Babies come out of where?! Explaining childbirth to kids

I was due to give birth to my son when my daughter Ava was 2 1/2 years old. Since my husband and I were planning a home birth, we felt it was important to discuss with Ava how the baby would be born. Because she would be within earshot if not in the room when Julian was born, I wanted her to know what she may see as well as hear.

One of the ways I prepared Ava for what would happen was by reading “Welcome With Love,” a beautiful children’s book about natural childbirth. We also watched some childbirth videos (natural and water births) together, including “Giving Birth: Challenges and Choices” by Suzanne Arms. I made sure to explain what was going on and reassure her that although the mommy might make some loud or funny noises, even yell, she was OK. In “Welcome With Love,” the older brother speaks of his mother’s noises during labor but he’s not afraid because she had told him beforehand that although she “might make a lot of noise,” he mustn’t worry because “that’s what it’s like when babies are being born” and that she’ll feel better if she yells and screams.

I kept things fairly simple, but because she was likely going to be present, told her what I felt she needed to know to feel safe and secure during Julian’s birth. It worked well for us. Ava was never scared even though mommy made some very loud noises while giving birth to her brother.

I realized the other day that Julian is now older than Ava was at the time he was born, but because I am not pregnant (and have no plans to become so) and the subject hasn’t come up, he has no idea how babies are born. I will probably remedy that soon by reading Welcome With Love to him and another book I recently received to review called We’re Having a Homebirth!

A friend (who is expecting) recently pondered on Facebook how she will explain childbirth to her 5- and 3-year-old daughters, and I began to wonder how others handle the subject.

I came across a discussion on a BabyCenter message board where the original poster posed the question How do you explain childbirth to a child? Here are some of the responses:

  • One person admitted that she has been “skirting around this issue” even with her 9-year-old. She said she has told her most of the details, but doesn’t “want to freak her out too much or gross her out for that matter.”
  • Another said, “I tried to skirt the question by answering…that the doctor takes the baby out.”
  • Another said, “I have a child psychology book called The Magic Years. They say to be truthful, but give as few details as necessary.”
  • Yet another said, “I found it was quite easy to explain things using the correct words at a young age. And I’d rather explain it while my kids aren’t embarrassed by it and will ask questions instead of having a 10-year-old blush or roll her eyes and not wanting to ask questions about things she doesn’t understand.”
  • From another, “better he hears it from me than his peers at school.”

After I browsed the ‘net, I asked my favorite audience (Twitter) and got some more answers.

Many feel that honesty is the best policy.

@OneFallDay said: If my 7-year-old asks, I answer. I’ve always felt if they are old enough to ask they deserve an honest answer.

Jackie from Belen Echandia said, “[I] don’t have personal experience. But would like to think I’d tell the truth in a beautiful, non-frightening way.”

Penny from Walking Upside Down said, “[I] told mine they came out of a hole between my legs. :) Honesty is the best policy. Did not show them said hole tho’. ;)”

Jessica from Peek a blog said, “I spoke to the doctor about what to say. We told my 3-year-old that mommies have a special place where babies come out when ready. Just enough info with more details on an as-needed basis, but totally truth.”

Cate Nelson said, “I told my then-2.5-year-old that baby was going to come out of Mama’s yoni. (our term for it) I also told him his own birth story, bit of the pain, but how it helped Mama push him out. He loved his (natural) birth story!”

Others think along with being honest, it’s important to use proper terminology with children.

@ColletteAM said, “I always tell the truth about bodily functions and use proper terms. I don’t want my kids to feel ashamed of their bodies.”

Mandie from McMama’s Musings said, “My 4-year-old can tell you about ovaries, eggs, sperm, uteri, birth canals, and c-sections. He calls egg+sperm a ‘seed.’ LOL”

@JenniferCanada said, “I got great advice from @babyREADY to prepare son [for] our home birth. We watched a lot of birthing shows. We talked about what would happen. He can tell you babies come from vaginas and you push them out. He has actions. He is 3 years old.”

Others prefer a more vague approach:

Lee from CoupleDumb said her son was 3 and “I told him that his brother would come out of me when I went to the hospital. That’s it.”

