How to Prepare Your Toddler for a Baby
The biggest thing I was afraid of while pregnant with my little Josiah was that he was going to be born and be as difficult, exhausting, and overwhelming as his older brother had been. I am so thankful to be able to say that, so far, that is absolutely not the case! (All the praise hands!)
The second thing I was concerned about was Caleb and his transition. I wanted to know how to prepare a two year old for a new baby. Caleb is a great and fairly easy toddler but he can be needy, high strung, and opinionated. I didn’t know how those personality traits would work when a new baby was on the scene. Once again, my fears were pointless. Things have gone so much more smoothly than I could have hoped for and Caleb simply adores his baby brother.
I’m not saying we did everything right in preparing Caleb for the birth of his little buddy and I’m sure a portion of the ease in the transition is just Caleb’s personality and love of babies but I know being intentional about the change definitely played a part!
How to Prepare Your Toddler for a Baby Before Baby Arrives
Talk about the Baby a Lot
From the time I found out I was pregnant until the day Josiah was born, Nate and I talked about the baby in mama’s tummy with Caleb all the freaking time! Since he didn’t talk very much yet it was safe to tell him about the baby without the concern that everyone we met would know about it before we were prepared to tell people. As my stomach grew, so did Caleb’s interest in the baby in mama’s belly. He kissed it, said goodnight to it, cuddled it, and knew its name was Jojo. His excitement grew and grew as we began telling him that his brother was going to come out and play soon.
Make Being a Big Sibling Sound Exciting
As we talked about the baby we also talked about being a big brother. We always made it sound positive and fun! He’d have a friend to play with, he’d get to help mama take care of the baby, he’d get to be a big boy. All those things were things to look forward to!
Let the Toddler Help With Preparations
Caleb was right there with us as we prepared Josiah’s nursery, got Josiah’s clothes out, and pulled out the baby toys. We told him all about how these things had been his when he was a baby and now he got to share them with his little brother. Caleb also came with me to most of my doctor appointments. Although he was pretty engrossed in watching Thomas the Train for most of the appointment, he always loved hearing the baby’s heart on the doppler and would tell us that the baby said “uh-uh” (picture that being said in a super grunty voice). Including him helped him feel as though there really was a baby coming.
Introduce Toddler to Other Babies
We had a baby boom recently both at church and at MOPS so Caleb got the chance to see and hold all sorts of babies. Whenever we saw a baby we talked about his baby that was coming. He would often point to a baby and ask me, “Baby Jojo?” and I’d have to tell him that baby Jojo was still in my belly. He was pumped for his brother to get here.
How to Prepare You Toddler for a Sibling at the Hospital
Decide if the Toddler Should Come Visit
We don’t live near any family so we were extremely thankful that Nate’s parents were able to come down and stay with Caleb while Nate and I were in the hospital. Of course they wanted to come to the hospital and meet their newest grandchild when he was born so we had them bring Caleb with them, not really thinking about whether that was a good idea or not. Looking back we would have waited to introduce Caleb to Josiah until we were home. This is totally personal preference but Caleb didn’t understand what was going on when he came to the hospital. Usually when he stays overnight with his grandparents he doesn’t see us for the whole time he’s with them (even up to a week when we went to Mexico). When he came to visit us in the hospital he loved on Josiah for about two seconds and then wanted to go play in the sink. He then came to visit us again the next day and, after that, was stressed out until we came home that afternoon. His little brain just couldn’t figure out why he got to see mama and daddy but then had to leave them multiple times. Although I always miss my little man when I’m away from him, we all would have been ok if we hadn’t seen each other for the 48ish hours we would have been apart.
Focus on the Toddler
Regardless of when you have your toddler meet his or her new baby sibling make sure that time is spent focusing on the toddler. The baby is new and exciting but now is time for the big sibling to feel special! I know some parents choose to give their toddler a present – either from the parent or from the baby – and, although we didn’t do that, it could definitely be a way that the toddler feels loved and important when meeting his or her new baby.
How to Manage a Toddler and a New Baby When Baby Comes Home
Have One-on-One Time with the Toddler
Since coming home with Josiah, one of the biggest things Nate and I have focused on is having one on one time with Caleb. The other day Nate took him to the Children’s Museum while I ran some errands with Josiah, I try to have some of the time Josiah is napping be completely focused on Caleb whether it’s reading, playing with blocks, or whatever else he wants to do, and we both try to focus on him together on Nate’s days off while Josiah is napping. We don’t want his whole world to shift and for him to feel as though he’s been replaced.
Encourage the Toddler to Help
Caleb loves being a helper and we want to encourage that in him! He loves going to grab things for his baby, “help” change his baby’s diaper, and “help” mama nurse his baby. Sometimes his “help” gets a little overwhelming and we have to tell him to tone it down but, for the most part, we thank him profusely and let him know what a great big brother he is being!
Sympathize with Toddler’s Frustrations
Toddlers don’t have the words to voice all their frustrations and often they come out in the form of tantrums or other negative behaviors. Obviously we shouldn’t be encouraging our toddlers to act out but Nate and I try to be as sympathetic as we can be with our little man while also correcting his behavior. For example, if Caleb really wants me to read him a book but I have to calm Josiah down Caleb will often throw a tantrum. I do my best to calmly talk to Caleb, explain to him that I know it’s frustrating that I can’t read to him right then but also tell him that he’s not allowed to throw fits when he’s not getting what he wants. His tantrums have gone down so much in the past six weeks of having his brother and I’m very happy about that!
Remind the Toddler of Your Love
Over and over and over again I am sure to remind Caleb of how much I love him. I smother him with hugs and kisses and make sure he never, ever questions his mama’s love for him. While I’m doing that I also tell him how much I love Josiah. I want him to see that my love for him never changes, it just multiplied when his brother came into our lives.
What did you do to prepare your toddler for a new baby?
Did your toddler visit you and the new baby in the hospital?