As homebirths become more popular, parents are turning to sibling doulas to help them achieve their dream family delivery and having the siblings at birth.
Essentially, a sibling doula acts as a birth support person for mum as well as older siblings and provides siblings with a chance to experience the birth of a baby sibling.
For labouring mums, having a sibling doula on hand means they can focus on bringing a baby into the world – most often in a water birth – without having to tend to the needs of the kids.
Because, let’s be honest, even if you’re in labour, the kids are still going to demand that you make them a snack and wipe their bums. Never mind the fact that you’re keeled over in a pool in the middle of the living room…
A family event
There are a lot of pluses to labouring and birthing at home. It can be a beautiful experience and one that allows you to share with your older kids.
Hilary Duff recently gave us a glimpse into her home birth with her third child, Mae. Her older two kids were front and centre, with middle child, Banks, in the birthing bath with her mum.
A sibling doula’s job is to help out with the older kids and get them involved as much as possible. They show children different ways they can support their mum during labour, such as holding her hand or pouring warm water over her back.
They also tend to the children’s needs during the labour – whether that’s meals, bathtime, a story or a nap.
But, most importantly, they monitor the children’s emotions to make sure they feel comfortable and safe during the process. If it all gets a bit too much or they need a bit of downtime, a sibling doula is there to provide this for them.
“If the birth is going well and everything is going to plan then [having siblings at birth] can be a fantastic experience,” Child and family psychologist, Dr Mair Edwards said.
“The problem is if it isn’t a smooth birth there can be panic and that can be really traumatic.”
The good news about having a sibling doula there is that, if things don’t go to plan, they can easily escort the children away, distract them, reassure them and stay with them.
There are qualified doulas that have trained as siblings doulas but many parents are also using family members to play this important role in their birth.
Inviting your mum or sister, for example, into your home is a smart way to allow them to share this experience but also play the nanny role to the children. It really can be a beautiful experience, if you feel comfortable with this. Of course, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay too.
Siblings at birth
We’ve shared several stories on family births in the past, including this beautiful story of nine-year-old Charlie who opted to act as his mum’s birth partner when she was in labour with his little sister.
Charlie went to the hospital with his mum and played an incredibly active role in the birth, even helping to deliver his sister.
12-year-old Jacee did the same thing. Her mum’s doctor actually suggested she scrub up and help with the delivery after seeing how calm and in control she was.
We also love this story of a grandpa who took on the role of her daughter’s support person during her home birth. We don’t know many grandparents that would be comfortable with this situation but this granddad wanted to be one of the first to meet his grandson!
In some cases, siblings become part of the birthing experience unexpectedly. Take this mum’s birth, for example. She was en route to the hospital to deliver her fifth child when she knew she wouldn’t make it.
With her four kids in the back seat, her husband driving (and filming), she delivered baby #5 in the front seat. The kids got a front-row ticket to the show. No sibling doula needed.
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