Kristie from Tilvee said she was asked how babies come out last night by her 6- and 3.5-year-old daughters. She “didn’t lie, just told them we would talk about it in 5 yrs?!”

One person thinks explaining a c-section is easier than explaining vaginal birth:

Beth from I Should Be Folding Laundry said, “I’m up for a c-section, so that makes the explanation very easy.”

Another thinks a c-section makes it more complicated:

@Loudmouthedmom said, “I haven’t been pregnant again but have always been honest with son, either vaginally or c-section. He took c-section much harder. Learned the hard way not to tell a 4-year-old a c-section involves mom being ‘cut open.’”

The reactions kids have about childbirth are often amusing:

Kailani from An Island Life said, “My 3-year-old thinks the baby will come out of my mouth. :-)”

Krista from Typical Ramblings, Atypical Nonsense said, “When I was pregnant with E, my older kids were 11 and 8 when he was born. I told them how the baby came out. My daughter asked if it hurt, I said yes but once it’s over the pain is gone. She says she is adopting kids. ;)”

Ann-Marie from This Mama Cooks said, “[I] told Nathan how babies got out when he was 7. He told me he wasn’t having kids. Truth is good birth control.”

Childbirth education props: Dolls and Children’s Books


If you are looking for some props to help you explain childbirth, you might be interested in these dolls. Thanks to Kellie, I learned about this childbirth education doll that can be custom ordered or the experience crocheter can make it herself. There’s also a Waldorf doll that gives birth and nurses. According to Droolicious, instead of just sitting there looking pretty, this doll “gives birth complete with placenta, and she nurses too. This Waldorfian handmade plush doll comes from Brazil where it is used to teach girls about natural childbirth.”


There are also lots of books that tackle the topic of explaining childbirth to kids. From books about home birth like Welcome With Love and We’re Having a Homebirth! to more mainstream childbirth books like What to Expect When Mommy’s Having a Baby, How You Were Born, and How Was I Born?: A Child’s Journey Through the Miracle of Birth, there is likely a book out there for your family. And for parents who are looking for some age-appropriate information about “the birds and the bees” check out It’s Not the Stork: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends and a review of it over on Punnybop.

There’s more information on how to prepare siblings for the birth of a new baby over on babyReady where they suggest: make a game out of the kinds of strange noises that you may make when you are in labour, try not to make too many changes to your child’s routine close to the delivery, let your older child open the baby’s gifts, and take your older child to your doctor (or midwife) visits, and more.

Ultimately your childbirth explanation to your child has to be one that you feel comfortable with. I think it is important to answer children’s questions – about childbirth, puberty, dating, sex, etc. – as honestly as possible while making sure it is age-appropriate. Mactavish said to me on Twitter, “I can’t imagine not being old enough to know how babies are born” and I have to agree. Candace concurs, “I generally assume that if she’s too young, she won’t ‘get it’ anyway and if she ‘gets it’ then she’s old enough for truth.” Sounds like a good philosophy to me.

Cross-posted on: BlogHer

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26 thoughts on “Babies come out of where?! Explaining childbirth to kids

  1. My son was just over two when his sister was born, so we kept it vague and explained that there was a baby in mommy’s tummy and when she was ready to be born, mommy would go to the hospital. When my SIL had a baby 18 months later, we used the same tactic. He’s older now (just turned 5) and the subject came up again recently, but this time he wanted to know HOW the baby comes out of mommy’s tummy.

    Honestly, I found myself hesitating and distracted him with something else, so I could give myself time to think about how to best answer him. I have no problem explaining birth or my child using the word vagina, after all that is what it is called. But at 5, he lacks a filter sometimes and I can just imagine him making some sort of announcement about mommy’s, babies and vaginas in an inappropriate venue. While I have no problem with the right words, plenty of people do. (Seriously. I work for at an animal hospital. You would be surpised how many grown men and women are unable to say the words penis and vagina, even in a medical setting.)

    For now, the conversation is tabled, but I might have to take a look at the books you mentioned.

  2. Great post. And timely. One of my girlfriends who has a gir or son’s age is due next week and he knows there is a baby in her belly. This led to me explaining to him that he was once in my belly, which was followed up by him spending a few minutes yesterday evening trying to climb back in my tummy. He couldn’t get past my belly button, so instead we looked at pictures from when I was pregnant and he was a new born. Thanks for sharing! If this issue every arises for us, I think I will go for the simple, but honest route!

