What is the best way to help your toddler prepare for a new sibling?
One of the many things that I worried about when I was pregnant with our second child was how our 2-year-old daughter, Zoe, would react to having a new baby in the house.
Actually, if I’m being honest, it was my NUMBER ONE concern.
Would she feel jealous? Left out? Completely traumatized by this new ginormous life change?
After our new baby boy was born our daughter was very affectionate and loving towards him. Now that he is 4 months old, she can’t stop giving him hugs and kisses at least 5 times a day. It melts my heart every time.
But this new fondness for her baby brother didn’t come without a few hiccups along the way.
Now looking back with my 20/20 vision I know she acted out a little. Not directly towards him, but in her own not-so-subtle “I’m throwing a tantrum but I just want a little more attention” way.
There was about a 4 week period where she was throwing significantly larger-then-normal temper tantrums after our newborn boy was born. In fact, they were darn-right gnarly at times. I remember thinking “where did my sweet child go?”
Since then she has adjusted quite well. But it has been a learning experience for all of us! We have learned so much about our first born since the arrival of our new baby.
10 Simple Ways To Help Your Toddler Prepare For A New Sibling
10 simple ways to help your toddler prepare for a new sibling:
#1. Talk about it with them frequently.
Don’t surprise your toddler by bringing in another tiny human behind their back. One of the best ways to help your toddler prepare for a new sibling is to start talking about it with them. Start the talking at least as soon as you tell family and friends about your pregnancy. Your toddler will need time to process this information about the upcoming change.
#2. Explain the role of big sister (or brother).
We reminded Zoe daily that she was going to have a lot of new responsibilities when “baby brother” arrived. It was important to us that Zoe see that she would have a very important role as big sister so that she didn’t think she was being left behind. For example, when she played with her puzzles we reminded her that she would need to teach her little brother how to play with puzzles also.
Also, explain that your toddler will need to “look out” for their new sibling, and how special the role of big brother or sister will be. They will enjoy hearing about how the baby will want to try and do everything they do!
#3. Give them their own “baby” to practice with.
When I was about 5 months pregnant my mom bought Zoe a baby doll. Our goal was to try and teach her how to be “gentle” with the baby. She actually took to it quite well and enjoyed playing with it. When ever we talked about the new baby coming we would say “where is Zoe’s baby?” She was able to have her own “baby” to practice with and she loved it. Now that her little brother is 4 months old, she still enjoys playing with her baby in her crib at night.
#4. Give your toddler books about becoming a big sister or brother.
We gave our daughter 2 new books about becoming a big sister and read them to her almost daily. She loved pointing to the Mom’s belly and saying “baby in there!” Having pictures to look at really helped her process the idea of having a younger sibling.
In addition, reading the big sister books gave us a regular reminder to continue talking about and including our toddler in conversations about the new baby.
#5. Give them a gift from the new baby.
Right after our son was born, we gave our toddler a new picnic set that was a “gift” from her little brother. When she played with it we talked to her about how she could have a picnic with her little brother soon. Our newborn also “gave” our daughter a new “I’m a big sister” shirt (in purple, her favorite color!). She felt like a million bucks.
This one was so important to us since there is a lot of attention put on a new baby. We didn’t want our daughter to feel left out of the excitement or hold resentment towards him. Our goal was to keep our attention equally on her as much as we could.
Here are 10 simple ways to help your toddler prepare for a new sibling!
#6. Talk about how much fun it will be.
My husband did a great job of talking to our two-year-old about how “fun” and “cool” being a big sister will be. He really embellished on the fact that he would learn so much from her and look up to her. Even now when we try and teach Zoe a new life lesson we talk about how she needs to be a good role model form her little brother. She just loves it!
#7. Praise your toddler for being the best big sister EVER.
For the last few months of my pregnancy my husband and I would ask our daughter “who is going to be the big best big sister ever?” Every time she would excitedly reply “Zoe!”
#8. Stay calm during meltdowns.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a mother it is that my child reacts to how I act. Melt downs are inevitable. It an unfortunate, but completely normal part of toddler hood. However, if I become upset then it only upsets my daughter worse.
I learned this lesson the hard way after taking several road trips with my toddler. Having an additional child in the home only makes things more stressful and easier to lose it when one kid is getting crazy.
#9. Give them a little extra attention and love.
During the last few weeks of my pregnancy I made sure to spend a little extra time in the evenings preparing for bed with my daughter. We would spend 15-20 minutes reading books and then turn the lights off for another 15 minutes of “snuggle time.” There is no better way to help prepare your toddler for a new sibling then by showering them with a lot of extra love.
#10. Practice gratitude.
