How to prepare a toddler for a new baby
I’ve heard some horror stories about toddlers and new siblings. I’ve heard a story about this girl that even though she was potty trained she started to poop her pants. Every day. For weeks. I heard a story about this toddler that asked her mom if the baby can be taken back to the hospital. And another one about a little girl asking if the baby could go back to mummy’s belly. So many people have been telling me about the jealousy and tantrums that are a part of becoming a sister/brother.
So I was scared. I didn’t want to break my little girl’s heart, I wished for her to love her sister and to feel equally loved by me. And now that our baby Rose is four months old, I really don’t see any jealousy in the soul of my two and a half Lili. She really loves her sister, she tells her friends with proudness that it’s her baby. She tells anyone who is willing (or not) to listen what’s her sister’s name, and what she likes (milk). Honestly that poor baby is literally licked by her sister! I really need to stop her from cuddling the baby all the time.
And Lili never told me she wanted the baby to go back to the hospital, in my belly or anywhere. I’m pretty sure she understands that the baby’s place is home with us. And of course, she does have tantrums, she’s a toddler right? But she’s not jealous and she loves her new sibling :). So here are the things I’ve been doing to prepare her for a new baby :
1. Explain the pregnancy.
No, no need to go into details of how it started ;). But explaining that babies come from love of adults, that they slowly grow in mommies belly, that they can hear you, and smile at you even when they are still inside of mommy is ok. Don’t forget to explain that once the baby leaves the belly, there is no way back!
2. Talk about the differences between a big girl/boy and a baby.
Babies can’t eat chocolate, ice cream, bananas or whatever your toddler loves. Babies can have only milk. Can babies watch cartoons? No, but a big girl/boy can. Can a baby play with toys, go to the park or have friends over? No. As you see it’s all about making them understand that it’s cool being a big girl/boy and really boring being a baby ;).
3. Talk about changes.
If you plan to sleep in the same room with your newborn, explain it to your child, and repeat it often. Explain that when the baby comes mommy will do certain things, but won’t be doing others. Sometimes while feeding the baby she won’t be able to play. Maybe it will be daddy who will be picking you up from daycare or making breakfast. Your toddler might be small, but if you repeat often what changes are going to happen it will be less surprised and shocked by the change.
4.Help them visualize what’s happening.
It’s great for a toddler to imagine a baby growing in mommy’s belly. There are many books that illustrate pregnancy to children. My daughter had one and she loved it.
5. Involve them in baby preparation.
Let them help you choose whatever you need to buy. They can choose the colours.
They can help you set the nursery, or just the crib by choosing a stuffy that will be waiting for the baby.
6 Let them feel important and excited.
By involving toddlers in the baby preparation, by explaining the difference between the big girl / boy and a baby, they will start to feel important and excited.
7 Make them feel involved.
Before the baby comes plan with your toddler what you’ll be doing together with the baby. Can they help with bath time ( pass the towel ) or diaper change ( pass the diaper) ? Can they sing to the baby and hand the pacifier ? We planned all that she would be doing with the baby, and she was really exited to take part in all of the above!
8. Don’t lie that the newborn sister/brother will play with them !
Not at the beginning, that’s for sure. It’s better to tell them there will be a lot of crying. And explain that by crying, babies communicate because they can’t talk .
9. Show them other pregnant woman and other tiny babies.
If there aren’t any around you, stalk people at the grocery or at the shopping mall ;).
10. Show your toddler pictures of you being pregnant with them.
Tell them stories about them when they where babies. Tell them that they cried, they drank only milk, and they liked gentle signing.
I wander what are your tips for preparing toddlers for new siblings ?
And here are some books that I recommend, to help you prepare your child for a new sibling
(just click on the image to see more):
Such a great post Joanna! We did almost all of these things with our boys before our Little Lady was born. She is now nearly 5 months, and while we had much of the what I would call “normal” adjustments (more acting out, a little bit of regression in accomplishments), the overall transition was fairly seamless. It’s amazing what toddlers can comprehend if you take the time to explain and prepare them for a big change. 🙂 Thanks for writing this!
