SingaporeMotherhood | Baby & Toddler

August 2013

Preparing Junior for Baby’s arrival

A neighbour was once asked how his pre-schooler was adjusting to his newborn sibling. “He’s jealous and wants us to return the baby to the hospital!” came the reply with a laugh.

With the arrival of a new baby, the parents’ time and attention are inevitably diverted to caring for baby’s needs and the elder child may feel neglected or possibly jealous. However, by preparing Junior for baby’s arrival, parents can help to mitigate such negative feelings and lay the foundations for a close sibling bond instead. Several mums share how they had helped their elder child to anticipate baby’s birth and welcome their younger sibling positively.

During Your Pregnancy

Break the news early

It is good to let Junior know that you are expecting so that he may share in your anticipation. To prepare her son for the arrival of his baby sister, Ms. E. L. Lim, 38, informed him that he was going to be a big brother as soon as her pregnancy was confirmed. The Case Manager shared, “Every night we would pray with him and the unborn child so that he would get used to the idea that I am having another baby.”

You can also get Junior excited about his baby sibling by bringing him along to see the ultrasound scan when you visit your gynaecologist.

Talk about what to expect

Talking to Junior about what to expect during your pregnancy and after the birth of his
sibling will help him to understand and cope with the changes better. Before You Were Born by Jennifer Davis, is a simple lift-the-flap book which you can use to help Junior understand how the baby is developing inside your tummy. It explains in a humorous way why mummy feels like vomiting or is more tired during pregnancy. This can help Junior to be more empathetic on days when you are unable to look after him.

You can also go through Junior’s baby photos with him and show him his milestones. Take time to assure him of how precious he is to the family, and explain that the family is now anticipating baby’s arrival with as much enthusiasm as they had when they welcomed him.

By showing Junior his own development, you can also help him to understand how his younger sibling would grow and to develop realistic expectations of his sibling. For example, you can tell him that his newborn sibling needs a lot of rest and would be sleeping most of the time, so he needs to be quiet around the house. However, after several months, the baby would learn to interact with him and be fun to play with.

Be sensitive to Junior’s emotional needs

Ms. M. S. Ang, 38, is a stay-home-mum to four children, aged 14, 12 and seven (twins). She observed that during her second and third pregnancies, her older children would act up and misbehave at times. She explained, “They know that there will be changes in the family and cannot fully understand or express what they are feeling, so they may misbehave to get your attention.” She suggests being extra patient and loving with your child during this period to help him cope with his anxiety.

Involve Junior in your preparations

In order to help her eldest daughter ease into her role as big sister, Ms Ang brought her on shopping trips to let her choose the clothes and other necessities for her younger siblings. She fondly recalled how her daughter would refer to her baby brother as “my baby” and care for him.

Mother's and daughter's hands on a pregnant belly

Get Junior used to another caregiver

Any new mother would have her hands full with the frequent feeding, changing of diapers
and helping her newborn to settle in. It is therefore advisable to get some help in handling your elder child during this transition period.

Ms Lee and her husband used to put their son to bed together each night. However, one
to two months prior to her delivery, she took a backseat and let her husband settle her son instead. “This was so that my son had time to adjust and he would not feel a sense of jealousy or neglect when my daughter was born as by then, he would have gotten used to having daddy put him to bed,” she explained.

At The Hospital

Prepare a gift for Junior

A pre-schooler may not understand why his newborn sibling is getting so many gifts while he has none. To ensure that her elder son (then three years old) would not feel left out, and to help him receive his baby brother positively, Ms S. Phua, 34, prepared a gift on behalf of her baby for him. She presented it to him when he visited her at the hospital and told him that it was from his brother. “To this day, my elder son wonders how the baby could have bought the present while he was still in my tummy!” the homemaker shared.

Give Junior some attention first

To avoid giving Junior the impression that he has been replaced by his sibling, Your
Pregnancy Bible — Second Pregnancy
edited by Dr Penny Preston, suggests that you leave your baby in the nursery during Junior’s first visit to the hospital after your delivery. Give Junior a warm welcome and your full attention first before gently introducing him to his younger sibling. This assures him that he is still special to you and is very much loved.

You can also gently remind your visitors (before they arrive) to give Junior some attention before they start fussing over the new baby. This is especially so for grandparents who may overlook Junior in their excitement.

At Home

Give Junior some ‘solo time’

To assure Junior that he has not been forgotten after the birth of his sibling, set aside time for ‘Mummy—Junior’ and ‘Daddy—Junior’ bonding. Ms Lee and her husband take turns to spend ‘solo time’ with their children. They also make a conscious effort during family outings to give each child their special bonding time.

Get help with caring for Junior

If Junior has been an only child up till now, he will sorely miss Mummy’s attention after the birth of his sibling. To ensure that her elder son would always have the attention of one parent even when the other was busy with the baby, Ms Phua’s husband took one month’s leave to help out at home after her delivery.

Get Junior involved

You can make Junior feel important and facilitate the sibling bonding process by giving him simple tasks in caring for his younger sibling. Ms Lee got her son to help fetch items like clothing and diapers for his sister so that he would not feel left out when she was attending to the baby. Ms Lee is happy that her children, now aged eight and six, are “very close”. “They will encourage each other in the things that they play and do,” she shares.

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Preparing Junior for Baby’s arrival