I’m officially a mom of three – a newborn, a toddler and a tween – this post on how to prepare your toddler for the new baby has been sitting in my drafts for a while, as I have been building up to introduce a new member into our household.
The transition has been both easy and difficult, but it is also too early to say for sure. Even with that said, I do like preparing as much as possible, wherever I can. When my middle child was born, my eldest was already 7 years old and practically begging for a sibling, so he was more understanding and open to having a new baby in the house; but the smaller the child is, the more challenging it may be.
Here are my five ways to prepare your toddler for the new baby:
1. Speak to them about the baby, from as early as possible
My daughter was excited by the idea of me having a baby, but I don’t think she understood the extent in which it would change her life. During my pregnancy, I regularly spoke to her about the baby. I mentioned things like:
– I’ll be away from home for a few days in hospital with the baby.
– The baby will be really small and won’t be able to play.
– The baby will get his food from mommies boobies, so I will have to hold the baby a lot.
– We love you and your brother the same as we love the baby.
There were times I could see that she clearly couldn’t understand, but I found that preparing her in advance made a big difference.
Get them involved before baby arrives – ask them to help you choose baby clothes, and get the nursery ready.
2. Introduce new or major changes before the baby arrives
It may feel like it makes sense to put your toddler in nursery school when your new baby comes or get a new nanny during this time, but too many big, simultaneous changes may be traumatic and overwhelming for them. If you want to move your toddler to their own room or take them to play school, do it a few weeks or months before baby comes, or a few weeks or months after baby has arrived. You don’t want them to think they are being ‘punished’ cos there’s a new baby in the house.
3. Move your toddler to their own room
If you have been co-sleeping, move your toddler into their own room a few months before baby arrives – if you can help it. It will make your life easier down the line and eliminate disruptions in your toddlers sleep when you are up several times a night to feed baby. We did this when I was three months pregnant, you can read about it here.
4. Spend time with your toddler while your newborn naps
Thankfully, all new babies do is sleep and eat in the early days, so you should have time to alternate between naps and playing with your toddler. If you have help at home and once you have healed, you can have solo dates outside of the home once a week or every second week – something quick and simple like going to buy a milkshake, a walk or my daughters favourite thing – getting her nails painted.
5. Pay attention and listen to your toddler
Your toddler may not say certain things to you, but they may act up. For example – not wanting to socialize or do activities they previously loved, wetting their pants or outbursts like “you love the baby more than me”.
On one of our first days back home with baby, I felt sooo guilty when I briefly raised my voice at my toddler when I was under pressure and juggling lots of things at the same time. There will be events like this in future, but for now, I’m trying to be conscious of my words and actions. A new baby is a big deal in your toddlers life and they will want to get involved and see that you ‘still love them’. Make sure you don’t miss important ques and things they say. Give them more doses of love, attention, assurance and empathy during this time.
6. Oh and last one, don’t forget to apply or tweak the same guidelines for your older children.
I’ve committed to weekly walks to the library with my son and his face lit up when I suggested it. Don’t assume that they will understand, just because they are older. Change affects all of us, in different ways.
How have you prepared your toddler for your new baby? Would love to get more tips.
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Modern Zulu Mom