Navigating with a new baby : Getting organised for the birth, Preparing the kids for a new baby, Preparing friends and family

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Getting organised for the birth

There are hundreds of books that will tell you all the things you need to buy for you and your newborn baby, but I haven’t found many of these necessary at all. My advice to new mums is to not feel you have to have everything. Babies need very little bought ‘stuff’. But don’t think that I wasn’t captivated by the baby books and didn’t head out and spend a mini fortune on things that I eventually didn’t use, because I did. With each baby I’ve used less stuff. I’ve gradually worked out what makes life easier for me, bubs and the rest of the family. The items I consider essential for newborns are:

nappies and wipes

nappy-rash cream

cloth nappies or clean-up cloths

bath oil or wash



a bassinet

a cot

a baby capsule

a baby carrier

muslin wraps.

These are the items I consider essential for mums during the late stages of pregnancy and the first few weeks post-birth:

a hot/cold pack

• maternity pads

• nursing pads

• comfy clothes

• bike shorts

• a baby bag

• an express pump for breastfeeding

• a reusable water bottle.

Preparing the kids for a new baby

Kids cope best when they know what to expect, so it’s worth spending time preparing children for the arrival of their future sibling. This doesn’t need to be a serious event. Involving your kids in planning for the baby’s arrival can include activities such as:

setting up the baby’s bassinet. Allow your toddler or preschooler to help you. Talk about how much babies sleep during the day and how they wake up overnight. Let them know that Mum will need to wake up overnight too and may be tired for a little while after the baby is born.

making meals in advance. Allow your older kids to help you cook. Talk about how the new baby may be unsettled in the early evenings and how having meals in the freezer to go will help make life easier on days when the baby doesn’t sleep so well. Explain how they will need to use their time wisely when the baby is sleeping to do reading and homework activities.

washing baby clothes. Have your younger children help you hang out and fold up the baby clothes. Talk about the size of the clothes and how babies are very little when they’re born. Discuss how babies need lots of attention from Mum and Dad for feeding, changing, settling and bathing and how there will be lots of ways they can help Mum and Dad look after the baby.

looking at baby photos. Spend some time with your children looking through their baby photos. As you look through the photos, tell them their birth stories and the lovely memories you have of them as infants. Talk about how they liked to be soothed when they were upset and the special things you did with them.

Roleplay and books

In addition to using real-life experiences to prepare your kids for a new baby, you can also use roleplay and books. Roleplay can be a fun way to give younger children an idea of what it will be like to have a new baby in the house. Set up a play area with a doll, a doll’s bed and other accessories. If you have only one child, ask the child to take on a role. They could be the mum, the dad or themselves. Play out common situations that will happen when baby arrives, such as a preschooler wanting to play a game and the baby needing settling.

Books can provide another avenue for getting kids thinking about what it will be like with a new baby in the house. Some fabulous books for toddlers and preschoolers are:

Hey Hippopotamus, Do Babies Eat Cake Too? by Hazel Edwards

Brand New Baby by Bob Graham

Za-Za’s Baby Brother by Lucy Cousins

I Want a Sister by Tony Ross

There’s a House Inside My Mummy by Giles Andreae

It’s Quacking Time! by Martin Waddell.

Increasing kids’ independence

I’ve always tried to use the time before the birth of a new baby to work on age-appropriate independence skills with my kids. It can be easy to do things for younger kids that they’re actually capable of doing themselves because it’s quicker and easier to do it for them at the time. However, with the feeding and time demands of a new little one, it’s incredibly helpful if the kids can do more for themselves.

Teaching kids age-appropriate independence skills before the baby is born means they won’t connect this directly to the arrival of their new sibling. It also means that you won’t have to try teaching the kids these skills while carrying a baby around and suffering from sleep deprivation.

