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Introducing your new baby to your children and family

Introducing your new baby to your children and family

Having a baby marks the beginning of a period of huge change for all the family. While adults and teenage children can understand the change, young children may find it more difficult. Young children are unlikely to have had a similar life-changing event in their lives before. Surprisingly perhaps, most children seem to accept the arrival of a new baby readily with some excitement and interest.

There may also be changes for others in the family - new grandparents, perhaps, or brothers and sisters of the parents becoming aunts and uncles for the first time. There are hundreds of things to think about when a new baby arrives; however, one of the most important, if there are already children in the family, is to ensure that they are prepared for the new baby.

You can start talking to children about the arrival of a new brother or sister during pregnancy. Talk about 'our baby' so that children feel involved and that the baby is not taking Mummy or Daddy away from them. Reactions from children vary from excitement to immediate jealousy, but by preparing the children you will ensure that the new baby doesn't pose too much of a threat.

Pregnancy may be a good time for both parents to go out with the child, as trips out will be more difficult after the baby comes. During this time it may be a good idea to share more of the childcare duties, like putting children to bed and getting them up in the morning, between both parents. Sharing childcare makes it less important whether it is Mummy or Daddy who is looking after them. Then, when the baby is born, it will be less of a shock if Mum is not around because she is feeding the baby, and Dad is stepping in.

In the past, when women spent days or even weeks in hospital after birth, her return home with the baby could be upsetting for other children. Fortunately, for today's parents, women are usually discharged relatively quickly from hospital, so they are not usually separated from their other children for too long. If your child visits you in hospital after you've had the baby, make sure your arms are free and you are not holding the baby the first time she sees you, so you're ready with a big hug and she can see the baby in her own time.

When the baby arrives home, involve all the family as much as possible, so other children do not feel excluded from what is going on. You can give children a role such as showing visitors 'our new baby' or playing with him or her (under supervision). Many children are delighted with their new position in the family as 'big brother' or 'big sister'. When visitors call make sure they speak to the older children and don't focus on the new baby first.

If children feel they are being ignored while the baby gets all the attention, they may naturally feel jealous and resentful; however, try not to let guilt get in the way, and as far as possible try to keep other children in their routines. Trying to compensate by letting children stay up very late, or giving them lots of treats may mean they feel insecure and that may make any potential jealousies worse.

Sibling jealousy is quite normal, and if it is of no danger to the baby, as in the vast majority of cases, it can be ignored; however, try not to tell children off if they show you they are jealous. Punishing jealousy may make children keep their feelings secret, and may make the feelings grow stronger. Talk to them about their feelings, and reassure them of their place in your heart.

Tantrums are common when a new baby arrives and a child may act in a younger and more babyish way themselves, wanting to be treated like a baby, demanding cuddles and wanting to feed from the breast or a bottle. It might not feel like it at the time, but this sort of response to a new baby usually passes quite quickly, so try not to take it too seriously. By contrast, for some children the arrival of a baby brother or sister is a time to move on a stage in their development, and parents can encourage this.

The best approach is to re-establish a child's routine as soon as possible after the introduction of the birth of a new baby, with bedtimes, other rules and 'boundaries' kept as they were before the arrival of the new baby. You may need to reassure children that, even though there is a new baby to love, that does not mean less love for them. Love is not divided, it is always multiplied.

Confused about what to name a second baby? Why not see what other mums who share the same name as your first, called their second? Stuck for what to call your second baby? See gurgle.com's babynamer for inspiration.