A family expecting a new baby is a time of great changes. For parents, there is a lot to consider before the baby arrives – brands of cloth diapers and disposable diapers; what stroller to get so much more. Fortunately, we have nine months to prepare ourselves for the upcoming changes.
For a toddler expecting a younger sibling, these changes might be hard to handle. As parents we need to consider that so in the nine months of preparation, we can include the toddler too. It’s common for the older sibling, especially if they are still toddlers, to feel jealous when a new baby comes, so it’s best to let include them during the pregnancy and even after the baby is born.
After you’ve told your toddler about the baby, you will have months before the baby arrives. During this time, let your toddler’s questions be your guide as to how much to discuss. They might questions like ask, “Where do babies come from?” Of course, since you’re talking to a toddler, they’re not asking you about the birds and the bees. Consider your toddler’s level of understanding when answering questions. There are a lot of age appropriate books out there that we can read to our toddlers to help them understand the situation. It’s important to include your toddler in the preparations for the new baby to gain a more positive response from him/her. Here are some activities you can do to help prepare your toddler for the new baby:
- Look at your toddler’s baby pictures together. Seeing pictures will help your toddler understand that at some point, all the time and attention was on him/her too. You can also use this time to teach about how everyone was once a baby, and everyone grows up.
- Reading books about being a big sister or a big brother can teach your toddler about their responsibilities as an older sibling. Books like these might also talk about what to expect from babies.
- Bring your toddler to visit friends with infants. Give him/her a chance to learn ways on how to interact with babies.
- Let your toddler take part in preparing the nursery. As you assemble the crib, even shop for cloth diapers, your toddler will have many questions. You can show your toddler that some of the items he/she can still use, but others are just for the baby. You can also think of ways he/she can help when the baby arrives.
- Read books that show what babies do and compare them to what your toddler can do. You will see that they will take pride that they can do more things.
- Letting your toddler feel the kicks of the baby help them grasp the idea that mommy has a baby in the tummy. They might develop an increased sense of care for mom and the baby. You can also encourage him/her to sing songs, pat the baby bump, and talk to the baby inside.
- Bring your toddler with you during your check-ups. Allowing them to hear the heartbeat of the baby will make the whole experience even more real for your toddler.
At this time, it’s also good to talk to you toddler about what to expect from the baby. We don’t want your toddler to be surprised about stinky diapers and endless crying. You can add that mommy might be spending lots of time feeding and changing diapers. Even then, assure your toddler that you love him/her and acknowledge his/her efforts in being helpful and patient.
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As the due date comes to a close, your child might become anxious. Even with preparations during pregnancy, we can never really expect for things to be perfect. Don’t be surprised if your toddler grows needier during this time. It is not unusual for older siblings to regress. Continue to acknowledge and support especially during this time. Avoid changes like daycare or toilet training. Try to keep the routine as the same as possible.
Let him help in preparing the nursery bag, even if it’s a simple task like giving you cloth diapers. Have him visit you at the hospital when possible. Spend as much time as you can to make him feel like he’s not left out.
Bringing Home the New Baby
Even while still in the hospital, consider letting your toddler meet his new baby sibling. Your toddler will feel a sense of belonging. Once home, you can let your toddler help in easy tasks in caring for the newborn. It might take longer, but it allows for bonding and interaction. Here are areas and ways your toddler can help and feel involved:
- When changing your baby’s diaper, your toddler can hand you the wet wipes, the new pair of cloth diapers/disposable diapers, and any other thing you might need. You can even let him/her choose the babies clothes. Simple tasks can make a big difference for your toddler.
- If space and safety allow, let him sit with you when you’re with the baby. You can read stories together, sing lullabies for the baby, or simply let him try to interact with the infant.
- Read with both your toddler and the baby. Let your toddler choose the book, flip the pages, and even tell the story if they want. Take this opportunity as a bonding activity for all of you.
- When breastfeeding your baby, you can let your toddler help you prepare the nursery glider or the couch. Let them help you get you comfortable.
If your child shows no interest in helping, don’t worry! Just continue to encourage and affirm your toddler.
Finally, don’t forget to set dates with your toddler. Doing activities that don’t include the baby will make your toddler feel remembered and loved. When your newborn is asleep, take the opportunity to spend time with your toddler.
Disclaimer: All images are provided by the author.
Sarah Morgan. Being a mother makes me realize that life is a great adventure. No day is always the same, which makes every day so much more exciting.