Kids at Birth – What’s Best?
Should you have your older kids at your baby's birth? Here are some points to consider: What do your older children want? Do they want to be there? That's a good starting place for your considerations.
Do they scare easily, or are they very clingy? Frightful or clingy children can be hard to care for while you're giving birth, though some of these children are surprising and calmly watch as you give birth.
More things to think about:
- Does your birth place allow children?
- Do you want your children there?
- Do you think your children will want to be there?
- Are you willing to prepare your children for the birth?
Having Your Kids at the Birth
You've decided to have your children at the birth! It's a good idea to have another adult there just caring for the children, especially if your older children are very young.
This adult is devoted to your older child or children and not focusing on the birth. They can sit with your children if they want to watch the birth – but they can also be with your kids in another part of the house or outside playing.
I have had my kids at the births of my second, third, and sixth children. A good friend was there for my daughter when my second was born. My child slept through most of my labor; when she awoke my friend was there to feed her breakfast. Then they went outside to play for a little while. My daughter asked to go back inside just as I started pushing and my friend held her and supported her as they together watched my son's birth.
I had a doula at the birth of my third child. She was there with me in early labor and when my children awoke she was there to support them since I was comfortable laboring alone. When the children got distracting to me she gently took them to play in another room.
I requested that they come back in when I began pushing the baby out and my doula was right there with them. One of my fondest memories of the birth is of pulling my second son out of the birth tub onto my chest as my daughter called “Mama, it's our baby!”
My three oldest children watched the birth of my sixth baby. We didn't have anybody there to watch them since they were 11, 9, and 7 years old at the time. Our two small children slept through the birth. That worked out very nicely for our family.
Preparing Your Kids for the Birth
Take the time to prepare your kids for the upcoming birth. Talk to them about what it may be like. With my young children I used simple explanations about how mama might move around a lot, or moan or “sound like a cow or lion.” I explained to older children that they needed to be quiet, and they shouldn't ask questions (unless we told them that was okay) – we told them to save questions for after the birth. We also watched birth videos and talked about those births to help them prepare.
Have snacks and/or meal ingredients available for your kids at the birth. A helper (or the child if he or she is old enough) can prepare something for them. Also keep track of familiar toys and favored stuffed animals in the weeks before birth. Let your children spend plenty of time visiting with their helper so they're familiar before your due date.
Go over things with your child's attendant. Let them know where they can take the child: outside, to a park, or to the attendant's home or another home if the child wants/needs to leave. Sometimes a walk outside or playing in another room for a little while is all the child needs to feel more secure, or to give you a little space while you're birthing.
Having a water birth? Decide ahead of time if you feel comfortable with your child getting into the tub. You'll be prepared if your child asks.
If You Decide Not to Have Your Child There
If you decide you don't want your older kids at the birth, or you want to leave the arrangement open, plan somewhere for your children to go during the birth.
If your child is in school, have someone who can pick your child up in case your labor goes through the school day. It's also a good idea for this person to be available to take your child to school if labor begins in the night. Be sure you've authorized this person with the school.
Again, make sure you child spends plenty of time with his or her caregiver before the birth. Give your child the opportunity to visit their home.
You can pack an activity bag of special things for your child (this is a good idea at home too). Also plan for a special toy or stuffed animal to go with your child if it's important to him or her.
Plan meals for your child if needed. If you're freezing meals before the birth you may want to freeze one to send with your child and his caregiver – delicious, familiar, and appreciated!
Think about how long you want your child to stay with the caregiver. You may want a couple of hours after the birth to bond with your new baby and rest. Or you may want your older child to come home right away and meet the new baby.
There are many choices when preparing your older child or children for a new baby's birth. Deciding well ahead of time and making plans for your older child will give you peace of mind and help you prepare him or her best. Remember to involve your older child in preparing for the baby! Your child may want to get a small gift for the baby, and it's often a good idea for the baby to give the older sibling a present too 😉