Communication is key
While your little one might not be able to speak, she understands a lot more than you imagine. Make sure you tell her everything that’s going on – from why your tummy is getting larger to how Mummy will be going to hospital (only a few weeks before), and why there will be a new baby in the house. Books can help with this as they will help her visualise and relate.
We know how delicate newborns are, but children don’t – and it’s not their fault. So try not to use negative words or actions as she may then blame the baby. Explain why she has to be gentle and don’t build up the new baby ahead of the arrival as she’ll naturally be disappointed when she realises that all a baby does is sleep or cry in the first few weeks – when she’s expecting to have a new play buddy.
Keep your normal daily routine
Little ones thrive on a routine so try not to change it in any way – and if do you need to alter it slightly before the baby arrives, then make sure you leave enough time for your family to adjust. For example, if you’re having a C-section and you know you won’t be able to lift your child into bed, then make sure your husband is doing this well in advance.
Schedule special time
Make sure you and your little one have scheduled alone time together so she doesn’t feel like she’s lost Mummy to the new baby. Whether that be reading stories before bedtime or a walk in the morning – ensure there’s time for just the two of you.
Don’t rush things
It will take at least a few weeks before everything settles down, so don’t pressurise your child to follow your plan or expect her to automatically fall in love with her brother or sister – she may not immediately connect with the new baby, so give her time and be patient with her.
At the hospital
Make sure all your attention is on your child when she first visits – it may be best to not be holding the baby. Follow the child’s lead – does she want to touch the baby or only look? Also make sure you’re in a fit condition to deal with her demands – especially important after a C-section when you’re less mobile.
If you’re in hospital for a longer time, as you would be for a C-section, take a picture of your child with you and when she comes to visit, show her it so she knows she is always with you and you are thinking of her.
A gift from the baby is a great way of starting the sibling relationship – make sure she opens it with the baby there.
The only time you’re completely unable to respond to your child’s demands is when you’re breastfeeding, so why not make this time something they can get involved with? Maybe there’s a toy or game they are allowed to play with only when you’re feeding? Or give them a snack to have at the same time so everyone’s ‘having something to eat’.