when to share the news
Have lots of chats with your small child about their future sibling. Don’t tell them too early on in the pregnancy – if nine months seems a long time to you, think how that feels to a toddler! It's probably best to wait until you're about four or five months along.
involve them in the pregnancy
Simply saying 'our baby' or 'your little brother or sister' rather than 'my baby' will make them feel important and part of the pregnancy. When it’s time to sort out baby clothes and equipment, involve them. Some children like to make a card for the baby, or decorate a sleepsuit with fabric pens for the new arrival to wear. If you can, spend time together with friends’ babies, this can help them visualise what’s going to happen.
childcare during the birth
This is one of the main logistical challenges of preparing for your second child: what’s best for your older child while you’re having the baby? If you’re having a hospital birth, who will look after them when you’re away? If it’s a home birth, can someone supervise them during your labour?
If a grandparent or friend can come to stay that’s great, as it’s the least disruptive option for your child. Let your toddler know who will be looking after them – and likewise debrief your helper on things like favourite foods and essential bedtime comforters.
the early days
This can be a confusing time for your toddler, who has suddenly gone from only child to older sibling. Again, involve them as much as possible. Read books together during feeds, and enjoy playtime with big brother or sister while your newborn sleeps.
If your child attends nursery or playgroups, keep to their usual routines. Young children like consistency, and are less likely to feel unsettled by the new arrival if life carries on as normal. Ask a friend or relative to take over the nursery run, and make sure the staff are aware.
going forward together
It’s amazing how quickly the family adjusts to its newest member. You’ll soon get used to juggling telling your toddler a story while changing a nappy. It gets easier to devote individual time to each child, and outings as a family will gradually become more about fun and less about logistics.
As far as your newborn is concerned, their big sibling is one of their most important people; and your toddler will soon be given all the best smiles and gurgles! Yes, it may be twice the work – but it’s also doubly rewarding.