Introducing your child to a New Baby

Last year, I wrote about how The Barn Owl and I prepare our kids to welcome a new baby into the family. Since then, I’ve had messages from other parents wondering how we prepare our kids to meet their new sibling for the first time.

J and Little E love their little brother Thumper to bits, and they both help me out a lot at home by looking after him and playing with him, which I am very grateful for. When they met him for the first time, they were both so excited and so happy to see him! They absolutely couldn’t get enough of him.

I was so glad that the groundwork we had laid in the months previously really paid off!

new-baby-family-brother-sister-big-kids

J and Little E meeting Thumper for the first time

I think it is really important for the new baby to make a good impression on his or her older sibling as well. The Barn Owl and I always try our best to make sure that not only our older kid is mentally and emotionally prepared, but that the baby is also ready to meet them too!

So here’s:

Debs G’s Guide to Introducing your Child to a New Sibling

  1. Prepare your child for a special solo adventure. You’ve probably already made arrangements for who will be looking after your older kids when you head off to the labour ward. The kids have to know that they will be spending at least one night away from both Mummy and Daddy, so it’s worthwhile letting them have a taste of this experience at least once beforehand so that they have something to look forward to. This is a no-holds barred opportunity for grandparents or relatives to coddle and spoil the children and otherwise turn their stayover into a junk food fueled paradise of fun. I also took advantage of this opportunity to squeeze in a date night with The Barn Owl (fancy restaurant and a movie) and to have a lavishly indulgent lie-in the next day.
  2. It’s all about Daddy now. In the month or so leading up to the end of your pregnancy, it will be time to let Daddy take the reins with the kids, especially with regards to the baths as well as the evening and bedtime routine. After all, you will need to be able to devote time to the new baby without your kids feeling abandoned – and Daddy will have to practice putting the kids to sleep on his own since he may have to spend a day or two doing that anyway.
  3. Resist the urge to have the children brought to you immediately after labour. If you are anything like me, you are the sort of person who does not want their children in the labour room with you. My reason for excluding the children from the birth is because I knew from previous experience, that I am an emotional and otherwise unpleasant person during labour, and I do not want to traumatise them. After labour, when both I, my husband and the baby are exhausted and messy-looking, I think that seeing the kids immediately would not be a pleasant or reassuring experience for them (even though it would be a reassuring experience for me). I feel that it is better for them to hear my cheerful voice over the phone, then for them to look at my exhausted face and see me with all the tubes and urinary catheter in situ. Even if I reassure them verbally, they will still worry for my well-being after observing me in that condition – and I don’t want them to ever resent the new baby.
  4. Do not hog your husband – the kids need him. After labour is over, and both baby and I are nicely cleaned up and waiting to be transferred to the ward, this is when The Barn Owl leaves and goes home. He does not stay over in the hospital with me and he does not spend every waking moment in the hospital with me in the days to come. Yes, it’s lonely being in hospital on my own, but really, I do not need him with me anymore – I can get on with the breastfeeding and everything on my own or with the help of the nurses – so it would be selfish to keep him in hospital with me when the other children need him much more. Let him go home, reassure the kids, show them pictures of the new baby and sleep comfortably in his own bed.
  5. Timing is everything. First impressions count, so I always make sure that both I and the new baby are looking spiffy when the older sibling(s) arrive. The best time to do this is in the mid-morning after the doctors ward rounds and baby checks, and just after the baby has had a full feed and has had a nappy change. This will mean that the baby is in a good mood, maybe even alert for a few minutes. I always make sure that my hubby gives me a heads up before coming to the hospital with the kids, so that I have time to prepare the baby! I also make sure that the baby is lying happily in the bassinet on the far side of the room when their big brother/sister arrives, and not in my arms or being breastfed. If I’m still breastfeeding or changing the baby when they get to the hospital, I tell my husband to distract the kids until we are both ready. I want the older kids to walk in the room and see me waiting for them with open arms! This allows me to literally show them that the baby has not displaced them in my affections!
  6. Greet and cuddle the new big brother/sister first before doing anything else. The first thing that I do is cuddle the older child, making sure that he or she is happy and contented. They need that reassurance that you are still there for them.
  7. Stay by their side until they are ready to see the baby. Once we’ve finished greeting each other, I wait for my kids to ask permission to see the baby! Usually once the kids have ascertained that I am well, they will start to clamour to see the baby. I don’t get up to bring the baby to them either. I sit right next to them and ask their daddy to push the bassinet to the bed, or I hold their hand and walk with them to the bassinet.
  8. Give them space. Your child is going to be more excited about seeing you again than seeing the new baby – mostly because the baby is still just a small blob that lies there and doesn’t do anything. Do not be surprised if after a few moments frowning at the baby in the bassinet, your child wanders off to go look out the window and otherwise appears to be disinterested in the baby. Use this time to thoroughly spoil your older child with attention, and don’t keep trying to draw them back to the baby or pester them with questions about the baby (“Do you like the baby? Huh? Do you? DO you?”). Be cool. It just takes them a longer time to process this whole event, which is really quite overwhelming! They’ll eventually warm up to their new sibling and want to hold it, and take pictures (which will be your cue to make an almighty fuss of them), but if they don’t feel like doing any of that right now, don’t sweat it or it’ll become forced and unpleasant. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to see that sibling bond forming!
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Preparing for Baby: Washing Up Matters (With Ecover Zero)

