I became pregnant just weeks before our eldest turned 2, so there is a 2 year and 8 month age gap between our kids. We had been told (by approximately 7,453 people) that it would be a difficult age gap; that a shorter age gap is easier as the oldest child isn’t overly aware of the baby, and a longer age gap is also easier as the older child can understand more what’s going on and developmentally has more patience to wait for something while you tend to the baby. But you know what, pregnancies don’t happen on demand and we’ve actually found the age gap perfect for our family.
Here are a few things we did to prepare our eldest to become a big brother …
1. We Didn’t Tell Him Too Soon
We did not tell Little Bear I was pregnant straight away. We felt it was kindof like telling kids Santa was coming with presents, but telling them in May …. that’s a loooooong wait folks. So we decided we’d wait as long as we could. The plan was to wait until I was 6 months pregnant and because he was a bit younger he didn’t overly notice the growing bump, or at least if he did, he didn’t comment on it. When we did tell him there was a baby in Mama’s tummy he was super excited, I’ll never forget the smile on his face. It was a really lovely moment for the three of us to share, and I’m glad we waited until he was a little older to understand what we were telling him, and so he didn’t have as long to wait.
2. We Talked About The Baby A Lot
Once we’d told him about the baby, we mentioned it at least every day. We had found out the gender so we told him he was having a little sister and I think that made it easier for him to connect with my bump. He’d often rub my bump and call ‘HALLO BABY’ with his mouth smushed up against my belly button. It was incredibly cute. Talking about her and having him talk to her in my belly definitely helped prepare him for her arrival.
3. We Read Books About Babies
This is another thing I am SO glad we did. We bought two books by Rachel Fuller, one called Waiting For Baby and the second called My New Baby. We specifically chose these as they depicted breastfeeding and babywearing so were reflective of our toddlers’ experiences and how we would be raising the new baby too. Also, the older child in the book was using a potty and we were potty training at the time so that was perfect too! Even now, 9 months after Little Miss was born, Little Bear pulls the books out for us to read to him. They are really lovely books and I’d highly recommend them, especially for breastfeeding and babywearing families.
The books also opened easy dialogues on the next few points …
4. We Talked About What Will Happen
The book about waiting for the baby to arrive has a page where the toddler is standing with an older woman and waving to his parents. We adapted this to suit our needs as the plan was for Little Bear to stay with my mother when I went into the hospital, so the older woman became ‘the boy’s’ (the kids in the book are gender neutral so you can assign as suits you!) Gran. We talked about how when Mama went into the hospital to have the baby, Little Bear would stay with Gran, and then he would come into visit Mama and the new baby once she was born. My labour actually started in earnest as I was putting him to bed so we read the books just before he went to sleep, and when he woke in the morning myself and my husband had gone to the hospital and my Mom had arrived, so when he woke up he wasn’t the least bit concerned and my Mom read him the books again and talked about how his new baby sister would be here soon.
5. We Talked About Presents
I have very strong memories of picking a present for my younger sister when she was born (4 year age gap) and giving it to her when I went into the hospital, so was keen to do this with my kids. Again, in the book there is a part when the toddler goes to the shops to buy a present for the new baby, so this easily led us to talk about it. We would talk about how Little Bear could go to the shops with Dada and we talked about the things he could buy for his new sister. Then when my husband went to bring him into the hospital to visit me and Little Miss, they went via a toy shop so that he could pick something out for her. We also had a present waiting for him ‘from’ Little Miss – this mega bloks set – which he still plays with, and still tells everyone Little Miss bought it for him!
6. We Talked About Our ‘New Reality’
This is where the second book came into play. We would talk about how the baby would probably sleep a lot, and that she would be very little and not able to play with toys at the beginning. We talked about how she would only be able to eat ‘mama milk’ and not any other food to start with. We also said that she’d probably cry sometimes, maybe when she was getting her nappy changed or got too tired. We talked about how when we went for walks, although he was able to walk, the baby wouldn’t be able to walk yet so would probably have ‘uppies’ in the baby carrier. Talking about all this really helped prepare Little Bear for our new arrival and helped him imagine what life would be like once we were a family of 4.
7. We Practiced
As mentioned, the plan was for Little Bear to stay with his Gran, so we made sure he’d had a few sleepovers in advance of my due date so that it wasn’t a shock to the system. To be perfectly honest, as I was so ill with hyperemesis throughout my pregnancy, he’d spent a huge amount of time with both sets of grandparents, so he was well prepared on that front between days out and sleepovers. He had never stayed more than one night in a row, but it didn’t end up being a huge problem, as my husband was there for bedtime 2 of the 4 nights I was in the hospital.
I really feel like all this prep helped our toddler hugely with the arrival of his new baby sister. She’s 9 months now and from the day they met, he has been so gentle and loving with her, and they absolutely adore each other – from the moment she started smiling, her biggest smiles were for him! I do feel like part of this is that he has a gentle nature, but I do think the prep helped. It is my favourite thing in the world to watch them together. I have no doubt their relationship will change and evolve, but for now they can’t get enough of each other.
Let me know in the comments if you’d add anything to the list!
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