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Get Ready -- Baby's on the Way!

Whether it's your first child or a new sibling for other children, there's so much to think about and get done. We help you sort through the to-do list.

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Having a baby affects not only the parents, of course. If you already have a child, the older brother or sister may have a difficult time understanding that someone new is coming into the home.

Ann Douglas, author of the mother of all pregnancy books, has these tips for making your first-born continue to feel special:

  • Tap into your child's natural curiosity about babies. Even young children are fascinated by them. Look at picture books together and talk about what's going on inside your body right now and what the baby will be like after birth.

  • Find ways to involve your child in your pregnancy. Have him accompany you to prenatal checkups so that he can listen to the baby's heartbeat or help the doctor or midwife measure your growing belly.

  • Give your child a sneak preview of what babies are really like by visiting other families who have newborns. (You can also drop by the playground, the children's section of your public library, or some other family-oriented spot where you're bound to find moms and new babies.) Check with your hospital to see if it offers classes on sibling preparation.

  • Encourage your child to help you pick out clothes and other items for the baby.

  • Buy your child an inexpensive gift from the new baby. When friends and relatives show up with gifts for the new arrival, your child will be less likely to feel left out.

  • Don't oversell the new baby. Make sure your child knows that his new brother or sister is not going to be ready to ride a bike or play ball together for a couple of years.

  • Ask a friend or relative to give your child some extra time and attention after the baby arrives. This will help him know that he's still special.

  • Teach your older child how to gently hold the baby's hand or carefully pat his tummy. Don't enforce a totally "hands off" policy.

  • Remember to take photos of your older child when you're snapping shots of the new baby.

  • Don't panic if your older one doesn't take to the newborn at first sight. Sibling love sometimes takes a while to blossom.

Children aren't the only ones who need an adjustment period to a new baby. When planning for the new arrival, don't forget your "other" baby -- your pet.

"Many of us practice parenting on our beloved pets," says Gottesman. "In many ways they are like siblings -- cautiously accepting and prone to jealousy and acting out."

Here are some suggestions for making sure both baby and pets are safe and happy:

  • During pregnancy, take your dog to obedience training if you have not done so already. Take your pets for a checkup and make sure all vaccinations and preventive care are up to date.

  • After delivery, bring home a blanket the baby has been wrapped in for at least 24 hours. Talk softly and pet the dog while the dog sniffs the blanket. Consider wrapping the blanket on a doll and praising your dog for good behavior around the doll. There should be no jumping, pawing, or barking.

  • When you come home from the hospital, greet the pet when you first come in. Expect a lot of sniffing for foreign scents picked up in the hospital.

  • Every day spend special playtime with your pet. It's a great break for you, too.

  • Never leave the pet alone with a baby.

  • If crying makes your pet nervous, reassure it in a calm voice.

  • Include your pet on outings when you can.

  • If the pet is nearby when you're taking care of the baby, talk to it about what you're doing and praise its good behavior.

  • Do not allow roughousing, playing, and barking in the baby's room.

  • Do not force your pet to interact with the baby.

  • Wash your hands after handling a pet before you handle the baby.

  • Keep litter boxes and feeding dishes out of children's reach.

  • If pets become aggressive, stay calm and use the training procedures you learned in obedience class.

  • Always praise good behavior around the baby.

The bottom line when it comes to smoothing the transition for yourself and your entire family when expecting a baby, says ZERO TO THREE's Claire Lerner, is to anticipate and to empathize. "Everything will go much more smoothly if you can put yourself in another person's shoes."

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