Birth is, by its very nature, the growth of a family. While some prefer birth to be as private an event as possible, with only the birthing mother, her partner, and their care provider present, others find great comfort in having other people there.
For some families, welcoming older siblings into the birth space is seen as very positive.
Families who include siblings at birth often feel that the presence of older children helps them:
- accept the new baby
- eliminate sibling rivalry
- make birth a family-centered affair
- helps to normalize childbirth for the next generation
Here are some quotes from women who chose to have their older children attend the birth of a younger sibling.
While this certainly isn’t for everyone, there can be great benefits to having children present at birth.
Melissa, a childbirth educator in Lubbock, TX had her two year old present at her birth and loved how this helped the children bond. She says,
â€œMy oldest son Samuel was present at his brother’s birth when he was 26 months old. We had someone there just for him to help him come and go as needed. He has adored his little brother from day one and they both love seeing the photos of each other. We talked beforehand about sounds I might make.â€
Kim, a birth teacher on Whidbey Island, WA, had her oldest daughter nearby for two different births. She says,
â€œI prepared our daughter for both her brothers births. She was 4 and 7 when they were born. We read lots of books, talked about what hard work it is & what kind of noises I might make.
She was in the house but not the room when she was 4. When our third was born & she was 7 she brought me water in a mommy mug she’d bought for me. I think she was unsure if she wanted to be there. I’m a very loud birther & it was a fast, intense birth. But my team knew baby would be there very soon & encouraged her to stay. I’m so glad she did. She saw her brother born & got to announce that he was a boy (we hadn’t found out beforehand). I always tell her now how special it is that she was one of the first people to ever meet him!â€
Melissa Meyer, a childbirth educator in Corvallis, OR talks about how she wishes she had done more to prepare her child for the birth of his sibling.
â€œI wasn’t planning on having my children at our birth. At the end of labor my son woke up and wanted to watch. I would have felt much calmer if he had been prepared. He did great. It was me that was worried!â€
A doula in Abilene & Dyess AFB, TX, Erica Bullard, noticed how her preparation for the birth with her child there helped prepare the family for positive emotions regarding the new baby.
â€œMy son was 5 days shy of 2 years old when my daughter was born. I had a very fast, unmediated hospital birth. I had spoken with my OB ahead of time about having my son at the birth and she was very opened to it. My mother was able to hold him up by my head during his baby sister’s birth. I remember him petting my head and being so fascinated by everything. I truly believe that being prepared and a part of his sister’s birth helped his young mind comprehend how his sister got out of Mommy’s tummy. He is now almost 4 and “wants Mommy to have 10 more babies.” I will definitely have both of my children at the birth of our future children!â€
Angela, a mother of five and childbirth educator in Grand Junction, CO, points out that children are not always a distraction at a birth but can be allowed to shine and grow their nurturing hearts.
â€œI was unsure if I wanted our older children at the birth. When the time came it all felt so natural. When we welcomed our 5th baby to our family our older children were 9, 7, 5 & 3, were there.
Six months later they all talk about it with so much love, respect, and joy.
Before the birth I pictured my kids as they are many days, demanding of my time, needy of my attention-and thought I couldn’t do that while in labor. I went into labor at 5 am and as kids started waking up they knew something was up. I am so glad I had prepared them just in case they stayed. They were all so sweet, helpful, loving and perfect angels. I wouldn’t have it any other way now.â€
Lauren, a childbirth educator and breech expert in Bowie, MD noticed how having siblings present at the birth made the whole event more fun.
â€œHaving my older kids at the birth made it feel more like a party and more like a normal life event. I could look at them and think: This is all very normal, we’re all doing just fine. The three year old really wanted to wipe the vernix and blood off baby’s head. She went and got a cloth napkin and started grooming the baby in my arms before I even delivered the placenta.â€
Kristen, a childbirth educator in Peoria, IL, had a sibling at birth who acted like a sweet little doula!
â€œMy oldest was 2.5 when my daughter was born. I knew I wanted him there, but we had help just to make sure he comfortable with what was happening. We read lots of books, watched videos and I brought him to most of my appointments. He came in and out of the room we were birthing in and was most excited about the “swimming pool” (birth tub) and wanted to come in! He is usually a very active kid, but he learned right away it was hard work and he needed to be serious. I love that he was one of the first people to ever touch her! This pic was during really active labor – almost to transition.â€
Jill, a birth teacher in Twin Cities, MN, shows that sometimes kids just don’t want to be there. And that is cool too!
â€œMy three older children were sleeping when our fourth baby was born at home just after midnight. My last few hollers as I pushed him out woke up my oldest, who was 9. The midwife and my husband were lifting the baby out of the water when Ollie came into our room and asked who was “making all that racket.” We asked if he wanted to meet his new brother, he said no, and promptly returned to bed and fell asleep.â€
Here are some tips in case you are considering the idea of siblings at birth:
- Prepare your children for this event. Childbirth is different and can be surprising and even scary for anyone who is unprepared.
- Consider a sibling or children’s birth class for your children who will be attending.
- Be flexible. Sometimes mom or the children or both will decide that this just doesn’t work for them. There is nothing wrong with changing your mind!
- Have an extra person there for the child. If the child decides they don’t want to be there, mom needs space, or events becoming serious, you need someone to take the children elsewhere.
- Remember that siblings are only appropriate at the birth if things are proceeding normally and safely. If the birth requires interventions that might scare a child, they may need to leave.
Having children present for the birth of their siblings can be a touching family moment and even comforting and relaxing for the mother. Children at birth- is it right for your family?!
Buy your own sibling’s at birth workbook here!