If you have a young child at home and you are expecting your second you’re probably wondering how to help ease the transition into life with a new baby. Your toddler is used to having your undivided attention and now she has to share it with someone new. This transition phase can be challenging for both parents if they are not prepared. It’s even harder on your toddler if you haven’t spent quality time helping her understand how life will change. I will note that you can never completely take away the change and stress your first child will feel with a new baby but you can definitely help ease her transition by making her feel more secure and loved.
Here are some tips to help your child and you adjust:
Before Baby is Born
- If your child is old enough take her to a sibling preparation class. This class is usually held at your local hospital or healthcare facility designed for children two years of age and older. It helps siblings prepare for the emotional and physical realities of the arrival of a newborn. Activities can include arts and crafts, role-playing, and a mini-tour of the nursery and maternity unit to see where mom will be spending the night.
- Give her a baby doll to play with
- Expose her to other babies and let her see you interact with a baby
- Children’s picture books can help your toddler visualize how life will change with a new baby
- Have your child help you pick out gifts for the baby
- Make sure to spend quality one on one time with your toddler helping her understand how things will change once baby is born
- You can tell your preschool age child that you are going to have a baby by sharing the preparation activities and also showing her your growing belly
- If your toddler will be transitioning out of her crib and giving it to the new baby make sure to do this a few months before the birth so the adjustment of losing her crib is not such a huge deal
After Baby is Born
- When baby is born have your toddler come in to spend time with you first before she’s introduced to the new baby
- Use the baby’s name so that the toddler knows the baby is a person rather than “the baby”
- Encourage your toddler to touch the baby and show her how to do so in a gentle manner
- Make sure to continue your toddler’s regular schedule once you come home with baby (ask for help from family members to assist you)
- It is important to maintain the same rules and discipline even after the new baby arrives so your toddler has consistency
- Include your toddler in usual routines for the baby such as diaper changing, feeding time or bathing
- Each parent should make quality one on one time with the toddler so she still feels that she has your love and attention
- Have your toddler become your little helper by asking her to get a diaper for the baby or find the baby’s toy
- If your child is older it will be easier for her to adjust to a newborn sibling because they can understand what is happening and be actively involved.
- You should encourage involvement in helping with the new baby but not force it. Offer to your older child that she can attend an infant CPR or child safety course designed for children who will become a new big brother or sister. If your child feels like she has the skills and confidence to help care for her newborn sibling it will make it an easier transition on all of you.
Resources: Keys to Preparing and Caring for Your Second Child by Meg Zweiback Siblings Without Rivalry by Faber & Mazlich