Updated on May 25, 2016
Preparing Your Toddler For The New Baby
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Having a baby takes a whole lot of planning. Thankfully, you get about nine months to come to terms with the whole thing and to think you know what you’re getting yourselves into. Fast forward to baby number two, and now you’ve got about nine months to prepare your toddler for the arrival of their younger sibling. This can be both an exciting time and a nerve wracking time for a soon to be parent of two. Will your first born be excited or jealous? Will he like the baby or will he be convinced the new baby has ruined his life forever? How can you prepare your toddler for what’s to come? Lucky for you, I’ve been there and I’ve done that! Did it go as smoothly as I’d envisioned before the second line showed up on the pregnancy test? Heck no! Did everything work out in the end? Sure did! Here are some of the ways that you can help guide your toddler through this pretty darned huge transition in his or her life.
1. Follow Your Toddler’s Lead. At some point in the pregnancy, you’re going to have to
break the news tell your toddler that he or she is getting a younger brother or sister. When you decide to do that is a really personal decision, but it must be done. The way your toddler reacts to this news could go one of oh so many ways if the thousands of YouTube videos of pregnancy announcements have any truth to them. My advice here is to tell your first born the news, and then let it go for a while. Maybe they’ll be super excited right from the get go and that will be that, but maybe it will take them a little time to warm up to the idea. Regardless, let your toddler express his feelings about the whole thing without you pushing it on him all the time. We learned through experience that bringing up the baby as a topic of conversation with and around The Heir all the time was perhaps not the best approach. At first, he was excited, but we quickly realized he was actually quite apprehensive about the whole thing. Soon after we told him, we added a new book to his bedtime routine. It was a book all about being a big brother. We thought that it would help him to get a grasp of what it would be like after the baby arrived, but instead, all the baby talk resulted in a sudden potty regression. So, we just took a step back. The big brother book went back on the shelf, King Dad and I stopped talking about the baby around The Heir, and the potty regression ended. After about a month without reading the big brother book, The Heir pulled it off his bookshelf and asked to read it again and again and again. We took that as a sign he was ready to get into the nitty gritty of being a big brother.
2. Include Your Toddler. I know I just said to give your toddler some space to process the idea of having a sibling, but once they’ve had that time and they’ve warmed up to it, it’s time to include them! If you’re able, it can be really nice for your toddler to join you at a doctor or midwife appointment, or even an ultrasound. The Heir came to at least half of my appointments with my midwife, and he came to two ultrasounds. To clarify, I don’t recommend bringing your toddler to an ultrasound if there won’t be another adult there with you. Whether it’s your partner, your best friend, or your mom, there should absolutely be another adult there to manage your toddler while the ultrasound is being performed. The Heir really enjoyed being a part of these appointments. At the midwife, he got to be the assistant, pressing the buttons on the doppler machine and holding the stethoscope. At the ultrasound appointments, he got a really good look at the “baby in mommy’s tummy”. He’d talk about the ultrasound for days afterwords, and thought it was the greatest thing. Being able to include your toddler in these appointments, even just once or twice, can make him feel like it’s his baby too!
3. Don’t Be Off Limits. Let your toddler enjoy your pregnancy too! I know how hard it can be to constantly remind your toddler to be gentle with you when you’re pregnant. I get it, I really do. But try not to set too many limits on what your toddler can and can’t do with you anymore. Obviously you need to set appropriate limits for what is both comfortable and safe for you in your pregnancy, but try to give your toddler a little leeway here. The Heir loved nothing more than coming over to my pregnant belly, and blowing raspberries on it. He thought it was hilarious and we have numerous videos of him doing just that. Yes, I had to remind him to come in slowly and not bash into my belly too hard, but seeing him making that connection with his soon to be baby sibling was so great. He loved to feel the baby moving and kicking, so we’d often spend time just waiting and waiting with his hand on my belly. Even after Petit Prince was born, The Heir wanted to be up close and personal. I spent a lot of time in those early weeks cuddling both my boys together at the same time in the glider in the nursery. Sometimes, The Heir would sit on my knee while I was nursing Petit Prince. I was rarely off limits to him, and I think this helped him through the transition.
4. Bring On The Books. Books are a great way to help your toddler process not only the changes that are happening with mommy, but also the changes that will be happening with them as baby makes his arrival. Becoming an older sibling is not only a big deal, but it can be a lot of fun too. There are so many great books out there to help prepare your toddler for the transition ahead. The first book we read to The Heir was Joanna Cole’s “I’m A Big Brother” (there’s also a Big Sister version). This one was great for introducing him to the whole idea of a younger sibling and what his role would be. We found our favourite series of books for helping The Heir through the transition to becoming a big brother at the library. They’re written by Rachel Fuller. The three we had were “Waiting For Baby”, “My New Baby”, and “You and Me” (spoiler alert: you’ll find breastfeeding, cloth diapers, and baby wearing in these books). We must have read through these three books a THOUSAND times before Petit Prince arrived, and The Heir continued to request them for a couple of months after the baby arrived. There was just something about them that kept him captivated. As a bonus, there was a lot to point out and talk about on each page, so reading the books led us down a rabbit hole of questions and conversations that helped us talk through a lot of The Heir’s feelings about becoming a big brother.
5. Talk About What Changes AND What Doesn’t. Books are a great way to get the conversation going, but (depending on the age of your child) sitting down and talking to them about what things will be like is a really great idea. A lot of things will be changing, that’s true, but a whole lot of things will stay the same. It can be a hard transition to go from having your parents’ undivided attention to sharing it with another little human. That this little human is more needy, less patient, and maybe even louder than your toddler can make it all the more difficult for your toddler. Don’t forget to bring up all the things that stay the same after baby arrives. Start by talking about how your love for your toddler isn’t going to change! Sometimes your toddler needs that reassurance!
6. Make a Treasure Box! I’m serious. A big benefit to having a second baby is that you have some idea of what to expect. Remember those early days of hour long feedings? Your toddler isn’t always going to be able to keep themselves entertained for the entirety of a feeding. You’ll need a way to keep them close by, but occupied. Enter the treasure box. This is a special box full of fun just for your toddler, and it lives in the baby’s room. Include your toddler in the whole process of making a treasure box. The Heir picked out the box when we were out shopping. I told him what it was for and what kind of things would be inside, and he chose the box. It’s awesome. Inside the treasure box is a sticker book, a puzzle, a colouring book, washable markers (emphasis on the washable), and some wood building blocks. When Petit Prince made his arrival and I was in the nursery feeding him for hours on end, The Heir would come in with me, open up his treasure box, and get to some serious play time. It was so great to have a special box of fun just for him in there. It was a great way to keep him close by, occupied, and included in the process. It’s a good idea to change up the items in the treasure box every month or so. This will keep it exciting and engaging for your toddler!
If you already have two (or more) children, how did you help your first born prepare for the arrival of their first sibling? Was it a smooth transition for your family?