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When Should I Tell My Child She's Going To Be A Big Sister?

Finding out you’re going to have another baby is a hugely exciting (and maybe slightly scary) time. The advice is that you don’t tell anyone until after the 12-week mark; but when is the 'right' time to explain to your child that she’s going to have a little brother or sister?

Find the right time for your family

When letting your little one know about your pregnancy, choose a time when she’s relaxed, and not dealing with other stresses like a tough day in school, or feeling unwell. It’s also good to have both parents there if possible, to show that it is something new for the whole family.

You might prefer to wait until you’re starting to show, so she has a more physical sign to get her head around … it’s hard to believe there is a little brother/sister inside mummy if your body looks the same as always!

It’s probably best to let your child know at about the same time you announce your pregnancy to friends and family: Children aren’t always known for their discretion, and it would be a shame if they found out accidentally from people congratulating you on your news. Let’s be honest, people like to talk about it!

If you have a tough time with pregnancy, with sickness or fatigue (or any of the other challenges), it's okay just to tell your child that you're not feeling well, or you’re tired. It may be better for your little one not to associate too many negative symptoms, and mummy not being able to play sometimes, with the new baby. 

Don’t overthink it

The more you overthink the announcement, the harder it may seem. But really you want to keep things relatively low-key, to help her understand that the world isn’t falling apart!

When you're ready to tell your child about the pregnancy, keep the language positive, simple, and straightforward. For example: "There's a baby growing inside Mummy. You’re going to have a little brother or sister next spring." Emphasise all the things that will stay the same, as well as what will change, and that although your family is growing, it’s definitely not out with the old and in with the new!

Top tip: Although it’s great to prepare your little one for the baby’s arrival, make time before and after the birth where it’s just you and her. Also, to show your little one that it’s not just her that has to wait while the baby gets attention, verbalise when it’s the other way around. Of course your baby won’t understand, but it’s nice to demonstrate how sometimes we all have to take turns and wait.

Give a sense of time

Once they hear the news, some children want to meet their new sibling IMMEDIATELY, which can be tricky if it's still relatively early in your pregnancy. So it can help to give some sense of time – For example, 'the daffodils will be out', 'it will be just after your birthday', or 'it will be during your summer holidays'. This helps to minimise the ‘are we there yet’ questions, and shows that even with this big thing happening, a lot of other things in the world are carrying on as usual.

There are also some great pregnancy apps which you might share with your child, showing how they are developing, what size they are, and when they’ll be ‘ready’ to meet their big sister.

Top tip: Do you have a little helper? Let your child help decorate the baby’s room (or cot) is a great way to share the journey with her. And if you have an old camera or phone, encourage her to take photos of the new baby while everyone else is!

Encourage Questions

Listen to your child’s ideas, and let her know that her feelings are okay with you. If you accept your child's difficult feelings, it will be much easier for her to realise that she also has some excited feelings too.

After that, let your child decide how much more information she wants. Some children don’t really care where babies come from, so you don't need to overload her with facts if she's not interested: Just make it clear that questions are ok, and do your best to answer one at a time.

Talk about before/when THEY were born

Toddlers love to hear about what they were like when they were babies. You can tell your child how you burped her after she ate, and how she took lots of naps. This will help her to understand what it will be like to have a new baby around, and can be useful for introducing the idea that the baby might need mummy’s attention, and that newborns might seem a bit boring at times.

Helpful reading

You might like to build understanding of pregnancy and babies with the books you choose, or by comparing it to any of friends who might have siblings already. This can be a great way to get the conversation started, and to make a theoretical topic seem more real.

  • There's a House Inside My Mummy - Giles Andreae & Vanessa Cabban
  • Little Miss, Big Sis - Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  • One Special Day - Lola Schaefer
  • The Baby Tree - Sophie Blackall
  • I’m a Big Brother/ Sister - Joanna Cole
  • Babies Ruin Everything - Matthew Swanson
  • The New Small Person - Lauren Child
  • Waiting for Baby - Rachel Fuller
  • Hello In there - Jo Witek

Fun ways to tell them

If your little one has a dollhouse, buy a new family and wrap each doll individually, or buy a baby and crib to add to the dollhouse. This can be unwrapped as you explain how the family is growing. This is a great for visualising how much is the same, as well as how roles are changing slightly (including her becoming a caring, nurturing big sister!)

Bake a cake and put a picture of a baby item, or put the baby scan on the top, and say, “Guess who’s having a baby?” Big news and cake?! If they’re nonplussed about the baby news, there’s still a sweet treat to get excited about!

Create a scrapbook. Put your scan photo and some “stories” about the new baby in a scrapbook, and look at it together like it’s a book, to explain what’s going to happen.  Then you can add new scans/photos/drawings together during your pregnancy.

Top tip: (Subtly) video the moment you share the news! The look of wonder/confusion/joy on her face may be priceless, and it’s a lovely thing to see again when they’re both older.

They might not react as you’d expect!

Some children seem to have a sixth sense about these things, so don’t be too surprised if she tells you! But there are other scenarios:

Your little one may be nonplussed by the news, so don't be surprised if you make your big announcement and she just wants to make sure there’ll be two stories at bedtime. This doesn't mean your child isn't interested; she might need the situation to seem more tangible (for example, as your bump grows or when you’re out buying baby stuff) before it seems understandable, or interesting!

Sometimes even if she’s asked for a baby brother/sister, your child might seem confused or upset about the news at first. But that’s okay. Just offer her a hug, make it clear that she can ask any questions or talk about how she feels, and she’ll come round in no time.

If your child does seem excited, you could suggest that she help tell Granny and Grandpa, or some other significant person the news (even if that person already knows!), this will help her feel like she has an important role in the pregnancy.

Top tip: When baby has arrived, encourage her to talk about her day, and show the new baby some favourite toys. And when you know she’s listening from across the room, tell your new baby lots of positive things about his big sister. This helps to show how important she is both for baby, and for you.

But what if I have a miscarriage after I've broken the news?

However much we plan, and prepare, and imagine, sometimes the worst can happen. It can be hard for children (and all of us) to understand. In the unlikely event that you lose the pregnancy at whatever stage, one way to explain this to your child is that this baby wasn't able to grow big enough to be born.

You can get through it by taking care of yourself emotionally and physically, as well as caring for your children. It’s perfectly understandable if she sees you looking sad sometimes, and even if your child is too young to understand she might mirror feelings of sadness and confusion. That’s why it can help your child to answer any questions, and to admit that you might be sad, rather than trying to power on with no acknowledgement.

So when did you choose to tell your child about your pregnancy? And do you have any top tips for sharing the news and helping them to get their head around it? We'd love to hear.

About the Author

Emily is a writer, editor, blogger, and our Digital Content Assistant. She has three awesome nieces, and has accidentally worn the same outfit as them on at least one occasion. Emily likes making things, including hand-drawn cards, and a darn good chocolate cake. She still sounds very English, despite living in Dublin for the last nine years. More insight into the workings of her brain can be found on


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