I went to my library recently to find books to use to prepare Ameli, not only for a new sibling, but also for the arrival of a new child. While there were plenty books and stories, there weren’t any that didn’t have the older sister or brother going in to the hospital room to see the baby who was generally in the crib next to mama’s bed.
** For books on becoming a sibling rather than birth specific, see books to help prepare siblings for the arrival of a new baby**
While there’s nothing wrong with these stories, in themselves, and they would suit the majority of people, I wanted something more – I wanted to be able to prepare my child for the birth we are planning.
I did a little research and found only three books easily available in the UK. (For a review of books easily available in the US please see Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama.)
My New Baby illustrated by Rachel Fuller (£3.99 at Amazon UK) (Amazon.com)
My New Baby is a cardboard book, definitely aimed at younger children. There aren’t many words, and it isn’t a story as such, but rather, random sentences, like “This bed is bouncy! Is the baby hungry?” or “I’m getting dressed. Is Baby clean yet?” and so on.
The book opens with mother, father, older sibling (which could pass as a boy or a girl) and baby in bed. Baby is breastfeeding and daddy is playing with the older sibling.
Later you see baby nursing again while OS eats a plate of finger foods, and on the next page, baby is in a sling while OS walks, with the words ‘I love walking. When will Baby walk like me?’ below it, so there are attachment parenting themes throughout, but it’s not alienating – baby is also carried in a bucket car seat, and cries during a nappy change before being put into a Moses Basket to sleep.
It’s a very simple book, and it doesn’t deal with the birth of the baby at all, but only with there being another baby.
The thing I liked most about the book is that because it is so simple, we can adapt the words and the story to suit our needs. We called the older sibling Ameli, and we talk about each picture. For example when the baby is nursing, we talk about how our baby will nurse from Mama, and Ameli will have to share. She turns to me and points at my breasts saying “Baby will have milk”. So, she gets it – but I’m interested to see how she accepts it when its more than pictures in a book.
I think it can be used as quite a useful tool later on too – reminding Ameli to put her own jumper on, like the girl in the book, while Mama dresses the baby, and so on. I also like the fact that though I think it’s obviously a girl on the cover, which works in our favour, you could get away with it being a brother, I think.
While helpful for preparing to adjust to life with a baby, the My New Baby didn’t help with preparing for birth at all.
- Hello Baby Written by Jenni Overend, Illustrated by Julie Vivas (£5.99 at Amazon UK) (Amazon.com)
Hello Baby is a beautiful book, written for, I’d imagine, a slightly older child – perhaps three or four and up. That said, we’ve had great success with using the story as a tool for discussing birth with my two year old.
It’s a ‘normal’ paper book, and the story is nicely written and stunningly illustrated. The words of the story are descriptive of a home birth at its ideal, attended by a midwife and other family members.
The illustrations in this book are quite graphic, without being intimate. There’s a picture of the mother leaning against the father during transition, with the head of the baby visible between her legs as the older children look on. There’s a side profile of the mother, naked, holding the baby with the umbilical cord attached to both of them, and later the midwife holds a bowl with the placenta in it.
While the book is quite detailed, and this may be off-putting for some, I find it a very good way to open conversation. It’s my hope that Ameli will be present at the birth, and having an understanding and a preconception of it can only be helpful. The final picture has the whole family of six sleeping on sleeping bags in the living room, with mother cosleeping with baby in her arms. The boy, who is telling the story, crawls in with daddy. He can see the baby lying between ‘Mum and Dad’ and wishes he could be there too. We had a really productive chat – as much as you can with a two year old – about how Ameli would sleep in the other room with Daddy for a while, while Mama and Squidgy would sleep in the big bed. Again, she is okay with it in principle… we’ll see how reality pans out.
The story is lovely and detailed and follows the mother as she is in early labour and goes out for a walk in the woods, it talks about the midwife’s arrival and her equipment, and about how Mum yells and shouts at times. It is too detailed for Ameli, so we follow the basics of the story, but mainly using the pictures I tell her the story in age appropriate chunks.
The only negative in the book, is that the midwife ‘pulls on the cord’ to release the placenta – but we just leave that bit out.
I love this book. And I love that it is adaptable across the ages, and that the pictures are tasteful and beautiful, and yet still honest and true to what the child is likely to see at a homebirth.
I highly recommend Hello Baby when preparing your toddler or young child for childbirth.
(Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine has additional thoughts and images from this book)
Our Water Baby written by Amy Maclean and Jan Nesbitt (£9.99 at Amazon UK) (Amazon.com)
Our Water Baby is the most expensive of the three books I was able to find. It is also the only one I could find on waterbirth. It is a whole story in which a birth happens, rather than just being about birth. That said, issues surrounding water birth are very nicely explained in conversation between the parents and their son.
“Will the baby know how to swim?” asked liver.
“When babies are born in water, they know how to hold their breath. The baby will not have to swim on his own,” said Oliver’s daddy.
A common question people ask, answered in a simple way that a child will understand.
Our Water Baby mentions the ‘noises’ of birth, and the quiet of concentration during labour, it mentions daddy supporting mummy in the pool, and the midwife using a dopler to listen to the baby’s heart, mentions the mother’s ‘special milk’ and has a lovely bonding scene between big brother and new baby.
