Momming

How to Help Your Toddler Adjust to a New Baby

Having a second baby is an exciting time for a family. However, you may be worried about how your first child will adjust, especially if they are a toddler. This post will give you tips and hacks on how to help your toddler adjust to a new baby both before the baby comes and after it arrives. Read on to learn how to make the transition to a two-kid family easier for all involved!

How to Help Your Toddler Adjust to a New Baby

Helping Your Toddler Adjust to a New Baby

A new baby brings a big change to any family. You’re thrilled about your new baby’s arrival, but also worried about how your toddler will react to your new bundle of joy.

If you’re like me, you probably are feeling guilty that you’ll be upending your little one’s whole world. I managed to simultaneously feel guilty about having a new baby AND feeling guilty that I didn’t get pregnant earlier in order to give my daughter a sibling closer to her age. Mom guilt is real!

You’re almost guaranteed to have a transition period with a few bumps in the road, and that’s ok. But there are many things you can do to help your toddler adjust to a new baby and make the transition a little easier on everyone in the family.

Read on to learn what to do before AND after your new baby comes to help your toddler adjust to a new sibling.

 

 

How to Help Your Toddler Adjust to a New Baby Before the Baby Comes

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Discussions

Talking is a great first step in order to help your toddler adjust to a new baby. Start by having several age appropriate discussions with your toddler about the new baby. In the month or two leading up to birth, talk about changes that will occur.

For example, we talked about how Daddy would be getting my daughter ready in the morning, and how sometimes Mommy would have to rock the baby if she was crying, instead of playing. Sometimes we would have to ‘press pause’ on our playtime.

Having lots of little discussions about what life will be like is helpful for a little one.

Tip for discussions:

  • Keep it at their level: obviously a conversation with an 18 month old will need to be a lot simpler than with a 3 year old.
  • Keep it short: lots of short conversations will be easier to digest than one long conversation.
  • Keep it on-going: have many brief conversations over the course of a few months leading up to the baby’s birth.
  • Keep it positive: even though you need to make your toddler aware of the changes that will be occurring when baby arrives, highlighting the positive is important.
  • Role play: Toddlers are not abstract thinkers. Role-playing with a baby doll can help make things more real.

Read a Book

Reading a book together is a great way to help your toddler adjust to a new baby. There are several beautiful books available about becoming a big brother or big sister.

Buy a book (or a few) as a gift for your toddler. Read it together a lot. Talk about it with them and build some excitement around the important role of big brother/big sister.

Here’s a list of my favorite big brother/big sister books:

 

Watch a Show

Watching some television together may also help your toddler adjust to a new baby. Many kids’ shows also deal with a new baby joining the family. A quick google search will help you determine if your child’s favorite show has such an episode. Here are a few examples:

  • Daniel Tiger (several episodes about a new baby)
  • Bubble Guppies: Bubble Baby (Season 4, Episode 10)
  • Doc McStuffins (several episodes about Baby McStuffins)
  • Arthur: Arthur’s Baby (Season 1, Episode 11)
  • Elmo’s World: Babies (Season 9 Episode 27)
  • Sesame Street: The Three Bears and A New Baby
  • Sesame Street: A New Baby In My House

Watch the episode together and talk about it together. Some questions you could ask (you may need to simplify these depending on the age of your toddler, or lead them to the answers) include :

  • How did the character feel when the new baby came?
  • What were the things that upset the character about having the new baby join the family?
  • What were the good things that happened to the character?
  • How did the character help the mommy and daddy with the new baby?
  • How did the character feel at the end of the show?

Spend Time with Other Parent/Caregivers

Hopefully you’ll have another adult around to help out with your toddler in the weeks after the new baby’s birth, whether it’s your husband/partner, a grandparent, or other family member or friend.

Make sure your child is used to that person, and involve that person in your routines before baby comes.

For example, we knew my husband would be taking over my daughter’s bedtime routine when the new baby arrived. Previously, I had always done the bedtime routine with my daughter. She had a hard time doing bedtime without me.

In the last two months of my pregnancy, we took turns doing the bedtime routine, so my daughter would get used to having Daddy read her bedtime stories and sing her songs. We also prepared her for the fact that Daddy would be taking most of turns at bedtime while Mommy was feeding the new baby.

