Since I was sick for a while this summer, for a time, Raisin’s only understanding of Mommy’s having a baby has been “Mommy is sick a lot.” But now that I’m feeling better and we’ve seen the little Monkey on an ultrasound and all that, Raisin is getting quite excited. I’m currently 17 weeks pregnant and Raisin is almost 4. I don’t look huge yet, but Raisin loves to talk to the baby through my belly and sometimes pretends “baby” is crying and needs a hug. I don’t mind the extra hugs. He also prays, at random times through the day, “to please bless Mommy to not throw up again.” I don’t mind the extra prayers either.
Some big brother books have been quite a hit around our house.
The first author we read was Joanna Cole, who happens to have a few books relating to growing a baby and dealing with a new sibling. I first encountered Joanna Cole’s helpful picture books back when Raisin was in the process of toilet training: he really enjoyed reading of young Michael’s story of success in My Big Boy Potty (thoughts here). Likewise, Ms. Cole’s two illustrated books relating to childbirth were ones Raisin identified with. I’m a Big Brother captures the changes that come to a young boy’s family when a little sibling joins the mix. It emphasizes that babies do different things from a toddler/preschooler, and Raisin liked relating to the boy who became a big brother. (Joanna Cole also has the similar I’m a Big Sister). The spectacular When You Were Inside Mommy by Joanna Cole explains the process of pregnancy in simple terms perfect for a three-year-old child. After we read this book, Raisin took to explaining to me how a baby is made in his words, and I’d suggest it’s the perfect go-to book for a parent hoping to explain to a young preschooler just how babies are grown inside Mommy’s belly.
How You Were Born is also by Joanna Cole, but unlike the other books I’ve read by Ms Cole, this book is illustrated with photographs of babies in utero, newborn babies, and happy families. It’s also written for slightly older children. Although the words are quite similar to those found in When You Were Inside Mommy, Raisin didn’t want to read this book: he wanted to look at the pictures and tell me the story. Here’s how he described the pregnancy process to me after reading these two preliminary “how a baby grows” books.
“Some of the Mommy and some of the Daddy make a baby a small as a dot!” he explained to me. “And then the baby grows and grows and grows in Mommy’s uterus until it’s finally time. Then Mommy’s muscles push out the baby.”
I’m pretty pleased with how clear it is to him, given that he’s not yet four years old. (That said, I do believe he still thinks the baby comes out of my belly button…)
After those first books, I also found a few other books that have helped him. There’s a House Inside My Mommy by Giles Andreae (illustrated by Vanessa Cabban) is the perfect balance between a technical “how a baby grows” and exciting “a baby is coming.” Told in rhyme, this book doesn’t have sketches of the life changes for an older child when a new baby comes, and it likewise does not explain how a baby is grown. It’s written for children who may not know what’s going on. There’s a House Inside My Mommy captures daily life for a child with a pregnant Mom: Mom feels sick, Mom falls asleep a lot, child talks to the baby through Mommy’s “tummy telephone” (Raisin loved that part). Of course, in the end, a baby joins the family. The emphasis in Mr Andreae’s book is on the long process of pregnancy, and Raisin and I enjoyed reading the rhyming story so similar to our own. Also, the child in this book is illustrated in a way that it can be interpreted as a boy or a girl, so that may be a nice touch for you to adapt the story to your own situation.
I found Big Brother Now by Annette Sheldon in the Parent-Teacher collection of picture books, and it does a wonderful job of explaining rather matter-of-factly the ways in which life changes for a preschool-aged boy when there is a new baby. The illustrations are realistic, and the text is too. When baby is sleeping, Mommy is too tired to read Jake a story. Mommy feeds the baby and so Jake must wait for his snack. “Babies don’t know how to wait,” she explains. In the beginning, Jake wonders how he can be a big brother: he doesn’t know how. By the end, he can say with confidence that he’s getting better at the big brother stuff. One night, we were eating dinner and Raisin said, out of the blue, “I am going to be good at the big brother stuff.” I’m sure it’s this book that has helped him gain that confidence. While it may be advanced for toddler aged children to relate to, for Raisin’s age, it’s perfect. He’s old enough to be a helper, and he’s likewise old enough to be excited for that new role.
On a more humorous note, Too Big by Holly Keller showed the potential jealousy that a new baby might bring. Young possum Henry finds that he is no longer the center of attention when his little brother Jake is brought home from the hospital. He wants to have a bottle too! He wants to have his diaper changed too! But each time he tries to take his turn, he is reminded that he is “too big.” After a funny ploy for attention, Henry finds that there are bonuses to being big: there are things he can do because he is big! Raisin and I enjoyed brainstorming the things that he’s now too big for and the things a newborn baby will be too little for. Although it’s still a while before baby Monkey joins our family, I’m hoping that we can keep it an exciting time and not a time for jealousy.
What books did you find helpful for explaining to your children the pregnancy process and/or the new sibling process?
P.S. I’ll find out in just a few weeks if Monkey is a boy or a girl. Which do you predict?