I've started to read a firm favourite book to them. One which I am sure I have blogged about before. "There's A House Inside My Mummy". I first saw this book when a friend of mine was expecting her second son and thought it was great. As soon as we knew about Tom we went and bought it and started reading it to Jack. And then we read it to Tom when we were expecting Georgie. Now it's Georgie's turn!
We are also starting to ask the younger children to start putting away some of the clothes and toys they have outgrown "for baby" - always easier when they are being replaced with something new (or a coveted hand-me-down from an older brother). "You're getting a bit grown up for this, should we put it away and let the baby play with it instead?" It's met with a good response so far. We'll be doing the same with Georgie and the cot soon when he moves in to a Big Boy Bed like his brothers WELL BEFORE baby comes and needs it so he doesn't think baby is "stealing" his bed.
Step 2. Helping them know baby before baby is here.
We've also spent time looking at the scan photo and introducing the boys to the new baby. The older boys understand that this baby is inside my tummy, and Georgie picks things up quickly so if you ask him where the baby is he will either point to the scan pic, or he'll point to my belly and say "inside". He mimics his brothers when they cuddle and kiss baby in my tummy too. I am taking all this as good signs! If he sees that his brothers are both ok with the new baby, maybe he will be too!
From around 16 weeks I'll be getting my doppler out so that we can all listen to baby's heart beat and hear baby move round in my tummy. Jack & Tom loved doing this last time!
Step 3. Shopping for presents.
As we get closer to the due date I'll take the kids shopping with me to find presents they can get for the baby. Something special from each of them. Baby will want to know if there is anything they would like too so they can exchange presents when they all meet for the first time. I will include the boys as much as I can with baby purchases, let them help to chose things, ask them what they think baby might need or want. Jack is very good as this, and Tom is learning fast.
Step 4. Introductions.
I'm told that when the kids visit mummy in the hospital and meet baby for the first time it is supposed to be important for mummy not to be holding baby as they walk in. That they should be allowed to approach baby themselves and say hello first. Something to do with them not feeling replaced. Now, I don't know if this is true or not, but I've always done it that way either by choice or coincidence. I've let them lean over the little cot and say hello, touch the baby, and so on. Then sat them on the bed nice and safe before lifting baby up to them for a cuddle. Then a present swap! And it's always gone well so far!
Step 5. Ongoing at home.
But it's when we all get home that there are likely to be problems. Once the novelty of a new baby brother or sister starts to wear off. Again, I'm not worried about my older two who have done all this before and are looking forward to a new baby, it's George I'm concerned about. He likes to be attached to me, and I enjoy him wanting to be that close, especially since his brothers haven't been so into it.
What's worked in the past has been including the kids as much as possible. Letting them sit with me to read or watch telly when I'm feeding baby, big group hugs and snuggles with baby and big brothers, helping with nappy changes, helping with bathing, helping to choose clothes and toys for day, letting them touch baby when ever they want (within reason), helping them to feel like a special part of the baby's life and like a big boy with big boy responsibilities, while still being mummy's special boy themselves.
I think a big part of it is making sure that each of them still get special one-on-one time too. Babies do need to be held a lot, but sometimes they do need to be put down too. That's a great time to get some snuggles in with each of the older kids. The washing can wait while you have a cuddle!