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Alta Bates sibling prep class for 3-year-old

Jan 2004

My son is 3 years old and will become a big brother in June. I am considering signing him up for the sibling preparation class at Alta Bates (which is where the new baby will be born), and I have read the comments on the website. I am interested in more recent reviews, and I have a couple of questions not addressed by the archived comments: Can anyone tell me what, if anything, is said to the kids about jealousy/rivalry issues? Friends have told me it's best NOT to get some of the sibling books out there because the older child may not be jealous of the baby unless and until he is read all these books that assume he will be! What, if anything, is said about breastfeeding and bottle feeding? Cribs? Crying? We are a breastfeeding, sling- wearing, co-sleeping family, and I wonder if there will be any disconnect between what the teacher says to expect and our son's actual experience. I am particularly curious about what messages are offered about breastfeeding (because unless my son weans himself soon I'm going to be tandem nursing!) and whether family-bed safety issues are addressed at all. Thanks! Holly


Our family enjoyed the Alta Bates sibling class. My son was almost 2 at the time (we attended roughly 1 year ago) - and mainly it prepared him for his visit to the hospital (such as the robe mommy will be wearing, what doctors may be wearing, the plastic thing on the baby's bellybutton and the buttons on mommy's bed - huge highlight. What baby's do (crying, sleeping and pooping/peeing) was also covered. I recall the teacher being open and non-judgemental. The teacher did read a book - something about there always being room on mama's lap which we later received as a gift - but that was as close to jealousy/rivalry as she got. I don't recall any discussion about where the baby sleeps or even how the baby is fed. The kids did a puzzle of a mommy with a baby under the belly - and that was pretty much it. The tour of the hospital and the snack of graham crackers and cranberry was also a highlight. The class for 3 year olds may be different. Hope this helps. Nancy

Alta Bates sibling preparation class

Dec 2002

My wife and I are preparing for our second child in November and are considering signing up for the sibling preparation class at Alta Bates. Has anyone taken this and, if so, did you find it helpful? More importantly, would it be something that our easily distracted 2-yr-old son would benefit from? From the course description, it sounds like they pack a lot in to a 1-hour class, and we are concerned that it might be information overload for a young child. Thanks, Patrick


