This past weekend, we took a sibling preparation tour at our local hospital because we are expecting baby number two this summer, and thought we would be responsible and overly concerned parents to our 2.5 year old toddler. It cost $20 and lasted one hour. However, when we left, I felt like it was the biggest waste of money. Here’s why.
Sibling Preparation Classes and Books
The hospital had two sibling preparation classes: one for 2-3 year olds and one for 4-5 year olds. The website description of the class for 2-3 year old children read as follows:
“Children are given a brief tour highlighting the nursery and the new babies, and are shown the postpartum rooms where their mothers will be staying. They are also shown how to safely hold a new baby, and told an age-appropriate story about becoming a big brother or sister. Each child will receive a “graduation certificate.”
The instructor was a L&D nurse. She was very nice, so that was not the issue with the class. The problem was that she spent time during the class talking and sharing pictures about the placenta and the umbilical cord, in the pursuit of trying to explain where the baby ‘lives’ and how the baby ‘eats’. What 2 or 3 year old really understands those terms? And since most parents are taking the class six months into their pregnancy (and beyond), most of us have already explained that to our child.
Next in the lineup was learning to change the baby’s diaper. Yet, I’m not sure who allows a two or three year old change a baby’s diaper. If anything, there should have been discussion about how our toddlers could help Mommy or Daddy change the diaper.
There was a little circle time where the nurse read a book entitled “Oonga Boonga“. The book is described as being for appropriate for kids ages 2-6, but in a class of 2-3 year olds, I would personally stay away from a book that would also be read to a 6 year old. There are great books, like “I’m a Big Brother” or “I’m a Big Sister” that would have been more appropriate for this age group. Most of the kids were spacing-out, since paragraphs, words and the overall story, was way too advanced.
I did find it beneficial that there was time to chat about washing hands before touching the baby, to never touch the baby’s head or face, and to always asking a grown-up before holding the baby. Yet, by this point, many of the kids had lost interest in the class.
We then took an elevator (highlight of the hour) to the Maternity Ward, and got to see a newborn baby through the nursery window. Yet, by this point, I’d suggest finding a friend with a newborn that is willing to have your toddler say hello for free.
There was no discussion about how to prepare the sibling for a new baby in the house, how to introduce the siblings, and we never walked out with a ‘graduation certificate.” Just a coloring book, which was also too advanced for this age group, in my opinion. (Plus, the girl looks cracked out…)
So I left feeling like I spent $20 for a (bad) story and the opportunity to see a baby through a window.
Did my son get anything out of it?
Based on the fact that he did not pay attention for more than a combined 10 minutes in the 60 minute class, I would say it was pretty minimal.
My suggestion to the hospital is to either rethink the format and the books, update the website description to accurately reflect the class, or to provide the class for free. Otherwise, I’d pass if you are considering taking this class. An alternative would be to consider taking the Sibling Preparation class at Isis Parenting. I cannot personally recommend it as I have not taken it, but it may be something to look into. At $40 a class though, it is twice as expensive, so I would do some research before signing up. (Update: Isis Parenting has closed but here is a post that may help you prepare at home. Plus, local hospitals in Massachusetts like Brighams, Beth Israel, Mass General, St. Elizabeths, all have sibling preparation classes too.)
Sibling Preparation Books
Otherwise, a great book to consider reading is called Siblings Without Rivalry. At $14.99 (and an at-home resource for years to come) it may be the best investment overall. Plus, again, see my post here with other book suggestions. Otherwise, do what most of us, as parents, do all the time…..
The Isis Sibling class is for kids that are 3 – 6 years old. Two-year olds are really too young to sit for an hour long class and I agree with Charlene that it would be better to just read an age-appropriate book at home for younger siblings. Perhaps you could set up just a separate sibling tour of the nursery to prepare your younger toddler for the hospital experience. The Isis class keeps the kids involved by reading a book (such as I’m a Big Sister/Brother or Babies Don’t Eat Pizza); doing an art project for mom to take to the hospital; watching a short, fun video about being a super sibling; discussing safety, hygiene and what babies can eat; singing songs that entertain babies; and discussing quiet activities for toddlers while baby is sleeping. The class keeps moving to keep the children engaged and ends with a certificate being handed out to each child.
I took a similar class (oh, so many years ago) but it was for parents only and pretty informative. I also love the I’m a Big Sister/Brother books. Best idea:
Bring the older sibling a present and food for the parents when you visit.