Changing routines

When bringing a new baby into the house, the family dynamics always receive a bit of a shake-up, regardless of how well you’ve prepared. So this is not the ideal time to try to change the kids’ routines. I found making adjustments to their daily routines a month or two before the baby arrives more successful. Here are a couple of changes you might like to consider:

From cot to bed. Changing a toddler’s sleeping place is exciting for them. My kids took a week or so to adapt to sleeping in a bed that they could get out of whenever they felt like it. Making the change before the birth of the baby meant I had time to work with my toddlers on staying in bed once we had turned out the lights. This also helps prevent any displacement children may feel if they’re concerned about the baby taking their place.

Toilet training. This requires much time and patience, and can result in a lot of extra washing. If toddlers are ready to be toilet trained before baby is born, then seize the opportunity. I don’t, however, recommend forcing the issue if the toddler isn’t ready. Our first son showed signs that he was ready for toilet training so we decided to try it a couple of months before our second child was due. After a week of no nappies and continual accidents, we decided that he wasn’t ready. The nappies went back on and we waited until a few months after the baby was born before trying again, so I could give the process enough attention and the toddler enough support. He was almost three by the time he was toilet trained: not only was he ready, but so was I, and within a week he was successfully toilet trained.

Preparing friends and family

I’ve been lucky to have a supportive family and wonderful friends who offered to help when our babies were born. I’m not always good at accepting help: sometimes I like to think I can do it all myself. This thought process is wrong on two basic levels:

• I possibly could do it all myself, but I’d be doing so at a cost — I’d be sacrificing sleep and time bonding with my new baby.

• It doesn’t recognise the feelings of others who genuinely want to be part of this time in our life.

Building up credits

With each child, I’ve accepted more help from family and friends. However, I don’t like this to be a one-way street. In the lead-up to the birth of the baby I’ll make sure I’m actively helping others whenever I can. It doesn’t mean I exhaust myself doing work for others, but it means I look for opportunities in my daily life where I can help — for example:

• dropping a friend’s children home from school

• having toddlers or preschoolers over to play for a few hours in the morning so Mum has time to run errands or attend appointments

• having family over for dinner on the weekend when my husband is home

• cooking a double batch of a basic meal such as spaghetti bolognaise, and giving one portion to a friend who has a new baby herself.

I see this as building up credits. I know my friends and family don’t expect this of me, but it’s something I like to do. For someone like me who finds it difficult to ask for help, it makes me feel a little more comfortable.

My pregnancies have all been trouble-free, and I’ve maintained excellent health throughout each of them. This isn’t the case for all mums-to-be, so you may not be in a position to take on these kinds of activities when you’re pregnant, and you actually may need more help during this time. It may be that you feel you need assistance from family and friends during your pregnancy, and they’re sure to understand and be willing to help, so don’t be afraid to ask for assistance if you need it.

Practical baby gifts

Family and friends are always generous when it comes to gift giving for a new baby. I’m continually surprised at how much we receive. When we had our first child, our family and friends would frequently ask whether there was anything we ‘needed’ that they could buy us as a gift. Just as I did with asking for help, I also struggled a little with suggesting gift ideas. I felt it sounded a bit rude and demanding. On the flip side, though, I love it when I ask people the same question and they run off a couple of things they’d like.

The birth of a baby is the perfect time for practical gifts. Many families — including ours — are affected by the adjustment to one income and ever-increasing expenses. While beautiful and expensive clothes for baby are lovely, they only last a short time. It wasn’t until we had babies four and five that I actually started giving my family ideas for practical gifts, when they asked, such as a new hand mixer (for pureeing food, as our old one had broken) and a new baby bag (as the old one was worn out).

There are many practical items that family and close friends can purchase for you when you have a new baby. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

• cloth nappies, not only for baby’s bottom, but perfect for cleaning up baby’s mess

a toddler seat or buggy board attachment for your pram

• a large double steamer for cooking up baby’s veggies

• a rice cooker: this makes cooking rice and making risottos so easy, with less mess

• a big clothes horse (in winter it can be impossible to dry anything outside in Melbourne!)

• a microwave steriliser for sterilising baby’s bottles quickly and easily.

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