A new baby in the home can be a big transition for everyone in the family, from the family dog to the exhausted parents.
But when you're 3 or 4 years old, it can be scary to have your mom stay overnight in the hospital, and difficult later on to understand why the new sibling is being showered with all of the attention and gifts and you're not.
That's why a new class designed for children whose parents are expecting a baby is being offered at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd.
It's a class for children, not their parents, although they're encouraged to attend, too.
Tara Karels, a certified childbirth educator and a registered nurse who works in labor and delivery, teaches the class geared for children who are typically ages 2-6. She offered the class four times last year. It was so successful that since January the class is now being offered every other month at the hospital. Karels also teaches the preparation for childbirth classes for expectant parents at the hospital.
Children enrolled in the sibling class at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd last week were able to view a newborn baby in the nursery during their class tour of the maternity floor. The class prepares older children for the arrival of a new baby into their home.
She began teaching the sibling classes after parents started requesting it for their older children.
"People are getting more and more knowledge about the birth experience and they want that knowledge for their children," she said.
During the class, children draw a picture of what they think their baby will look like. The children sit in a circle on the floor with Karels and they talk about the things they can do to help mom with the baby. They talk about how they shouldn't pick up the baby -- even if the baby is crying -- unless they check with their mom and dad. They also identify the types of toys that are safe and unsafe for the baby play with.
Karels gives each child a realistic looking newborn doll. They talk about the ways they should hold a baby and are shown how to cradle the baby's head. The older children are taught how to change a diaper while the younger ones are given the chance to try their hand at changing diapers, too. They also watch a video designed for children that discusses the importance of their role as the big brother or sister.
Rodney and Rachel Rahn of Baxter are expecting a baby in August. That means Mitchell, 5, and Marissa, 4, will be welcoming a baby in their home. They attended the sibling care class last Wednesday with their mom.
Tara Karels, a certified childbirth educator and a registered nurse at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd, smiled as she answered questions last Wednesday during the sibling class she teaches. The class is designed for children whose parents are expecting a baby.
"I really don't think they know what's in store for them," said Rachel. "I don't think they have a clue what's going to happen in August."
Emily Kelley, 3, Brainerd, enjoyed playing with the doll. Her parents, Ryan and Jennifer Kelley, are expecting another girl next week.
"She's excited," said Jennifer. "Every time we go to the clinic she wants to know why the baby didn't come home with us."
Each child enrolled in the class makes a birthday card for the baby. A Polaroid photograph is taken of each child with their doll and taped to the card they make, which will be placed in the mother's hospital file. The parents draw an outline of the child's foot onto the card so when the baby is born, the nursing staff at the hospital not only will tape the card to the baby's bassinet, but they will place the newborn's footprint within the sibling's outlined foot.
When the older sibling visits the hospital, he or she will see the baby brother or sister already has seen their picture and drawing, said Karels.
At the end of the session, Karels gives parents and children a tour of the third-floor maternity ward. They visit an empty hospital room to see where their mothers will stay when they deliver the baby. Most of the time they're able to see a baby recently born on the floor.
Cost of the sibling class is $12 per family.
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