  3. My son was 2 1/2 when his baby brother was born. We were planning a homebirth also and wanted him to be there. We talked about it, watched birth videos online, and practiced making loud sounds :) I was amazed at how easily he accepted it, as long as I treated it like the normal thing that it is.

    It turns out, his baby brother made his entrance in the middle of the night. So he didn’t get to witness it firsthand, but he woke up that morning to a new baby brother.

  4. When I was expecting my 2nd child I had a book on pregnancy and childbirth, which contained photographs of women in labour and during childbirth. It was not a children’s book, but my 3-year-old daughter wanted to look at the photos. I answered her questions about them.

    What surprised me was that she was not at all concerned about the mother. Instead, she said, “That looks like it squishes the baby, I think the baby doesn’t like that.” Once I reassured her that the baby was OK, she was fine. She wasn’t present for my birth in the end, but I think it helped her to understand what exactly happened and where her brother came from.

  5. I wish I would have heard the advice to warn about the yelling. My 3.5 yr old daughter knew how her sister was going to come out but she was totally freaked out when I started “vocalizing”. I was really hollering in a loud, uncontrollable way. I also threw up and that freaked her out.

    Needless to say she left with grandpa and missed the whole thing and I *really* wanted her there for that incredible life experience.

  6. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for Babies come out of where?! Explaining childbirth to kids | Crunchy Domestic Goddess [crunchydomesticgoddess.com] on Topsy.com

  7. This is a great post! It would have been helpful when my second daughter was born.

    I love that my older daughter, who is five and is the one with the questions, seems to be satisfied with answers like “babies come out of their mommies vaginas”. She’ll just be like “oh” and be done with it. I would give anything to know how her brain processes that! lol

  8. I have an embarrassingly funny story about this. When I was due with Trey I wanted Evan to be prepared. So we talked a lot about birth, looked at pictures and a couple videos on YouTube. I wanted him to know there would be blood and that was OK. Mommy would be loud, and that was OK.

    So, one day we’re at the store (Evan was 2 I was due at any minute) getting some groceries. This sweet old woman comes up and makes some comment about Evan, like sweet old women will do. Suddenly Evan goes into this long speil about where babies come from and what happens. Loudly. The entire store got a free sex-ed class on childbirth from my toddler.

  9. I love this post. I have some of the funniest video and memories of my barely two year old talking about how I was going to *unnghhh* push and the baby would come out my parts.

    We thought she would be there for the final hour or so but she wasn’t. She’s a pretty skeptical kid and, at four, we can’t convince her of anything. I’m glad we’ve been honest with her about bodies and biology.

    Someday I’ll write down all of the funny stuff she said before and after her sister’s birth.

  10. I have this to come no doubt, my boys are 3 and 4 and sometimes ask about babies and pregnancy, but in a very simlistic way. I have explained to them that mummy couldnt push them out, so had to have a c-section and showed them the scar and both are fine with that.

    At the moment my stock response to a question is “What do you think happens?” often the question is not what I think it is and there answer is sufficient. ie Can I have a baby mummy asked DS2, so I asked his what did he think and he responded, only when I love someone and get marrried and then I can be a daddy and my wife can have a baby. I think that is fine for a three year old. I what to answer any questions they have about sex and baby’s before they get all the wrong information from their peers!!

  11. Great timing. I just posted on my blog (http://mamabuglover.blogspot.com/2009/09/practicing.html) about my nearly 3yo practicing giving birth. We’ve taken the open and honest approach, including telling her that the baby was in my uterus rather than simply in my belly.

    We’ve watched some birth videos and I think that really helped me to understand what she might be concerned about during our birth. I was able to explain that Mamas make noise because it’s hard work, but that the Mamas are okay. I hadn’t even thought that she’d be concerned about how messy the baby is when it comes out, but that really shocked her with the first video. So we talked about that, too, and now wiping the baby while we talk to it is part of her regular “birthing” routine.

  12. It bugs my husband how honest I am about this topic in general with our 7 year old. I don’t give her what I consider excessive information, but he wants it really, really, really vague. Doesn’t mind her knowing the names of the parts, but any talk of function and he gets awkward.

