Mommy's Having a Baby

Ways to prepare your firstborn for your family's new addition.

A New Sibling

mother with daughter on lap touching pregnant belly

My friend Catherine, whom I met when our 4-year-old daughters were infants in strollers, is pregnant with her second child and due any day now. She's been reading books to Ella about the baby in her womb, and her firstborn is fascinated -- yet kind of perplexed -- to think she was in there once, too, connected to her mom by something called an umbilical cord.

In contrast, my older daughter, Kate, was only 18 months old when I realized I was pregnant again. She was still just a baby herself. I bought her a big-sister book, which she promptly tore apart. She seemed to get that there was a baby inside me, but she was in no position to discuss, for instance, the umbilical cord. I was amazed enough when, weeks before Sara was born, Kate spontaneously touched my tummy and said, "Baby, come out!"

The point is, how your firstborn reacts to your pregnancy will vary widely, depending mostly on her age. But regardless of whether your child is excited or blase, the arrival of a sibling is the first major change in most young kids' lives, says Jon Korfmacher, PhD, an associate professor at Chicago's Erikson Institute, a graduate school in child development. Kids need their parents to help them through it. "One of the biggest jobs for kids under 5 is learning how to understand their feelings and how to regulate them," Korfmacher says. "Having a sibling is one of their first tests."

So how can you help your firstborn get used to the fact that she'll only be an "only" for a few more months? We went to experts to find out how parents can connect with those little minds.

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