I had my baby girl 6 months ago and my toddler was 2 years and one month old at that point. Before having her I was constantly searching for tips on how to introduce the new baby to my toddler. My mum guilt was over the roof and I was so worried about everything. I am glad to report that he absolutely adores his sister, yes at the beginning it was tough (not because he didn’t want her, just because he had to get used to the new family member) but things are better now!
We do have some bad days but I would say that he may be aggressive with us (me and my husband) but with her he is gentle and caring!
There are some things we did that really helped with the transition from being an only baby to being a big brother. I hope you find these tips helpful.
- Prepare them – Toddlers are toddlers, yes they forget easily and yes they may not pay attention to everything you say but there are so many things you can do to prepare them for what’s about to happen. Encourage them to talk to the “baby” through your bump, this will help them get used to the idea of the baby. Talk to them like the baby is already there, for example “let’s read a story to the baby, or let’s sing to the baby”.
- Start preparing your house for the baby early on – First of all start buying some clothes for the baby, let your toddler choose some of them. This will help them bond with the baby as they were part of the whole process. Start putting up the crib or basinet at least a month in advance. Your toddler will be so curious that he/she will ask you 100 times a day who is the crib for. This way you will explain that it is for his/her brother or sister and when you actually bring the baby home they will not find it strange as those things were already there for the baby.
- Don’t hold the baby – No, I don’t mean in general. I mean don’t hold the baby the first time your toddler will meet them in the hospital. Instead have the baby in the baby “bed” beside you. This way the toddler will see the baby but he or she will not see his/her mother holding the baby instead of them. Therefore they will not see the baby as a competition. I really think this is one of the most important things you can do.
- Make them the center of attention – It’s easy for family members or friends to have all their attention to the new baby which will lead to the toddler being jealous. Instead, try to kindly remind everyone that at least for now the attention should be on the toddler as he or she is going through all these emotional changes right now.
- Be prepared for bad behaviour – Before I continue with the rest of the tips it is important to understand that no matter what, no matter how well prepared your toddler is for the new baby, how happy he or she is to be a big brother, it will actually affect their behaviour. They are babies as well, and it is a huge change for them and it would actually be weird if they did not react to such a big change in their lives. Be prepared for more whining and tantrums especially in the beginning. Explain to them what they feel, for example you can tell them “it is okay to feel sad, I would feel sad as well but we can feel better by doing this”. Be patient and understanding towards their emotions. It is also important to keep in mind that toddlers in general go through stages, terrible twos, threenagers etc and that even if you haven’t had the baby they would still go through those stages.
- Simplify their routine – When I only had my son I used to make everything a bit complicated, bedtime routine for example was way too long and way too tiring. I started simplifying it slowly but steadily and now our bedtime routine consists of a bath, milk and storytelling. Simple and “quick”. This way you can ensure that this routine will be manageable at least 95% of the times. Try to simplify their routines as soon as you find out you are pregnant because lets face it, it will take time for them to get used to it and as you are approaching your last months of pregnancy you will be glad you did.
- Don’t change their routine – of course some changes will be made. But routines are very important for toddlers, the routine is what keeps them from getting overwhelmed. Therefore you should keep their routine the same. I am talking about bedtime routine, or morning routine etc. If your toddler goes to nursery for example , it is best for them to continue to go instead of keeping them home with you. The new baby is a huge change for them and taking away the routines he or she was used to for so long will make matters worse.
- Let them help you or ask for their help – Try to involve your toddler in pretty much everything baby related. Encourage them to bring you the diapers during a nappy change, to help you prepare the baby’s bottle, to take baths with the baby (I know a lot of you have a baby bath instead of the normal bath but I think that bathtime is such a great opportunity for them to bond), to massage the baby’s foot etc. It may sound like you are forcing your toddler to help you but it’s actually the opposite as your toddler will love being able to help and get attention while you would normally focus your attention on the baby only.
- Let them try – This cost us a baby swing (luckily it was not an expensive one!) but at least he was happy I guess. Toddlers love discovering new things. Suddenly there is a new car seat in the house and they want to desperately try it out themselves. Let them do it. They will do it once or twice and they will get bored and will not ask again. If you don’t let them do it (the things that they can try out) they will constantly ask or try to do it anyway. In their little head it is more complicated than “you are too heavy for that” as they cannot really understand why the baby can do it and they can’t and they will see the baby as their competition.
- Let them be babies – Toddlers are still babies. When having a newborn you seem to see your toddler as a much more mature kid than they actually are. You suddenly expect them to be able to play on their own, to feed themselves and a lot more. Yes, I am aware that toddlers do those things, but you suddenly want them to do those things when you have to feed the baby or change the baby which almost never works out because they want your attention at the same time as well. What we found really helpful is letting our son be a baby again. For example he always has a bottle of milk before bed and he randomly asks if we can hold him as a baby while he drinks his milk, and we do just that! Because we want him to feel that our daughter is not getting any “special” treatment, and that he is indeed still our baby.
- Solo dates – This is not easy especially with a newborn but try to find at least 5 minutes a day where there is only you and your toddler. This can be anything from a simple walk or a play date at the soft play (I talk a bit more about the benefits of this on “Just the two of us” ).
- Let the baby rest – We tend to carry and play with a newborn a lot but the thing is that they won’t remember anything and for the first couple of weeks (adjustment weeks) they do not need much attention (when they are not hungry). Those weeks I tried to keep Olivia in her crib as much as possible. She would sleep her day away and George would get the attention he needed in order for him to feel “safe” again.
- Show them / tell them – Show your toddler photos of him/her as a baby and tell them that they too were a baby. If the baby is crying for milk you can tell them that they did it too before they learned how to talk. This way they will start to realise that it is normal for the baby to do the things he or she does and that they will grow and be the same as them. It is important not to compare them though. For example don’t say “the baby is sleeping through the night but you didn’t” if you do, you will encourage them to see the baby as a threat.
- Let them have bad days – We all have bad days and toddlers do too. It is normal for them to have their ups and downs. Some days will be just perfect and some will be worse. Try to not jump into conclusions (that your toddler is jealous, or hurt, etc) based on just one day. That may just be one of their bad days. Give them some time before trying to figure out what is really going on.
- Break some boundaries – One of the things I remember the most after bringing our daughter home was George coming into our bed in the middle of the night. In the morning we all woke up together and it was the sweetest thing! Again for us it just meant that we broke one boundary (we are not against co-sleeping but we prefer not to – read more on “boundaries are meant to be broken“) but for him it meant a lot more. The baby is allowed to sleep in our room and so does he! And this is how he should feel.
These are some of the things that really help us as a family to prepare our toddler (and ourselves) for the new baby. Some may work for you as well and some may not but I hope that you will find this post helpful in some way. If you are expecting your second baby then congratulations to you.
What are some of the things you did to prepare your toddler for the ne baby?