Do you remember the fear you felt while pregnant with your first baby? So many things that were new! Not just the changes with your body, but also mentally preparing to take care of a new little being. I read a lot of different pregnancy books and that definitely helped ease some of my fears. But when that little baby boy was put in my arms, I can’t even lie, I was scared. I didn’t have enough experience with newborns and babies and worried if I could figure out how to actually do it.
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Your toddler is probably feeling similar things if you are pregnant with his or her younger sibling. And even more- they can’t completely understand their emotions or articulate what it is they are experiencing. So it helps to prepare your toddler for a new baby.
I’m currently pregnant with our third son and I’m contemplating how to prepare my two year old Ellis for the change. It made me think of what we did with Miles when he was becoming a big brother and also what we need to do more of with Ellis. Miles calls this baby “his baby” so the excitement and knowledge of a new addition is very real for him. But he still may not anticipate how much this change will affect his life as well.
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This is usually my first recommendation for major transitions with toddlers. Hearing stories really gives them a context to what is going to happen and what that can look like.
My New Baby by Rachel Fuller is perfect for younger toddlers. Bright pictures and observations that big brother makes about the new baby. Good starting point for extended conversations with your little one.
My New Baby is part of a 3 book series by Rachel Fuller that is so worth it! Includes Waiting for Baby, My New Baby and You and Me!. I didn’t see many books out there that explained to toddlers what was going on with mom while she was pregnant- so it was nice to have this book as a point of discussion for preparing for baby.
I Am a Big Sister or I Am a Big Brother by Caroline Jayne Church is another great addition to prepare your toddler for a new baby. It takes on the general message that bigger siblings can take an active role in helping with the new baby as well as what they can expect when the baby arrives.
Get Them Involved
Little things that can help get your kids excited and involved in your pregnancy. I am currently pregnant with my third son and my four year old Miles randomly told me the other day that he wants to help paint the nursery. He thinks their should be a big sun and sky on one of the walls. It was not something I had considered at all, but actually doesn’t seem like a bad idea and would be a fun project for us to all do together. Not sure who’s actually going to draw this sun…but I’ll let you know how that goes. 🙂 They can also go shopping with you to pick out clothes or nursery items.
Going to doctor appointments, feeling your belly move, hearing the heartbeat if they can are all things that bring them along on the journey. They get a better understanding of what is happening. *Take busy bags or toys to your doctor appointments- there is still a lot of waiting and conversations you need to have that your toddler may not be the most patient with.
Share fun stories about you and your siblings and how important that relationship will be in their life. They can have a best friend in their sibling, someone that will always be there for them and have a bond that is unlike any friendships they will form.
Decide as a family how they will meet the baby. Will someone bring them to a hospital? Will they bring a gift for their younger sibling? Will you have a gift for the older siblings? Just like the moment you meet your baby is special, theirs can be too.
Depending on age and personality, they may respond to enthusiastically…or not. When I had my second son Ellis, Miles was 22 months. He kind of interacted with Ellis for a minute, but then he was ready to go do his own thing again. At the same time, he didn’t react much to the addition of Ellis at home either. He just had a very mild tempered personality- their wasn’t that excitement but their also weren’t many tantrums or bad feelings about the change.
Plan for Alone Time
Taking care of a newborn is no joke. As you probably already know. But it’s important for toddlers to get some alone time with you as well. It can be as simple as 10-30 minutes a day. Maybe during one of the newborn’s naps. I know you will be exhausted also. Trust me. Pick a time of day that would be best for you and your toddler to have time to connect.
Have other family members do special outings or experiences with your toddler. Especially during that first week or two when you are healing and also trying to find a rhythm between yourself and the new baby.
Involve in Daily Activities
This has helped me tremendously with Ellis, even before he becomes a big brother. He feels important when he can bring me the lotion after bath or help putting the clothes in the washer. All the tasks we see as mundane, they see as being involved and important. Could be getting a new diaper for the baby, asking them what song to sing or play, what baby toy they think the baby wants to play with now or giving you your water bottle while nursing.
Prepare with a Baby Doll
Having a baby doll helps you explain how we treat babies. That we need to be gentle with them and take care of them. And if they are feeling jealous of you holding the new baby, you can have your older child get their baby to take care of with you.
Keep daily life consistent for your toddler- as much as possible. Their routines are important and will make them feel more secure with the change. I’d avoid any other major changes or transitions to occur simultaneously. Every ounce of comfort and reliability will help ease your older child into the new normal that is life with a baby sibling.
Be Ready to Change your Strategy
There are some things you will anticipate and some that you won’t. Your child’s personality or how you thought they would react may be completely different. What else could they need? Maybe it’s just time and they will eventually adjust.
The best thing you can do is love them. They won’t doubt their position in your life with lots of love. It can be a touch transition to receive less attention and see their parents giving a baby love that was all their own before. Add extra cuddles before bedtime and random hugs throughout the day.
It’s an exciting time and your family will fall into a new rhythm that will make you forget how it ever was any different.
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