I have written before about how I like to choose eco-friendly household cleaning products and that I am always on the look out for products that are kind to sensitive skin. When Thumper came along, I had to switch my laundry products to something that is not only powerful and effective enough to cleanse dirty cloth nappies but also gentle enough on baby skin.

This is why, when Ecover Singapore contacted me and asked if I would like to try out their new Ecover Zero range, I was very excited! This range of washing products are derived from plants and minerals, and are free of phosphates, fragrances, colouring and optical brighteners, so it is great for sensitive skin, whilst being completely biodegradable (septic-tank safe). Additionally, Ecover tests all their washing products for aquatic toxicity to ensure that whatever goes down the drain will have the least impact on the ecological balance of our waterways. I like knowing that I’m not poisoning our fish in the name of fresh laundry and sparkling tableware!

Great for delicate baby skin and our delicate ecosystem

Great for delicate baby skin and our delicate ecosystem

I have been using Ecover Zero Non-Bio Laundry Liquid and Fabric Conditioner for the last couple of months and I have to say that I love the way that my clothes feel when they have dried! I have not used fabric conditioner on my laundry for the last 7 years because of my family’s sensitive skin, but we have had no problems at all with the Ecover Zero Fabric Conditioner. It is so fantastic for all the baby clothes and it leaves our line-dried clothes feeling wonderfully soft and fluffy. Despite Ecover Zero being a non-fragranced product, our laundry does not give off a musty, damp smell when it comes out of the wash, which is great!

I have also been using the Ecover Zero Non-Bio Laundry Liquid on my cloth nappy stash and it is FANTASTIC. I have had no problems at all with residue build-up on the microfibre inserts or the fleece and suede cloth lining of my cloth diapers. As this is a Non-Bio liquid, there are no enzymes present at all, so it is safe to use on cloth nappies! This is a step-up from Ecover’s regular laundry liquid range which has not been recommended for use on cloth nappies because they contain plant-derived enzymes which eat the waterproof PUL-lining of synthetic nappy covers.

Owls Well Recommends: I use a front-loading washing machine at home and I recommend reducing the dose of laundry liquid for front-loading washing machines and other high-efficiency machines that do not require a lot of soap suds for a thorough clean. I found that using half the recommended dose on my regular laundry load is enough to leave my laundry thoroughly clean – even J’s grubby P.E. uniform (covered in grime and the occasional bloodstain) will come out looking bright and fresh. For my cloth nappies, I use a quarter of the recommended dose and add a extra rinse cycle, which seems to do the trick of keeping them beautifully clean and stain-free!

