How to Prepare Your Toddler (or older sib) for a New Baby

toddler and baby sibling

Preparing a toddler for a new baby is sometimes an after thought for busy parents. Or sometimes, it’s all they can think about. Many parents of only children ask themselves, “How will I ever love another baby as much as I love the one I have?” That worry quickly fades as they bond with their new bundle. Understandably though, they’re concerned for the emotional well-being of their toddler or older child.

Your toddler may feel displaced, ignored or even unloved.

So, what’s a not-so-new parent to do? There are concrete steps you can take to ease your baby’s homecoming. Whether your child is super excited, dreading the arrival of their sibling, or hasn’t shown a preference for either, these tips can help prepare your toddler and pave the way for a smoother transition.

toddler with dad and pregnant mom

BEFORE your baby arrives:

  • Read age appropriate books addressing what life will be like with a new baby, what it’s like to be a big brother or sister, how things may change. Be honest in an age appropriate way.
  • Go through old baby books/photo albums of when your child was a baby and reminisce.
  • Involve your child in some of the baby preparations, like helping to stock the diapers or organizing the baby’s book shelf or sock drawer.
  • Watch and listen to however your child expresses their feelings.

AFTER your baby arrives:

Maintain some kind of routine to help prepare your toddler.

  • Depending on the age of your child, give them a little gift “from the baby.”
  • When meeting for the first time, have the baby in a bassinet so your arms are free to scoop up and cuddle your child.
  • Follow your child’s lead. If they want to hold the baby, let them (with assistance). If they don’t, that’s ok too.
  • Much of the early weeks and months will be spent nursing or feeding your baby. If your child feels excluded or wants your attention during these feeding sessions, prepare a special basket, to be taken out only during these times. Fill it with items that will keep your child occupied and excited. Prepare your toddler for these feeding sessions by helping create a happy association. These may be stickers, a new toy, favorite snack, books, a baby doll, a pad of paper and crayons, etc… Stock up on little things to add as interest wanes. Your child may end up looking forward to these feeding sessions!
  • Let your child help make decisions about the baby. For example, ask, “Which outfit should our baby wear today? The red or yellow?” Or, “Can you choose a bedtime story for all of us?”
  • Enlist your child to assist with the baby. They can “help” diaper or fill the baby bathtub. They can sing or “read” to them. Praise them for their help.
  • Try to maintain some kind of routine so that your child has some alone time with you every day.
  • When possible, use inclusive language. For example, say “Our baby” instead of “the baby” or “my baby.”
  • Watch for regressive behavior. A little one doesn’t yet have the language to share difficult feelings.
  • Watch and listen to however your child expresses their feelings.
toddler rubbing noses with baby sibling

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