How do we prepare our toddler for a new baby?
Real Mom Problem
“I only have 4 more months until this baby is here. I'd like to start preparing my son for this transition. I don't want him to resent the baby.”
- 1. Begin preparing your toddler early on for baby's arrival
- 2. Involve your toddler in your pregnancy by bringing them to dr. visits and letting them ready the baby gear
- 3. Never blame the baby if you're not able to fulfill your toddler's request
- 4. Continue to include your toddler after the baby arrives by letting them help with changes and feedings
- 5. Try not to disrupt your toddler's routine too much; instead, involve the baby in your activities
- 6. Make sure your toddler gets one-on-one time and is made to feel special
- 7. Don't worry if your toddler shows some regression after baby's arrival
Real Mom Solutions
Toddlers are the center of their own universe. The thought of shaking that up with a new baby can be scary. But the moms of CafeMom say "don't worry!" Try these tips to make the transition smooth for everyone!
Educate Them Early
I have three girls all 2 years apart. Each time the older sister(s) adjusted really well. I read a lot of books about babies to them and taught them to be gentle and ask to hold/touch baby. At the hospital, I gave each big sis a gift (Color Wonders, new book) and bought Sister shirts. The main thing I work to do is make sure I give each girl one-on-one time during the day so they don't feel pushed aside by baby.
My sons were 16 months apart. I knew my older one couldn't understand at all but we did get him a doll a few months before the baby was to be born so that we could tell him how to be gentle with a baby. Then when the baby was born we would encourage him to feed his doll when I was feeding the baby and such.
Just explain that you have a little baby in your belly and that she is going to be a big sister. Yes she will be jealous but you need to re-assure her that she is just as special as the new baby. I sent my sons to a big brother/big sister class that the hospital offered. I also had them come to some of my appointments to see the baby. I got them t-shirts and had them help with the baby shower. A lot of my friends got small gifts for my boys at the shower to help too. They were things they could play or read to the baby to bring them closer to the baby.
Make sure to never blame the baby for the reason for something. Such as "we can't do something because the baby is sleeping." Find another reason, any reason that you can't do something. If it's something like feeding the baby, let him know you have to feed the baby or the baby will just cry a lot, then it won't be fun for anyone. I always tell my son how proud I am for having him help his brother. Also, you may want to break out the baby stuff at least a month in advance to see if your son is going to want to play with it and claim it as theirs. I was surprised at how upset my son was that his brother would be using his old car seat, or playing with all the old baby toys. Taking the stuff out early and letting him have free reign on it took away the cool "new" factor. I also let him use the baby gear if he isn't too heavy. He can't get in the swing, but he can get in the jumperoo, high chair, walker, etc. I know he's not going to harm it, and it's not worth the argument.
Mine are 22 months apart and I got my son a doll and just talked about the baby all the time and brought him around other babies. He was a bit jealous at first but after 3-4 days things were back to normal.
Make Room for Mommy Time
My son had moments when he was really bratty to his sister when she first came home. We just made sure to give him one on one time and it seemed to help. Even to this day he still has his moments.
The key is to make sure that he feels involved and that you need his help. If he is getting to be a big boy and help and is getting praised for it, having a little sister can be fun instead of frustrating. Also, make sure that you give him special time alone with YOU. He is going to want it from YOU not anyone else. This is because you will be the one giving the most attention to the baby in the beginning. If the older one feels involved, he won't be upset there is someone else getting attention.
Involve Your Toddler in the Process
My kids are 16 months apart. I tried to involve my son as much as possible throughout my pregnancy. I read him books about new babies and about being the big brother. We took him to the ultra-sound and to the dr. appointments so he could hear the babies heart beat. He did just fine when his baby sister arrived. He tried to help out too, by getting her diapers. He would kiss her and try to give her hugs.
My daughter was two-and-a-half when my twins were born. She was really excited from the start. We included her in everything. She helped pick out clothes and toys for them when I was pregnant. She got "big sister" gifts at the baby shower, and a special shirt and pin to wear for the shower and the birth. We made a big deal about her being the oldest, and the only girl. We just did everything we could think of to make sure she felt extra special. She has adored them from day 1. I have never ever had a problem with jealousy. She thinks/acts like a second mommy to them. We continued it after they were born. She goes and gets diapers for me, picks out their outfits for the day -- she is just wonderful with them. Now they are 10 months old, and she is thrilled that they can finally play with her. She is genuinely proud of them when they learn something new. She claps for them and tells them "good boy". Her relationship with them is the sweetest thing I have ever seen. I am so proud to be their mommy
It May Take Time -- And That's Ok!
Some jealousy is normal, and you probably can't avoid it 100%. We talked a lot about babies and what to expect when the baby comes (at first it won't do much besides sleep, poop, eat and cry...) so he's not disappointed when the baby comes home as a baby, not as a playmate.
Don't rush him into bonding. My oldest didn't even want to look at his sister at the hospital but once we were home for a few days, he was okay. It's a change and he's got to accept her in his own time.
Show Them They're Special
I got an "I'm a Big Sister" book for her. They are 19 months apart. I would read that book nightly to her so she started to understand what being a big sister meant. And then we'd talk about what's in mommy's tummy. I thought we were in trouble when I would hold one of her dolls like a baby and she would yank it out of my hand and climb in my lap! But when we brought the baby home she ran up to the car seat looked in and said ever so cutely "sister.". Granted that night she jumped out of her crib for attention. She also would climb in the infant seat, or the baby swing but we'd say, "That's a baby swing you're mommy's big girl, come help me do this over here I need a big girl's help" and she'd instantly feel important. It was just me for the first 7 months. With my husband deployed in Iraq and me a new mom of two I had to now divide my attention totally in half and that was hard. So I'd let her do special things like set up the stepstool in the kitchen when making dinner and let her wash dishes - I worried about the mess later, and I'd always make a point to say only big girls are able to do this, not babies. She felt special.
I was having a repeat c-section so I knew that I would be in the hospital for at least 48 hours. So I bought gifts from the baby. I wrapped them before I went into the hospital and every day he came to the hospital to see me and his new baby brother, his baby brother would have a present waiting for him. I also didn't upset our routines at all. I still would crawl into bed with him every night and read him a story and we would still play during the day. I just kind of worked baby brother into his routine. I would also ask him every night "How are you feeling?" and he would talk to me about how he was feeling and what he liked and didn't like about his new brother or what mommy was doing. If it was something reasonable I would talk to him about it and we would try to come up with some sort of a solution.