As for the Ecover Zero Washing-Up Liquid, it does a really good job of cleaning greasy dishpans and I find that a very little bit will go a long way. I have been using the washing-up liquid for two months now and there is still more than half a bottle left to go. The Outlaws, including my new brother-in-law on the Barn Owl’s side, are big fans of Ecover washing-up liquid as it cleans well and lasts a very long time, making it a better value than a similar-sized bottle of the ubiquitous Fairy liquid (although the Father Outlaw says that he misses the smell of Fairy liquid).

(You can find Ecover Zero washing products online at the Ecover Singapore website which offers free shipping within Singapore for orders over SGD$30!)

Preparing for Baby: Resources from the public library

It has been a while since we’ve had a tiny baby in the house, and I not only need to refresh my own memory but also make sure that both J and Little E know what to expect.

Little E is getting tired of the books that we already have in the house pertaining to babies, so this gives us an excuse to take a trip to the local library, which has tons of very good titles about introducing a new baby to the family as well as several useful reference books to help prepare expectant parents.

Here are some of the library books that I have found the most useful both for myself and for the children:

From the Junior Lending Section

From the Junior Lending Section

1. There’s a House Inside My Mummy by Giles Andreae & Vanessa Cabban (Call number: English AND)

This is a lovely rhyming story about a little boy waiting for his brother or sister to arrive, and he imagines that his mother’s growing belly is a house where the baby is staying! This book is really great for helping kids to understand why their mummy is changing in both appearance and behaviour, especially focussing on symptoms of pregnancy such as feeling tired and sickly (or having bizarre food cravings!).

2. What Baby Needs by William Sears & Martha Sears (Call number: English 649 SEA)

This picture book looks at how life changes for an older sibling once a tiny baby is introduced into the family. It shows what sort of care a newborn baby will receive, as well as the different roles that family members play in the baby’s life. At the beginning of each section there are notes aimed at grownups with useful advice on what sort of information and stories that can be shared with a child to help them to understand what is to come, as well as how to deal with specific issues and worries that children might face when preparing for a new sibling. The detailed illustrations show all sorts of scenes that are associated with attachment parenting, such as baby-wearing in a sling or a carrier (by both parents!), co-sleeping and breastfeeding, to help kids become familiar with these actions taking place in their own home. A very practical book!

3. New Baby by Nicola Barber (Call number: English 306.875 BAR)

I like this particular book because it uses photographs instead of illustrations and thoroughly explores how an older brother and sister might feel when a new baby comes into their life. A very useful book to use as a springboard for discussion with the big brother/sister-to-be about any uncertainty or anxiety that they might be feeling as they anticipate a big life change.

In the Adult Lending Section

In the Adult Lending Section

1. On becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo (Call number: English 649.122 EZZ -[FAM])

This is a great book for troubleshooting babies. Of course, I realise that the methods used in ‘Babywise’ are controversial, but I actually found the concept of parent-led schedules very useful. The book itself is a good guide on how to manage the early days of infancy, from breastfeeding to sleeping, and it helped me gain confidence in myself as a parent. I found that the book helped me develop my own framework on how to organise my day and how to fit a new baby’s routine into an already existent, fixed schedule. The very practical advice in the book helped me greatly, especially during those early sleep-deprived days when common sense and logical thinking goes out the window!

2. Twice Blessed by Joan Leonard (Call number: English 649.143 LEO -[FAM])

I found this book extremely useful when preparing for a second (and third!) child. The author of the book is brutally honest about the impact that second children have on a family, and deals with many issues surrounding second children, including sibling rivalry. It really helped me to think through how I would prepare my first child for the arrival of a younger sibling.

3. Fun Start by June Oberlander (Call number:English 649.5 OBE -[FAM])

This book is a collection of weekly games which are matched to a child’s age and development from birth to 5 years old. It gives you a great idea on what kind of interaction to expect from your child at different stages in his or her development, and has plenty of fun, simple activities that you can do with your growing child every week. All the activities are really short and simple, and they mostly involve common household objects, so they are easy to carry out. I loved finding new ways to play with my kids, so this was a really enjoyable and useful read for me!