This one never fails. Gratitude helps me handle difficult situations with more grace. At the end of the day I am so grateful to have two beautiful, healthy children. Even if it means months of newborn baby exhaustion, a messy house, and total craziness for a while! Since it was my second and last pregnancy, I knew I wasn’t going to get this experience ever again. So I wanted to enjoy it while it lasted!
Are you the parent of a toddler who is expecting a new baby soon? Are you doing anything to try an ease the transition for your toddler? I would love to hear so please leave a comment with your thoughts!
(This post about newborn baby exhaustion may contain affiliate links. You can find my disclosure page here.)
Newborn baby exhaustion is no joke!
Our beautiful baby boy was born this January. To say I was awestruck with my adorable little man would be a huge understatement. I was in love!
But with my husband back at work within one week of his birth, and no family living locally, I was been pushed back into the depths of newborn baby exhaustion head first. Only this time I had a two-year-old to take care of as well.
I was reminded today of how hard the newborn baby exhaustion phase was with my daughter two years ago. It’s funny how you forget about the minuscule amount of sleep you got during the first few months with a newborn.
Surprisingly, however, I was slightly less exhausted this time with two babies then I was with only one. I think that may be because I’ve ironed out some of the kinks that come with having a newborn. Also, baby #2 was full term and 2x the size of our daughter (who was born prematurely) so I wasn’t quite as worried about him.
You will survive Mama!
Here are 7 helpful ways to help cope with newborn baby exhaustion:
#1. Try to shower and brush your teeth first thing in the morning.
The first thing I do in the morning after climbing out of bed is spend 10 minutes to pull myself together. I take a quick shower, brush my teeth and put on something besides my pajamas. It is so easy to think you will have time later, but with a newborn time seems to slip through your fingers like sand. And then it’s 5 PM and you’re still sitting in your pajamas! Just the act of showering and cleaning up helps to trick my brain into thinking that I haven’t been up in 1 to 2-hour increments all night long.
It’s like how the airlines tell you to put the mask on yourself before you put one on your child. You NEED to take care of yourself first before you try to take care of others. If you don’t, you will struggle so much more through the newborn baby exhaustion phase, I promise!
#2. Work as a team.
Teamwork, teamwork, teamwork! Divide and conquer tasks with your spouse. Take turns with daily to-do’s. If one of you is feeding the baby, the other can help care for the other children. A new baby means all hands on deck!
Good communication is so important. Newborn baby exhaustion is no reason to take out your frustrations on your spouse. Kindness can go a long way, especially when it feels like you haven’t slept in ages.
#3. Except help from others.
Excepting help from others is something I have always had a hard time with. But as a mom with no family living locally I decided it was time to change my attitude.
My local Mom’s club has a meal program where you can sign up to bring a new mom home a home-cooked meal (several members can sign up for a different night over a 2 week period).
At first, I felt really guilty about having other busy moms cook meals for us (even though they did it for all the new moms). But it was so helpful and kind! There is nothing like a home-cooked meal to make you feel more like a human again when you are exhausted with a newborn.
Since then I have cooked meals for 2 other families with new babies and I am so happy to do it! (Added bonus: I have met so many new moms!)
#4. Try to squeeze in a catnap.
You can spot a new parent from a mile away: the dazed look and bloodshot eyes are a total give way. Although you love your new bundle of joy, you probably don’t love their sleep schedule (or that they sometimes think that its daytime when it’s midnight!)
You may feel compelled to do chores when your baby takes a nap during the day. Don’t do it! Take the opportunity to sleep when you can, even if it’s for just 15 minutes. Studies show that naps are extremely beneficial to overall wellness, especially when you are awake every 1-3 hours at night.
Sleep deprivation is taxing on your immune system, increases your risk of chronic illness and heart disease and increases your risk of postpartum depression. You are going to be tired when you have a newborn, so treat yourself to a nap every chance you get!
Pssst!: A sleep mask is helpful for daytime snoozing.
#5. Give up perfectionism.
It is impossible to keep your house immaculate when you have a newborn. It’s totally OK, you will survive I promise!
A newborn takes so much energy and the time will be gone before you know it. Give yourself permission to let the house get a little messy. Eventually, you will find your groove again and can clean to your heart’s desire. In the meantime, get comfortable and snuggle with that adorable baby!
To swaddle is to snugly wrap your baby in a thin blanket for comfort and security. It helps keep your baby from disturbing themselves with their own startle reflex (your baby can actually startle themselves awake!). When the baby sleeps longer then parents have the opportunity to sleep longer. Its a win for everyone!
Hint: adin + anais are your friends!
#7. Have compassion for yourself.
