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Did we hear your new family’s growing? First off, congratulations, mama! You’ve gone through the pregnancy thing before with your firstborn, but there’s at least one big difference this round: you have another little one to care for as well.
While welcoming a new baby to your family is always an exciting time, it can also be tough (for everyone) when you have a toddler at home too. It means meeting the needs of two small humans, rather than just focusing on caring for the newborn. This can be a stressful and challenging time! However, introducing your toddler to your new baby and helping them learn to love and care for their sibling can also be a beautiful experience (tantrums and all).
If you’re feeling nervous, that’s normal! But the fact that you’re reading this post tells us you’re gonna do a great job — and we’ll give you the tools to make it happen.
Ready? Let’s jump in.
If your newest bundle of joy is on the way, now is a great time to start thinking about how to get your toddler ready for that arrival.
If you tell your two year old, “sweetie, I’m pregnant. My due date is October 4th,” and leave it at that, you probably won’t get the results you’re looking for.
When you’re telling your toddler about this exciting new change, try to use words that they already know and help them understand what it’ll mean for them.
You can try phrases like “growing a baby in your belly,” or “you’re going to have a new baby sister or brother.” Because toddlers don’t fully grasp the idea of time measurement, try to pair your due date to a specific time of year or an event they already know. Think holidays, special loved-one’s birthdays, or something you do during that season.
While your toddler may not understand every single word, they will pick up on the way you say it. With this in mind, try to frame the news as a positive thing and something to be excited about — “you’re going to have a new baby brother to play with!”
Of course, the news is exciting, but it can also be nerve-wracking to have this conversation. With this in mind, do your best to let the excitement outweigh those nerves.
This whole new concept of another little human (smaller than them!) in the family is likely going to be a lot for your toddler to wrap their brains around. Help them get a better idea of what this newborn will look like by cracking open the ol’ photo book (or that baby file you have on your computer) and show pictures of what they looked like as a newborn. Wrinkles, chubby fingers, over-sized head, and all.
Tell them stories about when they were that age and what it was like. Not only will this give them a better idea of what to expect, it can also add a personal touch (“they’ll look like you!”) and reinforce how much you love them.
Letting your toddler participate in some of the gifts, decisions, and fun that come with preparing for a new baby can help them feel more included in these big changes. While it may feel weird at first, getting your toddler’s advice and input on things like clothes, toys, or decorations will give them an opportunity to feel like they’re an important part of the family and that they can have a positive impact on their new sibling’s life.
Plus, with this new baby, you’re bound to get gifts from friends and family for the baby. This can be hard on your toddler, seeing so many shiny presents that aren’t for them. In these gift situations, it’s easy for your firstborn to feel left out. By letting them pick out a gift for their new sibling, it brings them into the fun and excitement of gift giving and welcoming this new baby to the family.
As they say — a picture is worth a thousand words and in this case, those words that might be easier for your toddler to understand! The visual and physical aspect of having a picture book to read to your little one about a new sibling can sometimes help explain the situation in a way they relate to.
Some books to look into are We Have a Baby by Cathryn Falwell, A New Sibling for You (This one you can personalize to make it about your toddler), and Noelle The Best Big Sister by Mikaela Wilson and Pardeep Mehra.
At the end of the day with all this preparation, it’s hard to know exactly how your toddler will react to the idea of having a new brother or sister. In fact, they’ll probably have a lot of changing emotions about it at different times!
Some are excited about the idea of a playmate. Others might get angry, sad, confused, or no reaction at all. And some may shift through all of these and more. Remember that all these reactions are normal. Think about the last time you found out your entire life was turning upside down — were you 150% just happy and excited?
However they react, be ready to provide lots of cuddles and reassurance that you love them unconditionally no matter what.
So the big day has happened (or is happening soon) — congratulations! Now comes the sibling introduction.
Often, the whole birthing process is anything but calm. From getting to the hospital or birthing center to that final push, giving birth is a sensory overload to say the least. And for a toddler who probably won’t fully understand what’s happening, it can be a lot!
When you’re ready to make the introduction, make sure the environment is as calm and comforting as possible. This way, the focus can be on your toddler rather than anything else.
With all the baby gifts, flowers, balloons, and attention, it can be easy to trigger that toddler jealousy and create a feeling of competition between baby and tot. Try to anticipate this and bite it in the butt with matching gifts for the siblings to create a bond instead.
A newborn may not be particularly exciting to a toddler — the little bundle can’t talk, play, or do much of anything entertaining. But matching stuffed animals and a matching set of “Best Big Sister” and “Best Baby Brother” onesies or shirts? Now THAT’S exciting!
Keep in mind, this may be the longest time your toddler’s been away from you. When they come to see you, try to ensure your baby is either in someone else’s arms or in the hospital crib so you can welcome your firstborn with open arms and lots of cuddles. You don’t want to create the impression that this newborn is going to get in the way of you and your toddler’s relationship.
Once you’ve given lots of lovies and checked in with your tot, then bring up the new baby and introduce the siblings.
Some toddlers will be all about that new baby and meeting their sibling. Others will be jealous, scared, or angry. While this is a big moment for you, remember it’s also a monumental moment for your little one (and they have a lot less practice handling big moments).
Regardless of reaction, try to be patient with your tot and make sure they know it’s okay to feel however they feel.
Once you and your baby are home and it feels like full-time diaper changes and feeding, try to make space to spend quality time just with your toddler without the newborn. With your newborn needing so much attention, it can be easy to let toddler’s needs slip to the wayside, so creating space to bring back that one-on-one “mommy and me” time with your tot can help ensure they still feel loved and cared for.
The transition from single-child to older sibling is a hard one! Your toddler might be thinking, “This new baby was supposed to be fun, but right now? All it’s doing is disturbing my sleep, sleeping, crying, and taking up all the attention.”
Encourage safe ways your toddler can interact with their newborn sibling and praise big sibling behavior as much as possible.
We wish we could give you an exact answer like “after 2 months, you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel,” but really, it completely depends on your toddler’s temperament, what the living situation is like, and how old your firstborn is.
As hard as it is, try your best to be patient with your toddler, keep the routine as regular as possible, and avoid yelling or lots of “no’s” and “don’t’s.”
Short answer: no.
BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t teach your 2-year-old to start to understand a new baby. From talking about when your toddler was that age to explaining the newborn’s different needs, there are many ways to help a 2 year old understand.
Alright, new Mama, so the toddler/newborn relationship’s been fun, but this new adventure with Thing 1 and Thing 2 has only just begun. (Yes, we rhyme now.)
The good news? It can be a really beautiful adventure! With plenty of love and attention from you and a little bit of luck, your two babies can grow up to be each other’s biggest fans and supporters.
How can we help you?