The Owls Well ‘Ch-ch-ch-changes’ 2015 Family Reading List

With the March school holidays coming up, the advent of Baby #3 as well as new schools for both J and Little E, we are all adjusting to many life changing events in the Owls Well family! What better way to prepare ourselves for the future than to delve into the world of books?

With this in mind, let me share with you our current Ch-ch-ch-changes 2015 reading list for all the family!

Preschoolers Reading List for Little E who is looking forward to being promoted

This is a really great book for little girls who are soon to be promoted in family status to ‘Big Sister’!

Not only does ‘You’re a Big Sister’ by Bedford and Poole sport beautiful illustrations featuring multiracial children as well as mixed-race families (especially relevant in our situation), but also very sweetly deals with the fears that any child might have when there is a new baby coming around and points out how being the older sibling is special and wonderful.

Little E really enjoys this book so much, that I have seen her looking through the pictures by herself and talking to herself about all the things that Big Sisters can do to help care for a little baby!

I especially appreciate the fact that the book doesn’t paint a false rosy picture of a new baby in the family, but also briefly touches on the negative aspects of having a sibling – such as coping with noise, mess and busy parents. However, the book is quick to reassure the Big-Sister-To-Be that also things will different in the family, it will be a positive change overall.

(For those of you with little boys in the family, there is You’re a Big Brother by the same authors!)

Early Readers Book List for J who is realising that his family is not perfect

This hilarious, beautifully illustrated chapter book is actually the fifth in a series of books featuring Alvin Ho, a very anxious 8 year old, and his day-to-day adventures.

In ‘Allergic to Babies, Burglars, and Other Bumps in the Night‘, Alvin realises to his utmost horror, that his mum is expecting yet another baby which might be another girl like his sometimes bothersome little sister…and worse yet, he is experiencing signs of sympathetic pregnancy (or to put it in his words ‘simply pathetic’ pregnancy)! Alvin is eventually is confronted with the birth of his new sibling – and his reaction to the baby is pure gold.

This book was so funny in places, that I couldn’t help laughing out loud whilst reading it – and J could not wait to get his mitts on it when I was done. J brought this book to school for early morning ‘silent reading’ before the start of class, and he loved it so much that he re-read twice! I found this book very good for reading aloud as well – Little E thought it was hilarious.

I was really touched by how the book dealt with the anxieties of older siblings who have already had some experience with younger children in the family, and I noticed that after J completed the book, he seemed much more positive about the advent of Baby #3, choosing to remember the positive aspects of when Little E was an infant.

I will definitely be checking out the rest of the books of the Alvin Ho series!

J is also reading The Parent Agency by David Baddiel, which is quite a light-hearted wish-fulfullment story about a dissatisfied boy named Barry who is given the opportunity to choose his own parents (and by extension, pick a whole new family).

Fortunately, he already has a list of detailing the failings of his parents – apart from naming him ‘Barry’, they are also (1) Boring and (2) Always Too Tired – so he is well-equipped to choose a new and improved family (or is he?). Barry is not prepared for the consequences of his choices, and eventually learns to appreciate what he has.

The book is a simple, fun read but it does rely rather heavily on humorous pop-culture references which not all children may be familiar with. Additionally, the characters are super-wacky and the crazy situations that Barry finds himself in are exaggerated and over the top, so if you prefer more sophisticated humour, then I would look elsewhere.

However, I do like the subtle wordplay which is a great introduction to the world of puns…but be prepared to do some explaining to your early reader!

 Grownup Booklist for Debs G who wants to be more involved

With J starting Primary School for the first time, and Little E starting Nursery, I decided that it was time I took a good look at learning and memory, to see how I can help the kids in their educational journey.

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey is a really engaging read which examines decades-worth of education research into how our brains process and retain information, starting from birth and throughout our lives. Surprisingly, much of what I thought would be helpful to learning (such as providing a stable, distraction-free environment for example) is not necessarily the most effective way to help the brain in memorisation!

