Introducing a newborn into a toddler’s life is not as easy as buying a new couch or trading in your car. Your attention and focus will be on your infant and this will have an impact on your toddler – but it doesn’t have to be difficult.
Follow these 5 steps when preparing for and introducing your toddler to a newborn sibling:
Step 1: Breaking the News
Toddler’s have a very basic grasp of reproduction (if they have any concept of it at all) so be sure to keep the explanation of your pregnancy simple and concise. It may even help to wait until you are showing before explaining that there is a baby in your belly.
Books are a great way to illustrate what is happening in a way your child will understand. Simply do a Google search for “books about pregnancy for children” or visit your local book store or library. Some popular choices are:
- Baby on the Way by Christie Kelly, Martha Sears, and William Sears
- My Mom’s Having a Baby by Dori Hillestad Butler
- What to Expect When Mommy’s Having a Baby by Heidi Murkoff
Be sure to include your toddler in baby preparation such as decorating and stocking the nursery. Explain the baby’s needs in relation to new objects and items appearing in the home. For instance, as you put away diapers you can explain that the baby’s bum will need to be changed. You can also explain how babies are fed as you clean and store bottles.
Step 2: At the Hospital
If you are comfortable having your child visit you in the hospital (some children may have anxiety in that environment), try to have him or her meet the baby as soon as possible. Be sure that you can have your hands free so you can hold and snuggle your toddler. Allow and encourage lots of contact between your toddler and newborn.
Step 3: Coming Home
Adjusting to a newborn in the house is a process that varies from child to child. It’s important to let it happen naturally and to not force your toddler to be interested. You can help to ease the transition by providing your toddler with gifts so he or she does not feel left out of the celebration.
Step 4: Sharing Your Time
If you think back to the time your toddler was an infant, you know babies are a lot work. Caring for a toddler at the same time is going to seem like madness but it is crucial that you share your attention. Even fifteen minutes a day can make a big difference to your child who is likely feeling a bit forgotten – spend some time reading or snuggling or using apps on your phone to take funny pictures.
Step 5: Prepare for the Backlash
It’s going to happen – at some point your child is going to react negatively to the existence of a newborn sibling. They may begin to act like babies themselves in order to gain your attention. Simply explain to them that you understand their frustration and need for attention and emphasize the importance of being older. For example, babies can’t ride bikes or play at playgrounds.
Be Proactive But Don’t Sweat It
It’s going to seem like the hardest juggling act of your life, but with preparedness and understanding you will find your tiny family of three gracefully transition into a wonderful family of four.