Planning a new baby in a blended family or stepfamily
If you’re thinking about having a baby with your partner in a blended family or stepfamily, you might decide to tell your other children in advance that you’re thinking about having a baby one day. You might say something like, ‘You never know – some day we might have another baby’.
Or you might feel like you need some extra time for your family to settle in so you might not tell anyone for a while.
How children might feel when you’re expecting a new baby
A new baby is a big change for the children in your blended family or stepfamily. They might be excited when you tell them the new baby is coming.
They might also feel upset, worried or insecure. This can be for many reasons:
- The pregnancy is getting a lot of attention.
- They’re worried they’ll lose their special position as mum or dad’s ‘baby’ or as the ‘only child’.
- They’re worried they’ll have less time or contact with you when they visit.
- They’re worried about practicalities like where the baby will sleep and whether they’ll keep their bedroom or have to share it.
- The baby belongs to both of you, and they feel insecure.
How you and your partner might feel when you’re expecting a new baby
It’s natural to have a mix of feelings about a new baby – excitement, hope and concern about how your other children might react.
You and your partner might even feel differently about the baby, especially if one of you is a first-time parent. If this is your first baby but your partner already has children, you might feel that your partner isn’t as excited as you. That’s OK – all couples go through different feelings and stages during pregnancy.
However you’re feeling, it’s important to support each other through the pregnancy and talk about how you’ll prepare your other children for the baby’s arrival.
Preparing children for a new baby in a blended family or stepfamily
How you prepare your children for a new baby depends on you, but it can be good to introduce the idea of a new baby at least a few months before the baby is born.
It’s important to talk with your children about their concerns and reassure them. If they’re upset or angry, hug them if they want you to, reassure them and talk about the positives – for example, they’ll have a new sibling to play with.
Let them know there’s plenty of time to get used to the idea.
It can also help to involve your children in planning and preparing for the baby in a way that interests them. If you can make this a positive and exciting time, your child is more likely to feel that the change is about everybody in the family, not just the new baby.
You can help your children feel involved by asking for their opinions or getting them to help you choose things for the baby. Your children might like to be involved in experiencing the baby as it grows – for example, by looking at ultrasound images or feeling the baby kick.
As you’re preparing together with your children, try not to overdo the excitement. And if you’re thinking about a special space or room for the baby, it’s important to make sure that your children don’t feel left out. For example, it’s a good idea to make the space you’re planning for the baby similar to what your other children have.
I let my stepson paint a mural in the baby’s room. I’m not sure what his one-week-old sister made of the Transformers looming over her cot, but it’s the thought that counts.
– Belinda, 32, in a blended family with 2 children
After the new baby arrives: helping children adjust
As a couple, you can do a lot to help children adjust when you bring your new baby home. Here are some ideas:
- Make special time for children each day – for example, have a snack together or read together.
- If children are showing signs of being jealous of the baby, try to tune in to their feelings and accept them. But you can also let them know that you expect them to behave in a safe and gentle way around the baby.
- Keep children’s routines consistent, especially in the early months. For example, if you normally read a story to your child before bed, keep doing this. If you’re going to make changes to family routines, try to do it gradually.
- Show children how they can play safely with the baby, or give older children small responsibilities like walking the baby around the garden in a pram. When children help out like this, praise them for being a great big brother or sister.
- Tell grandparents, teachers and other important adults the news. You could encourage them to give children extra attention and support.
If this is your first child, you might find yourself withdrawing a little from your partner’s children as you become absorbed in the new baby. Try not to feel guilty about this. Kind words or regular hugs each day will keep you and your partner’s children connected.
For tips on getting sibling relationships off to a good start, you can read more about helping toddlers and preschoolers adjust to a new baby and helping older children and teenagers adjust to a new baby.
Your child’s other parent and extended family
Tell your child’s other parent if you and your new partner are expecting a new baby. It’s much better if they hear it from you rather than from someone else. Your child’s other parent might take a while to accept the news, even if you don’t think the news will cause hurt feelings.
Other family members might not react in the way you expect. For example, grandparents who have been helpful with one set of grandchildren might feel worried they’re too old to cope with future ones. Just try to reassure them that they can be as involved as they like.