The book is beautifully illustrated too, with toys and children’s characters hanging around in random places forming frames around the page, and the birth scenes are completely covered in water, so all you see is a bit of breast above the water – but that’s pretty true to a water birth.
(I do love the picture of granny and grandpa with the midwife in the kitchen cleaning up while the family bonds on the bed!)
This is a very innocent portrayal of birth, while still being factual. It doesn’t have the gritty reality of Hello Baby, and isn’t as focused or detailed, but does the vague job of explaining a birth to a child who may be waiting upstairs.
- Mama, Talk About When Max Was Born – Toni Olson (Amazon US) (These books are cheaper on the first link. You can also follow Toni on Facebook)
“Mama, Talk About When Max Was Born” tells the story of Max’s birth, which takes place at home in water. Mama tells Max’s older sister the story about when Mama first learned that she was pregnant; about seeing the midwives; about preparing for Max’s arrival and finally his birth in their living room.
The book is beautifully illustrated, with bold, bright colours, and mostly full page illustrations.
Big sister attends the midwife and doula visits – either helping with measuring, or just in the foreground of the image, painting and carrying on with ‘normal’ activities.
Attending the birth are the midwife, doula, daddy, nana and big sister – pretty much exactly like my birth with Aviya (not in the pool or room though – Ameli was in the birthpool for a while, and in the room with us doing busy bag activities).
This book really strikes me as one of those ‘ a picture says a 1000 words’ moments. For example, there’s a picture of Mama labouring in the birth pool with the two midwives with their back to her, writing notes and drinking tea (or something). It’s just such a ‘normal’ scene, a woman labouring, no dramas here. That’s possibly one of my favourite things about this book.
The only thing I found a bit odd was that ‘Max’ was given a hat as soon as he was born. I know that’s common practice in many places, but neither of my babies were given a hat.
Mama, Talk About When Max Was Born is a lovely book, and provided great talking points with my toddler. It isn’t a complete A-Z of birth – i.e. there’s no mention of the placenta, or noises or anything that a child can expect from the birth itself, but not everyone wants that anyway. For me personally I’d say that if a child wasn’t going to be present at the birth, this is a perfect book, but if they are, this would be a good book to make up part of a set.
It’s a little hard to get hold of though, as it can currently only be purchased on Amazon US or through their own website in Australia.
Mama, Talk About Our New Baby – Toni Olson (Amazon US)
Part of the Mama, Talk About series from Toni Olson, Mama, Talk About Our New Baby is about a young boy who, with the help of his mother, learns what life will be like after his sister is born. It is beautifully illustrated, and serves as a wonderful guide for parents to help them introduce older children to the concept of a younger sibling. In comparison to many mainstream books, it provides a beautiful introduction to the attached family and helps prepare siblings for life with a new baby.
There are a lot of subtle things in this book, as in the previous one, like the toddlers bed pushed up next to the parents’ for an authentic family bed. In the explanation of what life with a new baby will be like, there’s a lot of inclusive language, like “You can come cuddle with us and meet your sister” or “Some days we could all nap together”.
There’s a mention and image of tandem feeding, although it’s not called that, folding up reusable nappies (called diapers in the book) and both baby and toddler are rear facing in their car seats. There’s even a picture of Mama wearing the baby and big brother “wearing” his baby, and another of daddy wearing the toddler in a back carry with Mama carrying baby in a ring sling.
I think this is truly one of the most all encompassing Attachment Parenting books for new babies – perhaps the word is definitive, it’s the definitive book for introducing toddlers to the concept of a new sibling. It is an expensive book at US$18 or AUS$15, but I must admit I wish I had it before our baby was born, and I will be holding on to it and treasuring it to loan to many friends in the years to come.
It would be great if it were easily found in the UK, but I’d go so far as to say it was it’s worth importing.
The Magic Basket opens with Amy crying on her bed because she doesn’t want to become a big sister. Her mother brings her a piece of cloth, which opens up into a blue magic basket. Amy puts her hand in the basket, and out comes a feeling – curious – who guides her through how to explore her feelings. Being curious he asks her what she was doing when her mother came in, and next thing you know, another feeling – sad – comes into play. Curious and Sad help explore her feelings of worry about why her parents want another child, and help her realise that maybe they’re not trying to replace her, but ‘add to’ her. It’s a really lovely message, actually, and the transformation that comes from realisation and understanding is very sweet.
Choosing Waterbirth – Reclaiming the sacred power of birth by Lakshmi Bertram (Amazon.com)
This isn’t a book for children at all, but I thought I’d throw it in here anyway. It is the best book I’ve ever read on waterbirth. It’s simple, easy to understand, reader-friendly language, without being too technical and is such an easy read it doesn’t take long at all. If your mother, sister, partner or friend is unsure about water birth: this is the book to give them to read.
Bertram discusses the theory of waterbirth, including why water is beneficial, explaining the logistics of waterbirth and looks at the basics of birth. There’s a section on preparation which includes practical demonstrations such as yoga, deep relaxation, breathing techniques and free movement dance.
The real winner for me, however is part 3 of Choosing Waterbirth, where she shares six water birth stories.
It is an empowering read for the mama-to-be and for those supporting her. (I gave it to my mother to read before my daughter’s birth and it answered most of her questions and put her mind at ease too. I highly recommend this book for anyone considering a waterbirth.)
Do you know of other books for children that I’ve missed out? There are plenty available in the US and another I found in Australia, but are there more in the UK?