When the baby came, she was already used to having Daddy put her to bed, and there were no fights or tantrums at bedtime. We had crossed that bridge before the baby.

 

Get Routines in Place

Think about any changes or milestones you’ll want your toddler to have accomplished by the time the new baby is born, because you won’t have much time to work on them once he/she has arrived.

Accept that other milestones will have to wait a few months down the road.

For us, we wanted my older daughter out of the crib (because we needed it) and into a big girl bed before the baby came.

I also wanted her to be done with her pacifier at least a few months before the baby came, as I knew it would be hard to break the pacifier habit if her little sister had one.

Those two milestone became the goals we worked on for several months before the baby came. She was already completely used to sleeping in a big girl bed without a pacifier once the baby arrived.

Nighttime potty-training was another upcoming milestone, but we decided to hold off on it until the baby was past the four month sleep regression and we would be rested enough to deal with night wakings.

She probably would have been ready around the time the baby arrived, but we accepted that we would buy a few more boxes of pull-ups and wait until we had all adjusted to baby before attempting nighttime training.

Get a Baby Doll and Accessories

A great way for your toddler to prepare for baby is to give him or her their own baby doll to care for and some accessories like a crib and a baby carrier. You can give them the doll before or after the baby has come to help prepare them for what caring for a baby is like.

I remember my daughter was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to cuddle on my lap after the baby was born, so we tested out if my daughter and the new baby would both fit by using her baby doll.

Once the baby is born, your son or daughter can rock, change and feed their baby right alongside of you (they may even try to nurse their baby…my daughter does this all the time!)

I love Wee Baby Stella because she’s soft and cuddly, and she comes in different hair colours and skin tones. There’s also Wee Baby Fella if you’re expecting a little brother! You can also purchase several accessory kits as well (bath time, feeding, diaper bag). They even have Baby Stella dressed in your favorite football team’s outfit!

How to Help Your Toddler Adjust to a New Baby After Baby Comes

Gift at Hospital

A nice way to start forming a bond between siblings is to have the baby give your toddler a gift at the hospital when they come for a visit. Hopefully your toddler will also be excited to meet the new babe, but if not, a gift might be the start of a great friendship (because who doesn’t love getting presents?)!

Some ideas for gifts are:

  • Wee Baby Stella
  • snacks to eat at the hospital
  • activity book for your child to use at the hospital while the grown ups are visiting with baby
  • a new imaginative play toy for them to use while you are busy with baby (set of dolls, cars, action figures)
  • Art supplies that your child can use while you’re nursing, etc. (crayons, stickers, mess-free painting)

You can also have your son or daughter pick out a gift for the new baby ahead of time and present it to them at the hospital. Likely, they will choose a baby toy that they want to play with. Go ahead and let them. You can remind them that the baby shares his/her toys, and your toddle will have to share with baby as well.

Spend Extra Time

In the days after you come home from the hospital, try to find one-on-one time to spend with your toddler. This will probably mean giving up rest you desperately need. You’ll want to collapse on the couch, but your toddler will want playtime or cuddles.

Do what you can to pull through some of the exhaustion and give them that time. Try cuddling and a book, or a lying down game like doctor.

Let Them Help

If you want to help your toddler adjust to a new baby, it’s important to let them take pride in their new job as the big sister/brother. Letting them help with the new baby is one way to do this.

There are lots of ways a toddler can help with a new baby (with supervision of course):

  • Sing to the baby
  • Bring with baby a toy
  • Tickle the baby’s toes
  • Show/”Read” the baby a story
  • Bring you a diaper
  • Pick out an outfit for the baby
  • Rub the baby’s back
  • Pick out a hat/mitts for outings
  • Pick a toy to tuck into the baby’s car seat
  • Bring you something while you are rocking baby
  • Kiss baby goodnight
  • Help push the stroller
  • Choosing music
  • Turning on white noise for naps
  • Press the button to turn on vibrating chair or swing
  • Putting away clothes and toys

Ask Family and Friends to Give Attention and Bring Gifts

With a new baby’s arrival, A LOT of attention will be heaped on the new baby. Try to be sure that your big kid gets their share of attention as well. Your family and friends can also help your toddler adjust to a new baby.

