure that your child does not feel resentful that you’re not able to spend time with him or her because of your baby bump.
Every child is different and ensuring healthy relationships between siblings does not end with preparing your child for baby’s coming. Teaching your child about the baby does not ensure that he or she will never feel a little out of place when the baby comes. It’s a continuous process of giving love and showing both of them how to share this love with each other- whether one is still inside the tummy or already out in the world.