Having a Baby is a Family Affair
How would you feel if your husband brought home a new wife? And although he bought you a new bed, he gave her your original one. Now, transfer this feeling to your unprepared son or daughter when a new baby comes home.
Many hospitals and childbirth centers recognize the importance of preparing family members for a newcomer, and offer classes for children of all ages. These preparation classes have many names, such as “Big Brother/Big Sister,” “Siblings,” “New Baby Sibling,” but they all cover the same important concepts of bringing a new baby into the home.
In most cases, classes are limited in number with children as young as 2, and can run for anywhere from one to three sessions. Special sibling classes are offered for children older than 7 years.
Typically, a class encourages positive feelings about a sibling’s place in the family and toward the new baby. The new sibling learns about the new baby that Mommy is carrying, how the baby grows inside her and what Mommy needs to do to help it grow—eat healthy foods, frequently take cleansing breaths, exercise, and take naps often.
Four-year-old Ali Kochik, who attended the York Hospital’s Big Brother/Big Sister class, learned what was happening. “Now I know why Mommy needs to take a nap so much,” she said. She also learned that the food and water for the baby goes down the umbilical cord, although she had trouble saying the word.
Using a doll, participants learn how to touch, diaper and hold a new baby, as well as bottle-feed and burp it.
“I’m going to help mommy with the baby,” Sean Reding of York, said after he attended the class. “I’ll hold him, diaper him and teach him how to play games—after a while,” the 5-year-old said.
Before the first class, Sean’s mother, Joyce, delivered her baby. “My husband took Sean, and thought it was a great way to prepare him for the baby,” Joyce said. The second class was held at the hospital, where the children visited Sean’s new brother, Travis. Sean was excited for the final class. While the other children used dolls to practice on, Sean used his new brother. He told everyone that his mother’s uterus was now empty because the baby had been born.
Not every class has a newborn baby to look at, but through films and pictures, the siblings know what one looks like. They learn about the birth process, what a baby can do, and safety issues.
Unless the sibling is allowed to watch the birth, he will probably stay home with a caregiver or go to someone’s house. The siblings plan what they will pack to take to the caregiver, while Mom and Dad think about what preparations they must make.
So, how do the children feel about getting ready to have a new brother or sister? Kids are honest, and express their emotions. “I’m excited and happy,” one child said. “I’m afraid Mom won’t have time to take care of me,” another child worried. They talk about their feelings, which are validated by the instructor, and discuss what they and their parents can do to make things better.
Siblings can help care for the infant, and parents should encourage and praise them for the assistance. With parental guidance, love, support and understanding, expected sibling rivalry can be diminished. Wise parents will have some little gifts for the older child, so when the baby receives a present, the older child gets one, too.
Understanding that everyone needs time alone is also important. The older brother or sister shouldn’t be expected to play or be with the baby all of the time. And moms and dads need to understand and accept their own insufficiencies—they may need the help of others.
Through sibling classes, parents and children become aware of these issues, learn what to expect, and learn how to deal with what might lie ahead. This type of class is a bonding experience, involving both parents and children as they learn together, so when the baby is born, they feel like a family unit.
The day a baby is born can be scary if the family isn’t prepared—Mom’s water breaking, her contractions and pains, parental anxiety. But if the child knows what to expect, knows where his things are and is ready when the caregiver arrives, it’s easier for him. And, by being prepared for the baby’s homecoming, he’s secure and ready to welcome a new child into the family unit.
Written by Judy Wolfman a freelance writer and storyteller from York.
Local Sibling Classes
The following local hospitals offer sibling classes, and should be contacted individually to determine how many sessions are included, when they are offered, and whether or not there is a fee.
Community Hospital of Lancaster
397-3711, ext. 438
Good Samaritan Hospital
Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
Pinnacle Health System Learning Institute
St. Joseph’s Hospital
WellSpan Health System