Children and Home Birth
Children and Home Birth
Having children attend the birth of a sibling is a wonderful way to begin family bonding. If this feels right for you, and you think it is right for your children, you may like to consider the following.
Preparing children for the arrival of their baby brother or sister:
- Spend time talking about what it will be like to have a baby at home, and ways they can help with their little brother or sister.
- Discuss which things in their life will be a bit different and emphasize which things will remain the same.
- Talk about what it will be like to be a big brother / big sister.
- If he / she is interested they may like to talk to the baby in your tummy, play their favourite music for the baby, and feel baby moving.
- Allow your child lots of opportunities to ask questions about where babies come from and how they are born.
- Talk about what their brother / sister might look like, and what they looked like when they were born.
- Draw pictures together of how your family will look when the baby arrives.
- Talk about their feelings about having a baby at home.
- Reassure them you have enough love in your heart for lots of people (For example: their Grandma, Granddad, Aunties and Uncles etc, as well as for them and their baby brother or sister), and that the baby won’t be taking any of your love away from them.
Preparing for your child to be present during your home birth:
- First and foremost, ask your child if they want to be there when you are in labour, and when you are giving birth. Let your child know that they can change their mind at any time. They can come in and out of the birth space or choose to leave completely.
- Arrange for someone to look after your child if they decide they don’t want to be there, or if you change your mind about them being there.
- Take your child to your midwifery visits, so they become familiar with your midwife, and she doesn’t show up as a stranger to them in their house. They may also like to listen to the baby’s heartbeat during your visits.
- Read children’s books about home birth, like “Hello Baby” by Jenni Overend, and “Welcome Home” by Alisha Bourke.
- Look at photographs of home birth.
- Watch home birth videos together on You Tube (Always pre-view the video to make sure it is suitable for your child).
- Tell the story of their own birth.
- Share pictures / videos from your own labour with them.
- Look at baby photos from when they were born, and when you were born.
- Use books, pictures, videos to spark conversation and questions.
- Discuss and ‘practice’ some of the sounds they might hear you make during labour.
- Talk about blood loss in birth, and how it is normal, and it doesn’t mean you’re injured.
- Describe what might look different in the house while you are in labour.
- Let them know who will be coming to your house while you’re in labour, and why.
If your child wants to play an active part during your labour, they could:
- Rub your back, hold your hand, tell you they love you.
- Bring you drinks and snacks.
- Take photos (make sure they use a camera / phone that you trust them to use safely, and that they can’t accidentally delete anything important).
- Bring a blanket for you and baby when baby is born.
- Help with clamping / cutting the umbilical cord.
- Older children can assist with receiving the baby as he / she is born.
- Join the midwife with weighing and measuring the baby.
- Make a phone call to a loved one to announce the birth of their baby brother / sister.
- Help dress the baby.
- Hold their new brother or sister after they’re born.
As their parent you will know which of these are age / ability appropriate.
If your child chooses not to be present during your labour and birth, make a list of things they can do with the person who is looking after them. Some ideas are:
- Make a Welcome Home / Happy Birth Day card for their baby sibling.
- Bake a Birth Day cake and decorate it.
- Read books, play with toys, watch movies, draw pictures, craft activities.
- Go for a walk or collect flowers from the garden for Mum.
- Write a story about ‘the day I became a big sister / brother’.
After the birth of their baby brother or sister:
- You could organise something special for your child as a congratulations on becoming a big brother / sister or arrange for the baby to ‘bring a present with them’ to give to their older brother or sister.
- Give your child lots of opportunities to debrief with you and tell the story of the birth as they perceive it.
- Encourage visitors to engage in discussions with your older children about how they are, and what they are doing at school / kindergarten / childcare, home etc, rather than focusing all the discussion on and around the baby.
- Be aware that sometimes ‘new baby’ may be interpreted as ‘replacement baby’ by little people. If you have chosen a name, consider using the baby’s name (or ‘sister’ / ‘brother’) rather than talking about ‘the new baby’.
- Similarly, they may not be happy ‘losing their place’ as the baby in the family and may not feel ready accept the ‘big boy’ / ‘big girl’ title yet.
Remember, bonding takes time. Try not to put pressure on yourself or your children while everyone is getting to know each other and settling into the new family dynamic.