Getting your toddler ready for a new baby
- Your toddler or young child might not really understand the news about your pregnancy, especially a young toddler, so there might not be any benefit in talking about it early in your pregnancy. Toddlers have no concept of time so it might be worth holding off until focusing on the baby until your bump is big and birth only a few weeks away.
- When talking about ‘the baby in your tummy’ you could include conversations about what the baby might like to do, where will you go together and what the baby will need – it could also be beneficial to tell your toddler that the new baby won’t be able to play and to include the reality which is that a baby will need milk, sleep and time in a sling and/or pram.
- Reading books together can be a great way to talk about your pregnancy.
- Some older toddlers might like to come along to an antenatal appointment, so they can listen to the baby’s heartbeat.
- I remember my almost three year old daughter, holding my tummy, which was housing her baby sister, during bedtime stories. And I remember the baby doing the same with kisses three years later when she was about to become a big sister. I felt like it helped prepare them a little bit for the arrival of a baby in the family.
Getting you ready for another baby
- It goes without saying – try to get as much rest as you can before your baby arrives. It may not be easy at times but a snuggly afternoon with your toddler and a DVD may help you rest and close your eyes for a few minutes
- Fill your freezer with food so you can quickly defrost a meal rather than cook, if time and energy is in short supply
- It can be beneficial to buy some new DVDs and books, or borrow some from your library, for your toddler so you can snuggle and spend time with your toddler in those early days and weeks
- It can also be a good idea to buy your toddler a present from the baby – something they will love and play with – and hopefully be occupied with – as you adjust to life with two children
- Enjoy the time with just your toddler because life is about to change and the juggling will begin
- Put together your list of helpers if you need it – family, friends, other mums – who may be able to swoop in and help with your toddler or take them out for a while as you find your feet
Introducing your new baby to their older siblings
I remember planning this moment, being excited and nervous about the moment we introduced our new baby to her big sister. I wanted it to be this beautiful, emotional moment when we became a family of four – my eldest daughter walked in, we introduced Lucy to her big sister who said: “She’s nice. Can I have a biscuit?” And off she ran to the kitchen.
Your children and your experience could be so different from this but it taught me that older children may not experience the same excitement and emotion as you!
After her biscuit, Alice had lots of questions about what the baby could do – and the Moses Basket was soon piled high with toys she was happy to share (the baby wasn’t in there but it also made me aware to make sure the toys weren’t piled up in there when she was!)
Looking after the needs of both of your children
- This is where the juggling can begin. Your older child will probably be happy if life can continue as normal, as much as possible anyway. So their time in nursery, playgroups, toddler groups will be a great source of continuity for them. It can sometimes feel like you and your baby was just slotting into your toddler’s routine – but if that works, go with it.
- Your toddler can get involved and help with nappy changing, when you are feeding your baby see if your toddler wants a cuddle and maybe a story. When you get feeding sorted (whether you are breast or bottle feeding) you can feed while playing with your toddler.
- A sling can be really useful because your baby can be settled and close to you and it leaves your hands free to play with, be with and look after your older child – even it is just to make some lunch. Some mums will bring the pram into the kitchen so they can settle their baby while getting stuff done.
- Bedtime routines may need to continue as normal for your toddler – if your partner is about then you can do it together, especially if it involves a bath. If it’s just you, you can try: Using a sling or bringing the moses basket or a bouncy chair into the bathroom so you are hands free for bath time. When my husband was in to help, me and the girls would often have a bath together (along with 100 toys and dolls), he would take the baby to get her dry and dressed so I could play splashy games with Alice.Apart from the first couple of weeks, bedtime stories in our house involved baby too. We would snuggle in bed to read story after story until it was time for Alice to go to sleep and her baby sister would either be feeding, sleeping or lying on the bed with us. Every family does it differently, and you will find what works for you.
- You might also want to enjoy some time with just your toddler – and you may need to ask for help from your partner, friends and family to enable this to happen. Someone else can share the load by holding your baby, playing with your baby or taking your baby for a walk which will free you up a little to play with your toddler.
- Some days you just need to do the basics – feed all of you and change your clothes when necessary
- Use the babysitter in the corner (TV) when you need a few minutes
- If by 2pm (or 12, or 10am for that matter) you are all in pj’s, the toys are all over the floor, the playdoh is all over the table and the floor and the walls, the tv is on and your hair needs a wash – write the day off. And if there’s no chance of dinner, then order a take-out
- When you have a great day – toddler gets ready, the baby doesn’t poo as you are ready to walk out the door, you get along to some groups, the shopping is done, the washing is on, dinner is made, there is order in the house – enjoy it, rejoice, shout it from the roof tops but don’t expect that of yourself everyday because it’s exhausting!
- If your toddler already has a schedule with toddler groups, it can be useful to stick with it so their routine stays the same and they get the chance to burn off some energy
Changes you may notice in your toddler
It is normal for toddlers and young children to become a little upset or confused by arrival of their baby sibling. They may be jealous, especially if they need to wait for your attention because you need to finish feeding or changing the baby.
Typical behaviour changes include regressing with sleep and any potty training – we definitely experienced more tantrums and ‘naughty’ behaviour as a way of getting my attention away from baby and on to her. As hard as it may be at times, just ride it out because it will pass – try not to lose your temper or tell them off too much and try not to make a big deal of these changes. They are adjusting to sharing you and your time and that may take a little bit of time.
These changes don’t necessarily happen when your new baby arrives – some older siblings aren’t that bothered by the arrival of a new baby because the baby doesn’t directly impact on their life as they are not taking their toys but when your baby is crawling and wants to share the toys, that’s when older siblings might become a little more bothered!
Janine Rudin | Birth, Baby & Family
A specialist in pregnancy, birth and early parenting