    I’ll admit it’s tough sometimes. We have an 8 month old, so we just recently had to deal with the pregnancy and delivery questions. She knew a lot due to remembering when I had her younger brother.

    But now she’s asking for more of the how do you get pregnant kind of information and keeping it honest and age appropriate is a bit more challenging.

  13. I really enjoyed reading this post. As a child myself, I always kind of knew where babies came from, since we lived on the farm.

    We’d see animals “mating” and then see the consequences: the birth. It was all pretty clear to me :)

  14. Thanks for this post!

    My son was three when his sister was born. We planned on having him in the room when she was born, and so we prepared him quite well, without getting too graphic. He knew where the baby would come out of, and that Mommy might seem like she was in pain at the time, but that meant that her body was working toward having the baby. He was so totally fine with everything. It’s amazing how much kids can accept at face value. He was WONDERFUL in the delivery room, and I cherish the memories I have of that day. If I could go back and do everything all over again, I’d do it exactly the same way.

  15. Thanks for the great and detailed post!! I’m expecting #3, and my oldest is 2 1/2…she’ll have just turned 3 when baby arrives. While I don’t feel it necessary to fill my 10 month old in on the process ;), I really feel like my 2 1/2 year old should know. This was a huge help. I’m not sure what terms I’ll use (for fear of her repeating them in public) but I do want to explain the entire process. We’re not sure of our birth plans yet so there is always the chance she may be around. Thanks for the wisdom!

  16. My oldest son was 21-months-old when his little brother was born. We always involved him in the pregnancy and he would watch the labor and delivery shows with me (the ones with home births and at birth centers like we would be at). When the laboring/delivering women would get loud I would repeatedly tell him “It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.” My mom and sisters-in-law knew to use that exact phrase when I was in labor and delivering. He never even missed a beat.

  17. My oldest son was three when his brother was born at home in a tub. I talked about it candidly from day one and showed him lots of pictures from my favorite birth books, we watched birth videos and we read the “Welcome With Love” book over and over. I showed him how I would push and told him it would be intense because Mama had to be so strong.

    He did great. He did get overwhelmed with my vocalization during transition, but my mom was his support person and the midwives did a great job of making it all so normal.

    I still continue to talk about it normally in my family. If I’m going to the bathroom and my 2 year old comes in and points at my vagina I say, “Yes, that’s my vagina.” Since my oldest enjoys hearing about his birth story and recounting his brothers it comes up and we talk about how I pushed the babies out of my vagina.

    I’ve found it to be very empowering to be honest and normal about my birth experiences.

  18. Great post, Amy! I plan to be very honest and forthcoming with Asher when the time comes. Birth is something very beautiful and our bodies are nothing to be ashamed of, so why spare details??

  19. This is a timely post for me. Monkey will be three in two weeks and his baby sibling is due to arrive around New Year’s. He asked me the other day how the baby will come out. I told him that the baby comes out a special hole between mommy’s legs. I also told him that when he was born he wanted to come out bum-first instead of head-first so he couldn’t fit through that hole. So the doctors had to ‘make a new hole’ for him. He seemed to accept that answer.

    We are in the process of deciding if we will have a home birth. Obviously if we do we will need to go into more details about the actual process. Thanks for the links to what I’m sure will be helpful resources.

  20. That doll with the placenta is an eye opener! Facebooked that one to some friends. :) Great article, as always. If you’d ever be interested in doing a guest post on my blog with some short reviews of some of the children’s books you mentioned, just let me know.
    Lynn, Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile
    http://infantbibliophile.blogspot.com

  21. Thanks so much for this. I’m 31 weeks pregnant with my 3rd, and planning a homebirth (had one with my 2nd as well).

    When we told my oldest (4, almost 5) that Mummy had a baby in her tummy, the first thing he asked was not how it got in, but how it would get out. Yes, I told him. He didn’t believe me!

    I hope this book will help my 2 boys and give them an idea what to expect.

    Thanks!

  22. Fascinating! I don’t have kids [yet?] but am an Auntie. Good stuff to know!
    I sub’d to your RSS feed after the last couple posts that I commented on. :D

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