Sibling involvement at birth is often seen at births occurring at home. Having your older children present at the birth of their sibling can make the experience very special for everyone. It can help older children bond with their new sibling and avoid jealousy, as well as normalising the birth process.

Parents who choose birth centres and even hospitals are requesting to have their other children present during labour and birth. In order to make the experience as positive as possible, it’s a good idea to spend plenty of time in advance preparing your children for the sights and sounds of childbirth. How you do this will depend on the age of your children and their personalities.

Parents of young children can use stories and illustrations as a tool to discuss birth. You can find out more here – Books To Prepare Children for Birth.

Another great way to help children prepare for the reality of labour and birth is to show them. This can help them to understand that birth is really normal and what to expect when it comes time for their baby sibling to be born. It’s important children hear and see birth in order to understand why women vocalize during labour and know the experience can be painful but it is not injurious to mum or baby. Seeing the process of labour can put into perspective the sight of waters releasing, membranes and any blood, the placenta and cord. See Videos to Prepare Children for Birth.

The Role Children Can Play

It can be a good idea to enact labour and birth during your pregnancy, setting up role plays with them so they can ‘experience’ it before the real deal. In this way, you can set up scenarios which can help pave the way for your child to respond well if you decide you need some space, or if the birth is quite fast. They can pretend to be the midwife or the mum giving birth too.

If your child is happy to be involved during labour and birth, it can be helpful to give them a special job. This can be simply wiping your face with a damp flannel, helping you to have a drink or keeping you company. Some children are happy to be in charge of the thermometer to make sure the birth pool is kept at the right temperature, and others simply like to sit by and encourage their mother.

It’s important to remember that how you feel during pregnancy about having your children present may change when you are actually in labour. It is ok for you to change your mind during labour, or to need your child/ren to be engaged in other activities elsewhere in the house or even leave for some time.

If you find having them present is distracting or even disturbing you, it’s a good idea to have a trusted friend or relative to be on hand. This is a good idea particularly if you are giving birth in a hospital or birth centre, as the staff can’t be responsible for your child.

Preparing your child for the reality of birth goes a long way to them understanding you will be working hard during labour, that it can take many hours and you won’t be as available to them. Having a special box of toys or activities can help, set aside for this special day, so they are able to come and go as they like. This can be useful when you are close to giving birth, if you or your child has decided they don’t want to be present for the actual birth. They can come back as soon as the baby is born, and meet their new sibling. If you are having a water birth, you might like to have your children join you in the birth pool, so set out their bathers in case!

 

Written by Sam McCulloch (Birth Educator and Birth Writer). Images by The He{ART} of Motherhood.