Preparing Toddler Siblings for a New Baby
As a mother of four children, I’ve had to prepare toddler siblings for a new baby three times. The first time around, I just had to prepare myself and that was a challenge enough!
When you have a baby, your whole life often turns upside down. When you add a second, third, etc baby to the family – the impacts are felt by every family member. As parents, we worry if we will feel the same amount of love for a new baby? Will our older children will get enough attention? Will they feel jealous about their new sibling?
Why should we be preparing toddler siblings for a new baby?
One of the most daunting tasks is preparing toddler siblings for a new baby when they cannot communicate well. It´s further complicated if they can´t fully comprehend what you mean when you talk about a baby being in mommy’s tummy. Toddlers are used to being the center of attention in many families. They laugh along when mom points to her pregnant belly and says there is a baby coming. The feelings they have vary from child to child. They may love or hate the idea of a new baby, but they really cannot fully express their feelings about the matter.
For this reason, gently preparing them for the baby’s arrival is key. Having concrete ways to incorporate newborn care into your daily routine with your toddler can help ease the transition.
Preparing Toddler Siblings for a New Baby.
Here are a few ways I helped prepare my toddlers for the new arrival.
- Reading books: When our second baby was born, our oldest was only 16 months. So, it was not easy for her to grasp the idea of a baby at all! I got a short, simple book called The New Baby by Mercer Mayer and we would read it every day while getting ready for little brother’s arrival. We kept reading it after he was born, and it was our go-to while preparing for new babies in the future too! While that book was our go-to, I’ve also got a guest blog post written by Abbie Hibler from Little Readers Book Box about using books to help prepare little kids for big transitions.
- I gave my toddlers a little baby doll to care for when a new baby was on the way. Once I waited until the new baby had arrived, so the big brother was excited about his new toy and he’d hold his baby doll while I’d hold the real-life baby. I also used the doll to show how the bigger kids could touch and care for the baby – what parts were okay to touch and tickle and what parts (like the head) were off-limits. Showing them what they can do is a helpful way to keep little kids involved and feeling excited about the new baby.
- I avoided blaming common pregnancy difficulties and exhaustion on the baby. Little kids pick up quickly on these kinds of things and might begin to resent the baby before she is even born. I would say I needed extra rest or when I did not feel well of course, but I tried to steer clear of making it sound like it was the baby’s fault.
Incorporate newborn care into established toddler routines:
I usually wore the little one while cooking, serving meals to the toddler/younger kids, going to the park, and anything else that needed to be done! My husband would also babywear in a soft-structured carrier (like an Ergo baby carrier). This helped me have a bit of my own space and more freedom to play with the older kids.
Reading books to the toddler while breastfeeding.
To do this, I usually just grabbed a book and my breastfeeding pillow. Then I got as comfy as possible to read the story to my toddler who would sit beside me while I fed. Breastfeeding while putting bigger kids in bed happened a lot. I would scratch the older kid’s back with one hand while singing a song and breastfeeding.
Bathing them together.
The newborn was placed in a little hammock in the water with the toddler sitting up on the other side of the baby tub. I would let the toddler use a washcloth and wash the baby’s feet and legs. Also, bathing them together makes overall bath time shorter and kids tend to love it.
Coordinating naps (when the newborn is a little older).
This worked great with my oldest two. Though it was impossible to get first and third naps to sync up with the older child, I was able to get the long nap for both kids to be at the same time usually. If this does not work, it is okay. It can be a time for more snuggles with the little one. Then one on one time with the toddler while the baby is napping. Both options have their pros and cons. Only your family can decide what works for you.
If you would like to learn about how everyday routines like those mentioned above can be used to support language and communication in the home.
Allocate quality time with the toddler siblings.
I also made sure to try and give the newborn some quality time with dad while I focused more attention on the older children. This did get more complicated when attention was no longer divided between two children, but three and then four. That said, connection has always been a priority in our home. We have done our best to cultivate it by watching movies together, playing games everyone can enjoy, and reading books.
No matter what, welcoming a new baby into the family is bound to come with some growing pains. Hopefully, with a few of the tips I have mentioned here, it will be a little smoother for your family. Also, one final tip – lots of patience. Patience for yourself, for your toddler, for your new baby, for your partner – patience all around. It can be a complicated time, but the transition will soon pass. Someday you may look back and barely remember what life was like with just one!
Family support for the transition of a new baby.
And of course, you can hire a postpartum doula to help support your family through the transition from one child to two (or more). With a doula’s constant support after giving birth, you will have another pair of hands and a person there to make sure mom is getting her needs met as the children’s needs multiply. Having a postpartum doula when you have already got a toddler is a blessing for many families. It smooths many of the most difficult/tricky parts of the day – the afternoon “witching hour” or bath time. Perhaps the mom has stitches or a healing c-section incision to contend with. Doulas make sure mom is getting rest, snacks, and staying hydrated, and the list goes on. If you thought doulas were just for birth or first-time moms – think again! Book a call with me now to find out more about how I can support your family!
About the Author:
Madison is an American doula based in Madrid whose passion is supporting pregnant, birthing, and postpartum women. Madoula offers labor, birth, and postpartum care. Whatever kind of birth you would like to have, Madison provides information, resources, and support for your family’s unique decisions. Madison has lived in Madrid for more than 10 years and three of her four children were born here. She lived in Germany for two years which is where her second child was born. Personal experience taught her what having a baby abroad can be like and she is professionally equipped to support others through the transition into parenthood – whether it is the first, second, or sixth baby.
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