Benedict Carey does a great job of organising all the various studies together and presenting it in a very practical way, with good techniques and tips that will help parents, teachers and students who want to know how to study or learn more effectively. He also touches on various aspects of learning – not just rote memorisation or concept comprehension, but also the development physical prowess and complex skills with many of the learning techniques applying across the board.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who might be interesting in a greater understanding on how to exploit the quirks and eccentricities of the brain and make learning more efficient, productive – and fun!

Young Adult Booklist for the Barn Owl whose world is changing too fast

(There’s nothing like a little bit of young adult dystopian fiction to put life in perspective!)

The three novels pictured above are not particularly challenging reads, but they are certainly highly entertaining and a great way to unwind after a hard day at the office.

‘The Maze Runner’ by James Dashner is about a teenaged boy named Thomas, who wakes up in The Glade, the centre of an ever-changing labyrinth populated by a society of teenage boys. He, like the other boys, remembers nothing except his own name. The boys have been trying for years to escape the maze which is patrolled by deadly creatures, with no success. When the first girl is introduced to the group, the conditions of the maze change drastically and they are forced to find a way out. The plot is intriguing with plenty of fast-paced action, and although the end of the book leaves a more than a few questions unanswered, the main story arc is well-concluded.

‘The Kill Order’ is the prequel to ‘The Maze Runner’ but it works perfectly well as a standalone novel and describes the world-changing events which eventually led to the creation of the Maze. This book was really such a fun read – basically, it is every single apocalyptic novel all rolled into one! WOOHOO!!!! Anything bad that could possibly happen to destroy the world and ruin organised society takes place in this book (apart from the arrival of Lovecraftian terrors from the deep – no mythical beasties here, we are a terribly realistic portrayal of possible catastrophic events), so it is a wild roller coaster ride which I thoroughly enjoyed!

If you are looking for something a little more thought-provoking, then the Newberry Medal-winning novel, ‘The Giver’ by Lois Lowry, is what you might be looking for. The novel centres around 12 year old Jonas who lives in a peaceful community where pain and suffering no longer exists. When he begins his training as the Receiver of all memory, he slowly sees the truth behind his seemingly utopian society which is devoid of colour, emotion and choice. Definitely a very powerful novel, which is worth a read (despite its enigmatic conclusion).

A Surprise for Owls Well Readers: MPH Bookstores Singapore is very kindly sponsoring set of the following titles: Allergic to Babies, Burglars, and Other Bumps in the Night by Lenore Look , How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey and ‘The Maze Runner’ by James Dashner to ONE lucky Owls Well Reader! That should keep one family occupied for the whole March school holidays!

To take part in this giveaway, just complete the following:

1. Be a fan of the Owls Well Facebook Page.

2. Like and Share this Facebook post (set to public) and tag a friend.

2. Leave a comment below telling me about a book on your current reading list and why you think everyone should read it. Don’t forget to leave your Facebook name and your email address so that I can contact you if you win – or if you’re really shy, you can email your details to me separately at 4owlswell@gmail.com

(This giveaway is open to people with a Singapore mailing address and ends on 12 March 2015. Winners will be picked via Random.org – just make sure you complete the 3 required steps!)

P.S. Special thanks to MPH Bookstores Singapore for being awesome and acquiescing to my request for review copies of all the books listed here!

Update: This giveaway is now closed and the winner has been contacted via email. Thanks for playing!

Preparing your child for a New Baby

So, with #3 on the way, I have already started preparing 3 year old Little E for her new role as big sister. She is really excited about the arrival of the new baby!

I have to say that in the grand scheme of things, J and Little E have a very loving sibling relationship and J has been a wonderful big brother to Little E, ever since the first day they met. J was 3 years old at the time, and I still remember the look on his face as he held Little E for the first time, and how gently he stroked her sleeping face.

3 year old J meeting 1 day old Little E

3 year old J meeting 1 day old Little E for the first time!

Part of this is due to J’s gentle and compassionate nature, and the other part (I like to think) is the due to the way that we prepared him to receive a little sister into his life. I am really hoping that Little E will have the same reaction to Baby#3, which is why I am employing the same strategies that I used with J!

