Toddler Talk: Helping Your Little One Cope With A New Baby
Bringing a new baby into the home is a wonderful time for families - but if you already have a toddler at home, you might be a little nervous, too. Read on to find out what to expect when you’re expecting your second child, and how to make the transition from one to two kids a little easier!
Are you expecting your second baby? Are you wondering what to expect when you’re expecting again? How will your first child cope with bringing a second little baby into the house?
Looking forward to the arrival of a second baby can be a precious time for you and you and your family - but if you’ve got a toddler at home, you might worry about how he’ll react to his new sibling. Toddlers, by nature, demand a lot of attention and tend to get irrationally upset when they don’t get their way or the attention has shifted away from them. Whether your child has just turned one or is approaching age 3, her world is about to change drastically with the arrival of a new baby - but there are things parents can do to alleviate some of the stress for older siblings.
Here are seven ways all parents can prepare a toddler for the arrival of a new baby:1. Expose your toddler to other babies.
It might be very hard for your toddler to know how to act around a new baby if he’s never been around a new baby himself. One of the best things parents can do is give their toddlers lots of exposure to newborns and infants. Whether it’s a cousin, a friend from playgroup, or someone at daycare, make sure your toddler becomes familiar with babies in general.
If you’re unable to do this, you can also prepare your child through pictures, books, and videos of newborns. Your toddler might be surprised to know babies will have cord stump when they come home from the hospital, or that they’ll wake several times at night, or that newborns need to be held in a certain way because they lack muscle strength. Knowing a little bit about what to expect can help your toddler feel more comfortable when his little brother or little sister comes home!2. Model how to interact with infants.
Toddlers often aren’t aware of their own strength, meaning they engage in lots of rough physical play. They also haven’t developed a mature sense of empathy, so it’s difficult for them to understand things from another person’s perspective. Parents should model how to be gentle around a new baby. If your toddler reacts well to the new sibling, he’ll probably be anxious to hold the baby - but he must be taught how to do so safely and gently. You can practice using phrases such as “gentle hands” while you are pregnant to teach your child the difference between soft, gentle movements and rough, over-eager movements. If your toddler isn’t ready to hold the new baby, you can encourage her to tickle the baby’s feet, stroke the baby’s hair, or rub the baby’s belly. With enough encouragement and leading by example, your toddler will be an experienced big sibling in no time!3. Prepare your toddler for lots of crying.
Depending on your toddler’s age, he might have quite an extensive vocabulary and can communicate his needs with ease. However, babies communicate only through crying in the first weeks or months. Prepare your toddler for the increased noise level, and reassure him that the baby’s crying doesn’t necessarily mean the newborn is in pain, but it could be that the baby is hungry, overtired, gassy, overstimulated, or needs a diaper change. Encourage your toddler to help you guess what the baby needs, and you’ll both become accustomed to interpreting the newborn’s different cries.4. Teach your toddler patience.
Toddlers aren’t the most patient people on the planet, but they can be taught to be more relaxed when it comes to getting their needs met. In the months before the new baby’s arrival, teach your toddler patience by waiting a little longer to respond to his requests. Always acknowledge that you understand the request, of course, but don’t stop eating your dinner mid-bite to rush and get him another dinner roll the minute he requests it.
Your child will need to exercise a lot of patience when a newborn arrives, because newborns are so dependent on their moms and dads, around the clock. You might be in the middle of a breastfeeding session when your toddler demands a snack, or you might be changing the baby’s diaper when your toddler asks for a bath, or you might be washing the baby’s bottles when your toddler wants to play outside. Your toddler might feel a little defeated when he sees how responsive parents are to the newborn baby and might develop feelings of jealousy or abandonment. Always reassure your older child that you love her just the same as the new baby and that someday the baby will grow older and will be less needy.5. Give your toddler ways to help.
One simple strategy for making sure your older child doesn’t feel left out or abandoned when the new baby arrives is to give your toddler very important helper jobs to do. Toddlers can learn to grab clean diapers, throw dirty diapers away, rinse bottles, search for lost pacifiers, help find a blanket for the baby, wipe the baby’s face with a cloth, and more! As your baby gets older, your toddler can help interact with her during tummy time or help push the stroller during outdoor walks. Always acknowledge and praise your toddler anytime he helps you with the new baby! The extra privileges and responsibilities will help your toddler fuel his budding sense of independence and pride.6. Make the baby’s new arrival a big celebration for everyone.
Although everyone’s focus will be on the new baby, be careful not to shift all your energy into caring for the newborn. Overemphasize how wonderful it will be when the new baby comes, and enable your toddler to be a part of the celebration. Let her open gifts with you during your baby shower, let her pick out a special balloon from the hospital gift shop when the baby is born, and consider buying a special gift for your toddler to be “from the baby.”7. Be attentive to your toddler’s feelings.
Parents should be encouraged to be mindful of their toddler’s feelings once the new baby comes home from the hospital. This can be a challenging time for everyone in the family, including toddlers. Don’t let the sleepless nights interfere with your ability to notice behavioral or mood changes in your older child. Although toddlers often lack the vocabulary to express their feelings, you can still keep an open line of communication about how your little one feels about the new baby. Continuously check in with your toddler about happy parts of the day and sad or angry parts of the day. Try your best not to act angry when your child exhibits tinges of jealousy and “acts out” suddenly. Some toddlers will even regress in skills such as talking, sleeping, or potty training when a new baby arrives. Take each day as a clean slate, and celebrate your minor victories without obsessing over your failures. Remember, at the end of the day, children need to be loved, and everything else is just extra!
Following these steps can help prepare your toddler for the arrival of a new sibling and set your family up for success when the new baby is born! From practicing gentle hands to reading books about newborns to creating special jobs for the older child, adding a new sibling to your household can be a beautiful, exciting time for everyone.
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Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.