There are a lot of discussions about the ways to involve siblings at birth: Should we? Is it harmful? Will they bother mom too much? Will they be scarred for life? Most of these questions stem from a culture that puts a veil over a lot of normal life functions and discussions and instead plays pretend, leaves little Tommy with a sitter, or simply lies to avoid uncomfortable conversations. Don't get me wrong, there are simply some events where parents just need the space to be in their own mind without distractions and only the parent can truly decide what is best for the family as a whole.
Children often handle birth and breastfeeding delightfully and it opens up so many wonderful opportunities for real life discussion and understanding. They may sleep through the entire event. They may play and step in now and then, ask some questions or observe and want to know someone will make them dinner. They may get bored and need some guided activities or outside time. They may want to snuggle mom or get in the birth tub. Your labor and birth location will determine a lot of how normal the birth process feels to siblings and how involved they are able to feel.
How, then, can we involve siblings at birth if we decide this is what is right for our family? Here are four fun ways to make them feel like a part of the experience without playing pretend.
Birth Team Host to involve siblings at birth
Having older siblings make coffee, snacks, and meals for a home birth team as well as care for younger siblings is one of the most common ways to involve siblings at birth. This is a good task for the tween group. They're old enough to really want an important job, to do some kitchen tasks by themselves, and to understand that mom may need her space and time with her birth team. Teens can be sent on errands, to the grocery store even, depending on the needs during the birth. All the siblings can prep sandwiches, put on a crockpot full of soup, and be sure the pot of coffee is at the ready. They can answer the door as people arrive so whoever is supporting mom can stay with her without interruption, including in birth center and hospital settings.
Birth Attendant Role to involve siblings at birth
Another important task for the older groups is being an intuitive birth attendant. These tasks can start during pregnancy, allowing older siblings to be involved in prental appointments as well as birth classes and get a great understanding of the birth processes before birth. During labor they can be sure mom has water available, with fresh cucumber and a bendy straw, wherever she goes. Siblings can be sure the bed is prepped with a shower curtain and fresh linens. They can fetch cool towels, a birth ball, and rub mom's back. Depending on their abilities can depend how much they are able to physically help with mom's comfort if she desires support, but many of these tasks are excellent for even young children freeing up the other birth attendants and Dad for continues support in other ways.
Make Birth Announcements to involve siblings at birth
Siblings making birth announcements can be as simple as changing the greeting on your voicemail and answering phone calls to making “Do Not Disturb; Baby Sleeping” signs and adding Baby’s name, weight, and birth info. for those that may be dropping by food, or the mail. Hand-written cards can be sent with a new photo to all the baby shower and blessingway attendees, giving siblings plenty to keep occupied during the first weeks after the birth and plenty of time for mom to get settled in with breastfeeding.
Birth Photography is a great way to involve siblings at birth
This can be from the oldest sibling to a toddler and one of my favorite ways to involve siblings at birth. The only real challenge is finding the camera you're comfortable with them using and making sure a flash or noise isn't too distracting if they’re not up to speed on camera settings. Thankfully, disposable cameras still exist (even in digital form) if you don't own a camera and don't want to hand off the cell.
Even more fun with disposable cameras, a young child can have a lot of fun decorating the camera to fit their personal tastes and getting prints in the mail after the birth is an extra present. Add in a personal scrap book, stickers, markers, and fun paper for a great quiet-time activity while you're resting and nursing. Save some photos to be taken during the first year to add to the scrapbook and now the siblings not only have a great way to be involved at the birth, but also a great first birthday present to give as a keepsake. Multiple siblings can easily share this activity and it's sure to be one of the highlights making the siblings feel very excited for their baby brother's or sister's birthday party.
Never underestimate the mind of a youth – they are ready and willing to learn all they can about life and their body and being a big help with chores and daily life before and after birth. There are no necessary roles siblings need to take before, during or after the birth – but the more they are involved with the process, the more they will understand about their own body and the importance of the entire family helping for this new little life. Making snacks, filling up water cups, and prepping nursing baskets with fun tasks (for mom and the little ones) as well as charging phones and starting a load of laundry are all helpful postpartum.
How do you love to involve siblings at birth?