Self-compassion is a valuable parenting skill. If you take care of yourself you will be happier taking care of others. (You can read more about self-care for moms here).
It is also important to make sure your expectations are realistic. You aren’t going to fit into your pregnancy jeans this week. You may forget to brush your teeth some mornings or even keep your pj’s on for a few consecutive days (in which case deodorant is your friend!).
Eventually, this time will pass and you will find yourself again. In the meantime be malleable with yourself. Be present with your tiny human(s). You can do everything, you just can’t do everything at the exact same time. So be kind to yourself.
#8. Have gratitude.
New babies are perhaps the sweetest, most terrifying and most unconditionally loving people in our lives. With their precious chubby cheeks, perfect teeny fingers and toes, and smooth baby skin it is impossible for parent(s) not to fall in love. Even though the responsibility of newborn care is overwhelming, you are so lucky to have this incredible experience.
Thank the universe for the wonderful blessing that is your new baby. There is simply no greater gift in the world.
Do you have (or are you expecting) a new baby and are wondering how you are going to make it through the newborn baby exhaustion stage? I would love you hear your thoughts!
Additional recommended reading:
I am excited to announce that our baby boy arrived!
On January 8, 2018 at 10:59am Oliver made his way into the world weighing in at a sturdy 8 lbs. 1 oz.
He is chubby and extraordinarily cute, nursing like a champ and has the most adorable baby babble. I had forgotten how incredibly sweet baby sounds are. Oliver’s snuggles and baby noises are the best!
My (very brief) birth story:
We arrived at the hospital at 7:30 for our scheduled c-section. I was full term and 39 weeks. After getting checked in and set up we finally headed over to the surgical suite around 10 am.
I had a scheduled c-section (unlike my first, an emergency c-section at 33 weeks due to a placental abruption). It was a much more relaxed environment with fewer nurses and other staff in the room.
I was given a spinal block which numbs the entire lower half of the body from just below the diaphragm. It is the weirdest feeling to not be able to feel or move your entire lower half!
The doctors had a difficult time getting Oliver out. After the surgery I was told that he was wedged in at a difficult angle to grasp. After several minutes of effort to get him out they had to use suction just to get a grip on him.
Our baby boy arrived with a great set of lungs!
Our sweet boy finally arrived.
Oliver came out kicking and screaming, which is the most reassuring sound for a new baby to make. He was much bigger then the doctors had expected him to be. In fact, they told me that it was a good thing I was set up for a c-section because there was very little chance I would have been able to get him out on my own. They said I would have ended up having another emergency c-section anyway!
Oliver was exactly 2 times bigger then our daughter was when she was born so he felt like a huge baby! Looking at him I couldn’t believe that he had actually fit inside my stomach.
Fortunately, Oliver took very well to breastfeeding, which was a welcome relief (it had been difficult with our preemie). He seems to be able to self sooth with his fingers and has been relatively easy (knock on wood!) to care for thus far. As long as he is fed every 2-3 hours, changed frequently, gets his sleep and is held frequently he is a happy camper!
There were a few surgical complications that I was not anticipating.
I lost 2 liters of blood during the procedure. According to my doctors I had a few large vessels that they were trying to bypass but still ended up causing a large amount of bleeding. As a result I had even more post postpartum bleeding over the next 24 hours. This resulted in me needing to have a total 4 blood transfusions and multiple different anti-hemorrhage medications.
It was a bit scary and uncomfortable for another day and a half after my c-section. Luckily we were able to get the bleeding under control and I was able to be discharged on day 3 to go home. What a relief!
Zoe is doing great in her new role as big sister.
Our daughter can’t stop giving Oliver hugs and kisses every chance she gets. We do need to keep as eye on her though because she does try to squeeze him hard and force his pacifier into his mouth (out of love and her desire to help).
So far she has not expressed any jealousy towards sharing her time with a new tiny human (hopefully we can keep it this way!).
Zoe tries to help by letting me know when Oliver needs things like toys, a blanket, or his pacifier. It is so sweet and melts my heart every time.
My mom friends are so helpful.
Some very sweet friends brought over some of their old baby items that have really helped us out with Oliver. I am so glad they did because I never would have even known to get them myself. (FYI- the BEST invention ever is the Doc-A-Tot Grand. It has been a game changer!)
Life is good.
I am so relieved that our baby boy arrived safely and is a healthy baby boy. There is no greater gift then that!
My husband has been able to be home with us for the last week but he will be heading back to work tomorrow. It’s going to be a bit of a challenge caring for a very energetic two-year-old and a newborn for nine hours a day by myself.
I haven’t figured out how I’m going to manage that yet but lots of women do it so I’ll just have to figure it out day by day.
Wish me luck!