It’s super sweet and helpful for visitors to make a big deal of your toddler and their new role as big brother/sister. Encourage visitors to greet your child first and the baby second (after all, the baby’s not going to notice).

If your visitor brings the new baby a gift, it’s really nice to bring your toddler one too (if they don’t, maybe give your toddler the job of gift-opener).

You can encourage your toddler to introduce the visitors to the new baby and they can give the tour of the nursery. Involve them in the visit and be sure to praise them for the great job they’re doing as a big brother/sister. If your visitor wants to hold the baby, it’s the perfect time to give your toddler a few extra kisses and snuggles.

Talk to Baby About Sibling

This is one of my key tips to help your toddler adjust to a new baby. As much as possible, talk to the baby about how wonderful their sibling is (in their hearing). I tell the baby all the time what a great big sister my daughter is, how smart/talented/funny/strong she is. I am constantly asking the baby if she wishes she can walk/draw/sing like her sister does.

You can also do this sneakily while you get the baby from her crib. When I know my daughter is playing near the baby monitor, I say “you can’t wait to see your sister,” or “are you crying because you miss your sister?”

When the baby is cooing or vocalizing, I tell my daughter her sister is trying to say hello or that she loves her.

And, of course, when the baby starts smiling and laughing, we make a big deal when she smiles at her big sis!

All this “facilitating” encourages a bond between siblings before the baby is really able to reciprocate.

Tell Baby to Wait

This is a great tip to help your toddler adjust to a new baby that I read a few years ago. You’ll be telling your toddler to wait while you attend to the baby A LOT in the nest few months. You can model the reverse as well.

When the baby is starting to fuss (obviously not when they’re full-on screaming), tell the baby (in your toddler’s hearing) “Just a second baby, Mommy is helping big brother/sister.

Keeping Your Toddler Busy

Inevitably, there will be times when your toddler has to wait while you tend to the baby. Having activities prepared for your toddler to do independently is a lifesaver. Check out my post on busy boxes toddlers can use independently to get some ideas on how to keep your little one busy.

It’s important to make sure you toddler gets adequate physical activity after the baby comes. Bring the baby along and take your child to the park, or find some toddler-friendly activities to do around your community.

Extreme weather, whether heat or cold can make it hard to get outside with a newborn, so try to provide lots of indoor gross motor activities as well. You can see my post about indoor toys for kids that burn energy here to give you some ideas for getting your active toddler tired out without going outside.

You may also need to increase your screen time temporarily if you have a colicky or demanding baby. Sometimes you need to go into survival mode. Amazon Freetime is an all-in-one subscription service that provides child-friendly apps, shows and books with amazing parent controls. You can set screentime limits and you won’t have to worry about your kiddo stumbling onto inappropriate content like on Youtube! Start your 30 day free tria by clicking here!

Sharing Toys

In the coming months, your toddler will have to learn to share their toys and so much more with the new baby (they’re already learning to share Mommy and Daddy).

It’s a great idea to have the baby “share” their toys with your toddler as well. Inevitably, your toddler will want to play with all the new baby toys and gear you’re bring home. Whenever my baby received a new toy, I let my daughter play with it, but always pointed out that the baby was sharing with her, and she would have to share with the baby as well.

Now, when the baby wants to grab a toy, my daughter is pretty good about sharing her things with her little sis.

Expect a Transition Period

Be mindful that even with your greatest efforts, there will be a transition period. A few bumps in the road are unavoidable and completely normal.

It will break your heart to see your child hurting, but this is a temporary adjustment period that will end quicker than you probably expect.

Try to keep your boundaries and expectations as normal as you can. When your toddler pushes the boundaries, keep firm, but provide lots of love and support as well.

Boundaries and structure are important for children and maintaining them during transition periods actually helps in the long-run, even though they may not like the consequences of acting out in the short term.

Most of all, know that a few bumps in the road are absolutely normal. It would be strange if there were none at all. Mom guilt is huge, but this is not something you need to feel guilty about. Everyone in the family will adjust and soon, your little ones will be the best of friends!

 

Even though it’s not easy, follow these tips to help your toddler adjust to a new baby and the transition will be easier than you might think! And don’t forget to grab your free list of second baby must-haves by clicking here! Good luck, mamas!

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Helping Your Toddler Adjust to a New Baby

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