RUMFORD – When a family is expecting a second or third child, mothers are often concerned about how the older sibling(s) will react to the newborn. Michelle Gilbert, RN, a Family Birthing Center nurse, helps allay concerns with the sibling classes she teaches prior to the birth.

Recently, Elijah DeVore, his mom, Megan Tuttle, MacKenzie Jones and her mom, Amanda Jones, visited Gilbert in the Family Birthing Center.

Gilbert, mother of two and 19-year veteran of the maternity unit at Rumford Hospital, first talked to the siblings about newborn safety and what to expect their new brother and sister to look like.

Using anatomically correct dolls, Gilbert pointed out that newborns have large heads and that their necks are not yet strong enough to hold up their heads. She pointed out the newborns’ wrinkly skin and noted that their eyes should be protected. Next, everyone watched a video featuring real children talking about their experiences as big brothers and big sisters.

Gilbert purchased the dolls she now uses in her sibling classes before the birth of her second child. “I was worried how my 2-year-old daughter would react to her brother’s birth, although then I didn’t know his sex, so I bought both dolls,” said Gilbert. The 2-year-old was not impressed. “She tossed the doll over her shoulder and reached out to her brother, saying, I want that one’,” said Gilbert.

When her son was born, Gilbert took the precaution of having her husband bring their daughter into her room, rather than have her come in with her grandmother to find a threesome – mother, father and newborn – from which she might feel excluded.

As it turned out, all went smoothly for Gilbert’s family, and she is determined to help other families through the transition.

Sibling classes are one of the special programs offered by the Special Delivery Family Birthing Center. Hypnobirthing classes, taught by Kathy Sutton, RN, help mothers-to-be take control of their labor and delivery.

Centering Pregnancy is a group alternative to traditional prenatal care in which pregnant women and their support people meet in a group with Birthing Center nurses and Daisy Goodman, Certified Nurse Midwife.

Once baby is born, his or her siblings are treated to a birthday party with cake and ice cream. Mom and dad enjoy a special meal, chosen from a special menu and prepared by the hospital’s cook, on the evening before they go home from the hospital.

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