Thank you so much for your kind words ! I agree with you, I’m always nicely surprised when it turns out that if you explain in simple words, they actually do unerstand and listen 🙂
Hi Joanna, what a coincident! I posted a similar post right after yours on the Mommy Bloggers Share group on FB. Luckily the tips are different though 🙂
Dear Joanna! I think I will look for this post in some years when I decide to be pregnant again! It’s very useful! Congratulations!!!
Mine are 18 months apart and I tried many of these. With a toddler a little older, they are perfect!
Mine are going to be 18 months apart. Is there anything you did that helped prep them? I am planning on doing it more during the last three months.
Hi Monique ! I think that it would be great if you’d read some stories about big sis/ brother and expecting new baby, like one of these that I propose. Also try showing to your toddler other pregnant women and other babies. And last one: make sure that your partner can put your toddler to sleep/ take care for a longer period of time. Cake care ,
Singing…rather than signing.
Pretty sure babies don’t care much for ‘gentle signing’.
Give the older child some undivided attention sometimes. An ice cream date, or a movie night, or a walk with Mommy goes a long way.
Love all your tips! I blogged about this topic a few months ago as we were preparing for the new baby! I think that talking about the new baby and helping your kid visualize what was happening was so important.
Great tips! It’s so important that the older one feels included. No one likes to feel left out. Thanks for sharing.
how far apart are your children>?
My girls are 2 years and 2 months apart 🙂
I definitely agree with these, but as a preschool teacher of 1 & 2 year olds, I’ve seen a lot of change in some of my kids whose mothers are expecting or have already delivered. One little boy, for instance, heard so many questions and talk about his soon to be brother that he didn’t want to talk/hear about it. He lost interest. And now mommy is preoccupied with taking care of the baby, he is acting out in return. It’s sad to me. I think all of these things are good before the baby comes, but you have to make sure you make spending time with your other children a priority. One on one time can make a huge difference! Thanks for sharing!
Great tips! I’m so glad I ran across your post on Pinterest 🙂 Our second baby is due in a couple months and there will be 2 years and 3 months in between our two kids. Our son understands that mommy has a baby in her belly… but he also thinks that he has one in HIS belly! I’m still working on creative ways to explain the whole baby thing to him.
Amy @ http://www.livinglifetruth.com/
Haha! My little girl thinks she has a baby in her belly, too. And daddy. I’m trying to tell her only mommy has a baby in her belly 🙂
Thank you Amy:) your kids will have exactly the same age difference as mine! And you’ll see, they’ll play togheter all the time pretty soon 🙂
Great tips! Our first two are 22 months apart, we did a lot if these same things and the transition when really well. Now we’re pregnant with our third (22 months apart again haha) and I feel like our first is very ready and excited but our soon-to-be middle child doesn’t seem as on board. He’s started having seperation anxiety and sleep regressions but at the same time doesn’t seem to really understand that a baby is coming… We’re only 24weeks so we have a while to go but I hope I can smooth things over before the baby comes!
Maybe Your middle child is just in a phase when he’s learning a lot of new abilities and some of the already learned ( like sleeping alone) are being sacrificed.. Sometimes when there is a lot happening in a life of a toddler they regress for a while to catch up later. So maybe it’s not even connected to your baby #3 ( congratulations!) and you still have a lot of time to prepare him 🙂 good luck !
Such a great read, and thank you for the book suggestions. I was just wondering at what point in your pregnancy did you tell your daughter that you were going to have a baby? Is it best to wait until you start showing so that it’s easier to comprehend?
Thank you Carly! I told her ( at the time she was 18 months old) right away. But at the same time my sister in law was pregnant, so she already seen a big belly and was told that there was a baby in it. I don’t think thought that she really understood right away. It was more of a proses I guess :). Good luck with your new baby and a toddler !