I attended the Alta Bates sibling preparation class last fall with my daughter who was then almost 2 1/2. While there were some parts she didn't enjoy (there was a session on diapering baby dolls and my daughter is not a doll person), overall I thought it was excellent. It was fast moving, so the kids didn't get restless or bored. When we took the class, there was a special 2s class which was helpful because the teacher didn't assume the level of patience that the older kids might have. I thought in particular that the mini tour was very helpful. Even though my daughter still found my hospital room a little scary when she came to see her new baby brother, I think it would have been much harder on her if she had never seen the hospital or a hospital room before. My daughter's favorite part was the large selection of books on having a baby brother or sister, and the snack at the end. :) Stephanie
Hi -- we didn't take the sibling preparation class with our then almost-3-yr-old girl, but what we did instead was take her on the hospital tour. I think that was enough really -- we did bring stickers for her to play with during the intro. piece when everyone is gathered in one meeting room, but then she got to see the room ''where the baby will be born'', the nursery, etc. We did consider the class but just never got around to it--the tour seemed like just the right amount of info, besides reading some ''here comes baby'' type books at home. suzanne
Our daughter took the class before her sister was born and it was helpful for her to play with the babydoll and look around the hospital. However, and this is a big however, she was 4 at the time and was able to attend to/pay attention. There were a few smaller children, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2, who seemed to find it hard to sit still and pay attention and did not seem to be very interested. It's hard to say, though...but you did mention that your 2 yr. old is very distractable. I have a two year old myself and cannot imagine her sitting still and paying attention to the class, buy she may get something from it (familiarity with the hospital, the concept of a baby coming??). Good luck! MK
We took the prep class with our 4 1/2 yr old son and found it helpful and sweet. I don't think it would be overwhelming, it didn't feel like they packed in a lot. The tour of the labor floor was great. Plus, the goodies they get to walk away with are worth it (our son got a ''bed'' and blanket, baby toy for the new baby, bottle to feed stuffed animal with, etc). Very cute. We also took pictures and will use it for both of their albums. Wendy
My daughter was 3 when she took the Alta Bates sibling prep class, and had a fairly long attention span at that time. Her friend, a boy, also attended with his parents, when he was about 3.5, and he did fine (our two kids were together). I would check in with ABMC to specifically ask them. I would think they'd give you an honest answer about whether a 2-year old would get something from it. Since that class was now about 8 years ago for us, It's hard to remember a lot about it, but the siblings still remember it a bit--diapering a doll, etc. I remember they talked about if you're mad at the baby, to hit a pillow or stuffed animal or tell your parents, just don't hit the baby. It seemed to be age appropriate for our kids, but I don't know about a 2-year old. I was glad we did it. Diane
We did the sibling class with our (then) 3-year-old. It was interactive enough and tolerent enough to handle a range of kids. Nothing will *really* prepare a sibling for sharing your time but this was good in that she saw what a newborn looks like and what the hospital looked like. John
We took our daughter to the sibling class in June but she was almost 3 (turned 3 in August). She was the youngest child there but she loved the class. I don't know if it was the class or her excitement for a little brother but she knew the routine by the time we went to the hospital. It was also a nice refresher for us to go through the hospital. Jamie
We took this class with our 2 and 1/2 year old. Did it make a difference? I don't know, but it didn't hurt. They have a special 2 yr old sibling class. It helps them set expectaions (they show them newborns in the nursery.) They get to see a room where they will see mom and the new baby. I thought it was helpful that they went over not putting anything in the baby's mouth and what belly buttons are for and that kind of thing. It helped that this information wasn't coming from me, and so it was just a fact not mom telling her not to pick up the baby. My daughter also seemed to like being special by having a class just for her to be a big sister. I wasn't immediately impressed with the class right afterward, but in retrospect I think it was great for the whole family. If I was doing it all over again, I would do the class again. anon
I would like to recommend this class. I took my three year old daughter to this class to introduce her to the idea how special it is to be a big sister/brother. It also showed how parents' attention will be ''shared''. Books were read, and a short video was played, and walking tour was scheduled to see the newborns in the hospital. You are also supposed to bring a doll to class for diaper changing too (though they may not really change baby at home yet). It was also helpful to have other children present. Two years old is a difficult age to understand the idea sibling, but the positive exposure this class offers would make an easier transition.
We found the Alta Bates class only moderately useful. An alternative, or supplement, to the class is to read a good book such as these two, which I found helpful:

''Keys to Preparing and Caring for Your Second Child'' by Meg Zweiback (wise Bay Area author, pediatric nurse & UCSF prof)

''Siblings Without Rivalry'' by Faber & Mazlich.

The latter has tips which will be more useful long past the day that baby #2 arrives, whereas the first book deals more with psychological and practical preparations for the family's newcomer, with an emphasis on the early days. Both are gems.

I'll also pass along some useful advice from a friend, who suggested to me that I help my eldest cope with all the attention her baby sister was going to get by:
- reminding visiting friends to include the eldest in their attention (many of them wisely brought ''big sister'' presents)
- commending the eldest for being such a helpful and caring big sister, while at the same time remembering that she still has a right to feel like a small person who needs a cuddle from her parents
- making a point of saying to the baby (this is for dramatic effect) ''I'll change your diaper in just a moment, but first I have to finish reading this book with your big sister'' so that the eldest doesn't always feel that her needs are postponed for the baby, but never the other way around...
- pointing out to the eldest how much the baby adores her - ''see how she smiles when she sees you? she really loves you'' - this did more to warm her heart toward the little intruder than anything... Best wishes, Natasha


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