Eight Books to Help Your Child Learn What to Expect with a New Sibling
Preparing an older child for a new baby brother or sister is often a concern for parents. Their hopes are often that the soon-to-be older sibling will transition as smoothly as possible to life with a new baby in the home. There are many ways to help prepare an older sibling but one of my favourites is reading books together about pregnancy, birth and life with a newborn. Books are often a great source of information and can bring up some great conversation starters! You may be surprised by your child's fears, worries or even what they are looking forward to!
I acquired the following books by either purchasing them or borrowing from my local library. It's great to gather a collection of books, read them on your own and decide which ones you feel are the most engaging and age appropriate for your child prior to reading them together. Imagine what your child may learn and what questions you could ask while reading them. Most importantly, have fun reading and appreciate the value in spending time together before your new little one arrives!
My New Baby by Rachel Fuller
My New Baby is a board book with bright, bold pictures ideal for keeping a younger child's attention. This books features a series of both short statements and questions on each page that can lead to great conversation starters. For example, one page reads "Why is baby crying? Can we make it stop?" The image on this particular page shows the new baby crying during a nappy change. This would be a great opportunity to ask your child "Why do you think the baby is crying?" You can also mention that babies cry, and cannot talk, to tell adults when they need something, like a feed, changing or because they are tired.
Other pages cover how new babies feed, bathe, feel, presents that may arrive after the birth and how the new baby is part of the family now. I read this book to my two year old and feel it's a great introduction to how babies need to be cared for. *If images of breastfeeding and babywearing are important to you, this book delivers on both!
Sophie and the New Baby by Catherine and Laurence Anholt
I found this book to be incredibly sweet! This may or may not have to do with the fact that I currently have pregnancy hormones coursing through my body. From beginning to end young readers learn how Sophie's family adjusts to changes during pregnancy and following her brother's birth. Sophie describes how the entire family prepares for the new arrival and how they have to wait a long time for the baby to arrive. After Sophie's brother is born, she quickly learns that babies need a lot of attention- "He wanted to be fed, he wanted to be changed, he wanted to be cuddled and he wanted it right now."
Sophie also expresses her discontent when she cannot play with her new little brother how she had expected. With time and some loving attention from her dad, Sophie soon learns she is still important and there are many special family moments still in store for her. This is one book I read to my older children more than once because it covers so many issues surrounding pregnancy and a new baby in a sensitive way. * For those looking for images that depict breastfeeding, this book also delivers.
Geraldine's Baby Brother by Holly Keller
In this book Geraldine the pig navigates her emotions when her new baby brother Willie joins the family. At first Geraldine expresses her annoyance about Willie's crying but readers soon learn Geraldine also feels left out. This book may require more guidance from parents so young readers can explore why Geraldine chooses to distance herself from her new brother and her family despite feeling left out. One page reads, "Geraldine was in her room. 'How about a sandwich?' asked Mama. Geraldine turned away. 'I don't see you.'"
By the end of the book readers learn how one moment of connection can create a bond between an older sibling and the new baby. Geraldine comes around to realise her new little brother isn't so bad after all.
The Bump by Mij Kelly
This book starts with an image of a mother and child and reads "This is a story about someone you know and something that happened a few years ago" and is essentially a story on how the child in the story went from "the bump" to a baby. Overall the book covers how the mum's bump grew just as her love for her baby did throughout her pregnancy. Parents may laugh at some of the images, like one that shows buttons popping off a blouse as the bump grows. Other pregnancy topics include choosing a baby name, food cravings, nausea, hearing the foetal heartbeat, seeing a doctor, having a scan and preparing items for the new baby. What I like about this book is you can share your own pregnancy and birth experience with your child during or after reading. It may be fun to share what foods you craved or show your child their scan pictures. It also allows the opportunity to explain that your child came from "the bump" just as their new sibling will.
What I wished this book had done differently was state plainly that there was a bump because the mum in the book was pregnant much sooner. In the first half of the book it refers to "the bump" frequently and how it makes the mother feel, but the actual word "baby" is not mentioned until approximately half way through. The bump-baby association could have be introduced sooner. When I read this to my children I asked very early on "why do you think she has that bump?" This may not be necessary with some children but you can use your own judgement based on your child's age and how far along you are in your pregnancy.
Ruby's Baby Brother by Kathryn White
This book begins with Ruby being very unsure of her new baby brother, Leon. He's noisy, he smells and Ruby uses her imagine to illustrate how very different she thinks they are. Ruby wonders if her mum is different now since she had baby Leon and she explores feelings of fear and being left out since his arrival. The book transitions from Ruby feeling very vulnerable to expressing her pleasant surprise when she connects with Baby Leon while holding him. Instead of Ruby imagining how different they are, she begins to create wonderfully playful tales of how both her and Leon will explore the world together as knights, astronauts and sailors. One page reads, "This spaceship will help us zoom far away. Leon will steer and I'll tell him the way."
All of Ruby's imaginative descriptions are accompanied with beautiful illustrations and highlight how she not only loves her little brother, but how she also enjoys looking out for him. While this book is creative and fun with its imagery, I wonder if younger children could get "lost" in Ruby's tales and lose the overall message. I think it's best to save this book for children who are at least four years old.
I’m a Big Brother -and- I’m a Big Sister by Joanna Cole
These two books have the same text only one is modified for a future big brother and the other a future big sister. The illustrations are also different in each book but I really enjoyed them both. In both books the older siblings experience the arrival of a new baby to their family. The books are physically small and the text is moderate, so not too little and not too much. The topics covered in both include basic baby needs, how babies cry to communicate and how a baby is too little to do many things like talk, walk, play with toys and eat solids. There are pages dedicated to showing bonding moments between the big brother/sister and new baby and how there is still lots of love and attention from both parents for the older sibling. What is great about these two books is there is "A Note for Parents" section in the back with further tips on how to help an older sibling adjust.
Topsy and Tim: The new baby by Jean and Gareth Adamson
Topsy and Tim are brother and sister and their friend, Tony, will have a new baby joining his family soon. During a visit to Tony's house both Topsy and Tim learn more about preparing for a baby. They help Tony's mum prepare in the nursery and the following day Tony announces at school that he has a new little brother! Topsy and Tim go with their mum to visit Tony's family again and meet the newest addition. During their visit they learn how babies cry to communicate and about basic newborn care like feeding, nappy changing and bathing. There are a couple instances where it appears Tony feels a bit left out because of all the learning and excitement surrounding his new baby brother. This quickly dissipates when Tony shows his friends how he can be helpful in caring for the baby. This book is great for introducing basic baby care but it doesn't address the other many emotions older brothers and sisters may feel when a new baby arrives as adequately as other sibling book options. * This book also depicts breastfeeding in a positive way.