10 Tips to Prepare Your Toddler for a New Baby
Author: Shannon Miller Lifestyle
The arrival of a newborn is always cause for excitement and joy.
Yet, for the new baby’s older sibling, it can ignite feelings of confusion, jealousy, and anger, if they are not prepared for the new addition. Preparing for baby the second time around is a little different than preparing for your first bundle of joy. You have likely gained significant knowledge and experience in what your baby will need. Your toddler on the other hand is facing a brand new experience.
So what are some good ways you can prepare for baby’s arrival with your toddler?
1. Share the news!
You don’t have to tell them about the new addition the day you find out, but before you decide to tell everyone you know that you are expecting, it is a good idea to let your toddler share in the excitement that they are going to be a big brother or sister. Having others ask them about becoming a big brother or sister will be very exciting for them as well. Your toddler will also need some time to adjust to the idea of having a sibling; so giving them some time to process the information is a good idea.
2. Learn about baby together
Read books about pregnancy with your toddler, let them look at sonograms of the baby with you, and let them listen to the heartbeat on a fetal doppler. Include your toddler in the process – at an age appropriate level, of course – and they will feel more pride and ownership in the big sibling title.
3. Spend some time with other babies
Make some time for your toddler to be around other babies and make it a learning experience for them. Whether it is a close friend or family member who has a baby, a play date group, or a story time at your bookstore, the more they are around babies the more they will understand babies. Ask if you can hold the baby and teach your toddler about “gentle hands” and “soft touches” form the start. You don’t have to have a real baby either, baby dolls can serve as a great tool as well.
4. Establish ownership
Most toddlers have the “Mine, Mine, MINE” thought complex, so allowing ownership to be had to certain objects is crucial to avoiding meltdowns once the baby comes home, and it helps to teach sharing at the same time. Your toddler most likely already has experienced some things that establish ownership in their mind, like mommy or daddy’s shoes, keys, phone, bed, etc., but introducing new things as the baby’s will give them a respect for the baby. While these items may not be 100% off limits, it shares your expectation that a certain toy, swing, or bed, is going to belong to the baby. At the same time you’ll want to help your toddler see that some of his/her things are also off limits to the baby (any food or toys that could be a choking hazard, etc). This will help stave off jealousy once the baby has arrived.
5. Ownership of hand me downs
Establishing ownership when it comes to hand me downs is also essential, and it gives you the opportunity to give new belongings to the toddler. For example, if the crib that the toddler once used is going to now be used by the baby, you can say “This crib belonged to you when you were a baby! Now it belongs to the new baby for him to sleep in!” Pairing that with shopping for a new “big kid bed” will get your toddler more excited for the new thing they are getting and less focused on what they are giving to the new baby. Shopping for this new bed as early on as possible in your pregnancy will also help to avoid the toddler feeling that they are losing their possessions to the baby.
6. Reminisce with your toddler about when he or she was a baby
Create a photo book of your toddler as a baby and flip through the book with him or her. Recall funny moments about certain pictures. They will be amazed at some of the silly things they did and it will spark a curiosity and evoke conversation about things the new baby will do.
7. Spend some special time with your toddler and label it!
While pregnant and once the new baby arrives, it is important for your toddler to still have one on one time with mom and dad. Plan on doing something special together at least once a week. Something like a mommy and me craft, or a daddy and me treat night, or something that works well for you. It is important to label it so they have that time to feel ownership of.
8. Get them excited for when you will be in the hospital
Whether they get to spend the night with grandparents, an aunt or uncle, or just a good friend, when its time for you to have the baby, make it a treat for your toddler, and get them looking forward to it beforehand. If this is the first time they have been without mom and dad overnight, it can be overwhelming for them. So make sure the person who is keeping them has plenty of fun and exciting things to do like some new movies, new coloring books, and plenty of snacks!
9. After the baby arrives, the toddler is coming to see you!
Whether you gave birth in the hospital or in a birthing center, remember that your toddler is coming to see YOU first of all. Have the person who has been watching them contact you to know when they will be arriving and be ready to have some time to reconnect with your toddler. Let any other visitors know you would like some time to just be with your toddler and ask for a few minutes of just mom, dad, and toddler to catch up. Let the nurses take the baby to the nursery for a few minutes if that is an option. Then take the toddler with mom and dad to get the baby from the nursery. It gives the toddler a little more space at first and it can be an exciting way to “bring” baby into the family. Some parents opt to have a small gift ready (crayons, a special book) so that the baby can “give” the gift to his or her new big sibling.
10. Include toddler with bringing the baby home
When you know what time you will be discharged, have your babysitter bring your toddler to the hospital. Have your toddler help with dressing baby and getting bags prepared to go home. Then when the time comes to leave, the whole family can go down to the car together and drive home as a family. This will help to make the toddler feel like they are included with introducing the baby to the family home instead of mom and dad bringing a new baby home to the toddler so that the toddler feels threatened in their own space.
What tips will you use when preparing your toddler for a new baby? Share with us in a comment below!