Childcare when you’re at a midwife-led unit or birth centre

Wondering who will look after your new baby’s siblings while you’re at the birth centre? Here’s our guide to childcare for when you’re in labour.

Unlike when you first gave birth, having a second or subsequent child involves sorting out childcare as well as everything else. This can be a little bit daunting, especially if you don’t have family nearby.

Some things you might want to think about when you’re making plans are:

  • Can whoever I ask to look after my older child or children reach me at short notice?
  • Will they look after my older child or children at my home or theirs?
  • If I go into labour at night, can that person look after my older child or children or do I need to find an alternative?
  • What is my plan B (or even C) if the person I ask can’t get to me for any reason when I go into labour?

Who could look after your child or children when you’re in labour

It’s a good idea to have a couple of people on standby, just in case your first choice has a problem on the day or night. You could ask:

  • family (if you’re lucky enough to have them close by)
  • close friends
  • a babysitter or childminder
  • a neighbour
  • someone from your NCT group
  • other parents at your child’s nursery.

Just pick someone you trust – oh, and don’t be worried about asking them. You might be surprised at how willing people are to help in this tricky situation.

Preparation in advance

  • Whoever you choose, arrange for them to spend time with your older child or children well in advance of your due date.
  • Try to schedule their visit to include a nap (if your child still naps), meals and bedtime. That way the person you choose is familiar with your child or children’s routines too.
  • If your child might be looked after at someone else’s house, pack a bag ready for them in advance, alongside your hospital bag. Include their favourite toys and comforter as well as the necessities.
  • Make sure you visit the house they’ll be staying at a few times too so your child or children are comfortable there.
  • When you see the person you’ve chosen, explain to your child that this is who will look after them when the new baby comes. Also let them know that nobody knows exactly when it’ll happen but once the baby starts to arrive, their carer will look after them. Talk up the fun of a sleepover or pizza at that person’s house or whatever spin you can think of…
  • Check that the person who will look after them has a suitable car seat if they’ll need to drive your child anywhere.
  • Keep chatting about the plan with your child or children. That way they will remember who’ll look after them when you go to the midwife-led unit or birth centre.

Toddlers and children in birth centres and midwife-led units: the rules

Before the birth, check with the midwife-led unit or birth centre what the rules are about children visiting once their little brother or sister has been born.

You can use the Which? Birth Choices tool to find services, contact details and information. Some birth centres and midwife-led units even let you take a tour before the big day.

Having children at the birth of their siblings

Rather than sorting out childcare, some women prefer to bring them along to the birth centre or midwife led unit. This might involve a visit during labour or being there for the whole birth.  

Saying that, it’s still pretty unusual to have children present for a birth in a birth centre or midwifery led unit (Naber, 2017).  If it’s something you’re really keen to do though, check with the midwives. It might be something they’re happy to sort out for you.

Whatever you decide, it’s still a good idea to have someone else lined up to look after your child or children as back-up. You don’t know how your labour will go, or even if your child might become unhappy and want to leave (Which, 2018). So always give yourself options.

This page was last reviewed in May 2018.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

You might find attending one of our Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

The Which? Birth Choice regional guide to labour wards and birth centres provides information about services in your area, including information about visitors. 

Naber, N. (2017) What do we know about sibling attended birth? [Master of Midwifery Dissertation].  Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago Polytechnic.  Available from:  http://opres.op.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/11604/62/MID%20-%20Naber%202017%20thesis.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y  [Accessed 15th August 2018]

Which. (2018) FAQS: Your common questions answered.  Available from:  https://www.which.co.uk/birth-choice/faqs [Accessed 15th August 2018)

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