The thought of a new sibling is exciting for most children – but not necessarily for parents who spend lots of time worrying about how the older child or children will cope.


Preparing children for birth can be a really rewarding time.  The first decision is what level of involvement the child will have.  Parents are often concerned about children being involved.  Depending on the age of the child the reaction will be quite varied, but for most, labour is not something that they are concerned about.  Liz Wilkes, Managing Director of My Midwives has experienced many children present at various points in labour.  “Little children often just go about their day completely unconcerned by what is happening,” Liz says.  “Any fear or worry is usually a reaction to the adults around them; if the adults are calm, they are usually calm.  The main concern is that the woman in labour really does not want to have to worry about other children – so if children are to be present, they need an adult completely focused on them.”


There are a good range of books to help explain to children the different stages of labour and birth, to prepare them and set realistic expectations for the experience. Liz says the main elements to discuss include the types of noise women will make and what the child might see.  “Older children who are of school age may not be as keen to attend,” Liz says. “The wishes of the child are paramount as they may have been exposed to things that make them view birth as scary.  It is a good opportunity to have an honest discussion and the older the child, the more challenging the idea of attending a birth may be.”


For other women, and men, children attending labour is something they do not want to consider.  “Often there are strong views, from all involved, that children should not be there” Liz adds. “Reliable babysitting and timing attendance of babysitters then becomes the priority.  This can be hard, particularly when there are no extended family or close friends nearby.”  Liz suggests having a trial run well before labour commences, to ease concerns.  “Employing a babysitter to be on call can be an option.”


Even when the children are not attending the birth, it is important to explain in an age-appropriate way what is happening.  “When a sibling is born is probably the first time they will see the life cycle for humans.  It is an important educational step to just give as much information as the child needs and as the parent wants to give.”


More: www.mymidwives.com.au




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