So here’s:

Debs G’s Guide to Preparing a Child For a New Sibling


1. Instill a sense of ownership into your child from the get-go: Tell your child that you are growing a baby just for them. This way, the baby itself becomes a special gift to your child. The minute I told J and Little E that I was growing a baby for them to be their special little brother or sister, you could see on their faces a sense of wonder and pride. From then on, whenever they talked about the new baby, they referred to it as ‘My Baby’, not ‘Mummy’s baby’.

2. Get them to interact with the baby as much as is possible: This helps them to begin to feel attached to the baby and understand that the baby is a whole new person. It’s quite difficult for children to grasp the concept that there is a live baby growing in mum’s womb so one thing I like to do is get them to feel the baby’s movements once they start becoming more pronounced and tell them that the baby is responding to their voice and touch. “Do you feel that? Baby is trying to give you a high five!” When Little E was born, it only took the sound of J’s voice to help her calm down when she was fussing! Imagine how J felt when he realised how much she was responding to him.

3. Involve them in prenatal care and preparations: This helps them develop more concrete picture of a living baby in their minds and also gives them an idea about how much care goes into a baby even before it is born. Get the kids involved as you wash and sort all the baby gear or prepare the nursery with toys and furniture, maybe even allowing them to help choose new things for the little one. Encourage your child to select handmedowns from their own collection of toys to give to their new sibling.

Debs G Recommends: Bring the kids with you when you visit the obstetrician for the detailed prenatal scan around 20 weeks (when you find out the baby’s gender). This way they get to listen to the baby’s heartbeat and see the baby moving around on the monitor, and the baby is large enough by then to have easily identifiable body parts. When I brought Little E to my scan, she was watching so intently as the sonographer showed us the baby’s head, arms and legs that she was the FIRST person to identify the Baby #3’s gender! That was a proud moment for her!

4. Manage their expectations by introducing them to newborns and babies: This will give them some idea about what to expect. Both J and Little E had the impression that their new sibling would automatically be big enough to play with them straight away and they would be so disappointed if I let them continue thinking that way! So I brought them with me to visit friends and relatives with tiny babies. (It’s best if you bring them with you to the hospital when visiting newborns) I like to emphasise a babies’ utter helplessness, dependance on parents and siblings, and inability to communicate apart from crying.

Debs G Recommends: If you don’t have any access to any real live tiny babies, you can always show them some videos about babies. There are plenty of those around on Youtube. I personally like to show the kids an indie film that I discovered around the time I was expecting Little E. The film is called ‘(Everybody Loves) Babies’ and follows the development of four babies from around the world. This beautiful, funny film covers everything that you could possibly expect from a new baby – premature birth, breastfeeding, babywearing, weaning, changing and changing table accidents…even negative actions of older siblings (which makes for a good opportunity to tell your child what NOT to do!). Even the watching the trailer with your kids is good enough!

5. Show them photos and videos of themselves as babies and talk about the role of an older sibling as the baby’s special guardian: This also helps them to relate to the baby as they realise that they themselves were helpless babies once, and it also develops their ‘older sibling’ mentality as they figure out that there are many things they can do now which a newborn cannot do. This is also a good opportunity to talk about the different ways that they can help you when the baby is born – for example, they can become more independent in dressing/feeding/tidying so that you can spend more time helping the baby or they can even assist you in the baby’s care.

6. Acknowledge your child’s feelings: It’s natural for children to feel some anxiety and apprehension which they may not be able to articulate. They may even feel negatively about the baby, especially when they see how pregnancy makes you more tired and less mobile than usual. If your child is old enough to talk about their negative feelings towards the baby, it is important not to contradict them or force them into expressing a positive attitude. Acknowledge their feelings by agreeing with them (maybe even sharing with them that you feel a little scared and anxious too), then give them lots of cuddles and reassurance. Praise them to high heavens when they display excitement or positive attitudes towards the new baby and comment on what a wonderful big brother or sister they will make and how fortunate the baby will be to have them as an older sibling! It’s important for them to understand that the new baby is not going to replace them. I tend to emphasise the utter helplessness of the baby, and that the baby needs to be carried everywhere, so that they are prepared to see me holding and cuddling the baby often.