How to Prepare Toddler For New Baby
f you are expecting your second child, knowing how to prepare your toddler for a new baby is crucial to avoid sibling jealousy and resentment. We can easily get children excited about an upcoming event only to discover they hold resentment and haven’t processed the need for the baby to get more attention right now. While planning for a new baby, let’s plan for how to introduce them to your current child(ren).
Helping older siblings cope with the new baby
If this baby is your second or more, you will want help your older children cope with the changes revolving having a new baby in the family. Remind them and follow through with special one-on-one time with each of your children. Some parents think that buying gifts shows how much they love their children, but what they really want is your attention. So, getting your older children excited about the new baby should also include some basic education so they know what to expect. Depending on the age of your children, they may be expecting a new brother or sister like their friend has who is closer in age to their sibling and think the new baby will be instantly a new friend to play with. However, the reality could cause significate disappointment and even acting out or regression.
Use simple language
Most of the time we want to use simple language. The way you talk will depend on the age of the older children. Basically, you want to say that the baby grows in mommy’s tummy and when its ready, it will be born.
Explain what to expect at the time of birth
If you are having a hospital birth let them know that when the baby is ready, you and your partner will be going to the hospital and will not be at home for a few days. Let the toddler know who he/she will be staying with during that time. If it will be someone they aren’t used to, make an effort to introduce them and allow them time to bond with this person.
Talk about your life with a new baby
Start early in your pregnancy (around 20-25 weeks) and don’t make a big fuss about how life is going to change. Just say things like, “when the new baby gets here…”
Give your toddler a gift/project while you will be away
Parents can purchase a special “big brother” or “big sister” gift to open when mom and dad go to the hospital to have the baby. An example could be an art set to create drawings for mom, dad, and a special welcome project for the new baby.
Make sure they know that they are on the VIP list and will be one of the first visitors to see the baby.
Don’t forget the “I am a big brother/sister” gift to your child when the new baby is born!
Explain what interaction they can have with the new baby
You want your child(ren) to understand that the baby will be tiny and NOT able to play for some time. Let them know ahead of time what the rules about touching and hold the baby will be. Perhaps use a baby doll to show them how to hold a baby and point out the soft spot. Maybe even show them how you will change the baby using the doll.
Explain that the baby will cry at times, and that is normal. Remember that an older sibling by being nice can actually introduce danger to your infant. For example, picking the baby up because he/she is crying and they want to help, or sharing their snack by putting solid food in the baby’s mouth.
Let the toddler know the baby will cry
You want the older sibling(s) to know that babies sleep a lot and pretty much, sleep, eat, poop and cry, since they can’t talk yet. Babies develop a different cry for different needs; hungry, wet diaper, startled.
You might make it a detective game to see if they can learn which cry means what. Explain that as the parent you have an internal instinct that “tunes in” to the needs of your baby and it take no time for most moms to distinguish one cry from another.
Let you children know that sometimes the grownup will know just what the baby needs, and the baby will stop crying right away. Other times, it may take longer to help the baby. Make sure they know that they will have a lot of chances to the hold the baby but cannot pick up your baby without asking.
Ensure that your toddler won’t share food with the baby
It’s also important your older children know that the baby cannot eat any food at all, they don’t have any teeth and their tummies aren’t ready for big kid food. You will be breastfeeding a baby, so let your child know they only drink their milk until a grownup tells them it is safe to feed the baby foods. Explain that when their grown up says it’s okay, they can help feed your baby their milk from a bottle or snuggle while the baby nurses.
Involve your toddler in taking care of the new baby
Other ways you can encourage your children to be involved in taking care of the new baby is to have them bring diapers or blankets, sing to baby (in a quiet voice), show baby books with colorful pictures, show baby some of their toys (they will be too little to hold or play with them for a while).
Buy a baby doll for your child
This will help them process what is being said about a new baby’s arrival and after the baby’s arrival it will help with the transition too if they have their own baby. It’s great for teaching gentleness and skills.
Remind your toddler that you will share time with both
Remind them that you will be very busy with the new baby but you still have time for them and love you very much! Continue to involve your toddler in helping, that way they feel your attention.
Read to your child about new babies
select books that reflect your parenting style
Change everything gradually
Start preparing your home for the new baby early. Gradual change is easier than sudden change. Most importantly, if your new baby will get your child’s crib and/or bedroom furniture, start transitioning your child out of it without discussing that the new baby will get it. Buy new bedding and make it look as different as possible. Also, if possible let your child keep the bedroom they are in and give the new baby the new room. This will help your child have less ownership over the items getting passed along.
When the baby arrives, make your child “a little helper.” You can start this support during your pregnancy.
Allow for opposition
Change is hard for everyone! Try to be patient with them and continue to emphasize your love for them.
Before explaining to you toddler, you should also understand what happens to yourself. I highly recommend the book Birthing From Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz for which I did a review on one of my blogs.
Help Your Child Welcoming a New Baby
Welcoming a new baby is an exciting time for the family. Avoid sibling jealousy and resentment by preparing your child for a new sibling is crucial. Spend some time explaining what to expect and transitioning things slowly. Never leave a young child alone in a room with a newborn.
The information contained on this site should not be construed as medical advice nor should it replace the advice and individual care of your health care provider.
Hi, I’m Susan Finazzo! I’m a certified Birth Doula, Birth coach, and Childbirth Educator from Port St Lucie, Florida. In addition to that, I am also a Faith-Based Counselor. I have over 10 years experience helping women having a positive birthing experience and would love to make a difference on yours too!
Prepare Your Toddler to be a big sibling
I love guiding expecting parents preparing for changes. Even if this is not your pregnancy, there are new chapeter that you didn’t have with the first child. Preparing your kid(s) for a new baby is a great example. Follow this guide for ideas and feel free to reach out for any more tips and guidance with what to expect.