With my due date quickly approaching (early next month), I've been overly consumed with how my 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Maggie, will handle the new addition. For the past few months, my husband and I have been doing everything we can to help her understand, but I'm not quite sure she grasps how her world is going to be rocked.
I decided it was time to tell Maggie about her soon-to-be sibling when my belly bump became more obvious. She would sit on my lap and touch it because it was different. When I found out I was having a boy, my husband and I played up that she was going to be a big sister, and from that point on she called my belly her "baby brother." I felt the more we talked about it, the more comfortable she would get with the idea of having a sibling.
There were a few things we did throughout the nine months to help prepare her. Here are some things I learned along the way.
* Get a ton of new sibling books. I incorporated books into her bedtime routine, and she loved them. I chose books that were geared toward big sisters and some that featured sister and brother characters. Some of Maggie's favorites included:
"I'm a Big Sister," by Joanna Cole (Harper Festival; $6.99)
"You're Getting a Baby Brother," by Sheila Sweeny Higginson (Little Simon; $7.99)
"Hello in There!: A Big Sister's Book of Waiting," by Jo Witek (Abrams Appleseed; $16.95)
* Transition early. We decided to buy Maggie new furniture and pass the crib, dresser/changing table to the baby. Although she never tried to climb out of her crib, it was time to transition her to a twin bed -- so she wouldn't think her little brother "took" her crib. We played up how exciting it was to have a "big girl bed," and she helped me pick out her new comforter set. Now she loves it.
* Encourage the older sibling to be involved. Whenever we speak about the baby, it always involves how Maggie will help us. For example, last weekend I washed some newborn clothes, and she helped me put them away. She always asks us if she can give the baby a bottle or share her own milk with him. We simply explain the baby has "special milk," and she can help feed him that. She even practices rocking a baby with her dolls.
* Buy something special for the hospital. When my brother was born, my mother gave my sister and me Cabbage Patch Kids dolls at the hospital. This way, we could care for our "babies" while our mom took care of the newborn. I bought Maggie an American Girl Bitty Baby doll, which will be a present from her baby brother. She also picked out a small stuffed animal to give him at the hospital.
* Remind them that your love won't change. Day-to-day life will certainly change for all of us, but I try to remind Maggie that I have enough love for everyone. I remind her that even though the baby will need some of my attention, the special things we do won't change. We'll still play with Play-Doh, read books, have a dance party and just sit together watching movies.