Preparing your toddler for a new sibling
Once the excitement (or shock) sinks in of having another baby when you already have a toddler at home, you may be left with many questions.
Will my toddler still love me? Will they get jealous? How do I prepare them for my growing bump and the baby’s arrival? These are all very valid questions!
Many families go into ‘over preparing’ their little one. Telling them they’ll be an amazing big brother or sister (I’m guilty!) or going to the book store and buying every big brother book they can find (guilty again!!).
Chris Minogue has over 35 years experience working with families and has developed a practical approach to nearly every parenting question you might have – including this very topic.
We asked Chris to share with us her top 5 tips for how best to prepare your toddler for the new arrival – or ‘intruder’ as it may just turn out.
1. Don’t ‘over talk’ about the baby
They might know something is happening if they have been coming to your appointments or are noticing your growing baby bump – but it doesn’t mean you need to keep talking about ‘the baby’!
For your toddler, this is often like saying Santa is coming in December when it’s only March. The more over the top you are about the baby’s arrival, won’t necessarily make them more accepting – having them come peacefully into the family will.
2. Preparing for the hospital
In the weeks leading up to your baby’s arrival, your toddler will start noticing the car seat, bassinet or nursery being set up. These are all visual cues that something is about to change and the perfect time to prepare your little one using simple language and age appropriate explanations.
Around 2 weeks beforehand, why not take them for a drive past the hospital and simply explain ‘Mummy is going to come here for a few nights to get the baby.’ They may ask who is going to look after them? Explain in simple language and keep it practical. It is also important that their daily activities/routine stays as consistent and ‘normal’ as possible during this time.
3. The Hospital Visit
Some people like to shower the toddler with gifts – but I often wonder what that tells the toddler? It’s the baby’s birthday and I get all the gifts? What happens when visitors bring gifts for the baby and not the toddler – a meltdown? Just introduce the baby as part of the family from the very beginning – it’s the baby’s birthday!
4. Feeding with a toddler around
If you need to feed the baby when the toddler visits, suggest they sit beside you! You need to explain that mummy needs to feed the baby and not whip the baby off and put it down. This will work against you when you get home, as the toddler will expect you to put the baby down every time they demand your attention.
Simply explain that ‘Mummy is just feeding the baby and will give you a cuddle when I am finished.’
5. Exploring the baby
Let your toddler explore the baby by touching the hands and feet – but be sure to protect the face. By doing this, they wont be curious about the baby and you will avoid having to say ‘No. Stop. Don’t’ – which may trigger a reaction or even tantrum. The word ‘Gentle’ will be enough.
You can then place the baby down in the bed, so that your toddler knows that the baby is still around and not being whisked away. They will start to understand (and accept) that this baby is now part of the family.
Remember, this is a big change for all and your little one’s wont necessarily be best friends straight away! The honeymoon period generally lasts for around 6 weeks, where the toddler will shower the baby with love. They will then start to realise that this house guest isn’t going away and you may start to see periods of aggression or acting out. Deal with this as typical toddler behaviour and not as a result of the baby.
Enjoy this special time and be sure to capture plenty of memories, because you’ll look back in no time and wonder where on earth the time went!