It has been seven months since the birth of our second daughter. In that time, I have learned a lot about my own motherhood journey. Everyday is filled with its ups and downs and typically ends with poop. Mounds and mounds of poop!
In all seriousness though, preparing to have a second child brought with it all sorts of feelings. Everything from immense joy to extreme mom guilt. Guilt arose from the idea that I somehow would be taking time away from our soon-to-be preschooler. But thanks to my mom tribe, I quickly learned I was not alone, and everything that I was feeling was totally normal.
On a few occasions throughout my pregnancy, I would have what I loving referred to as mini freak-out moments. Bless my husband; he is the best! He was quick to calm my crazy, pregnant lady fears. Still, I like to be prepared.
Ah, Pinterest. There you were. You, with your search bar and boards at my disposal, ready to prepare me for this next chapter. (Or at least, I hoped.) So I scoured through every blog post Pinterest had to offer on preparing my toddler for the new baby.
11 Tips for Preparing Your Child for a New Baby
We took our daughter to the sibling class at the University Hospital. The cost was $10 per child and worth every penny. The content of the class was very hands-on and engaging, allowing the important information to sink in. She also left with a bag full of goodies, which included a stuffed animal, hard cover “big sister” book, and sibling coloring book.
Ask your local librarian for suggests on children’s books to prepare your child for their new sibling. I spent the last six months of my pregnancy constantly checking out books for my daughter.
It’s important to be honest with your toddler when discussing the upcoming arrival of the new baby. Explain to them that the new baby will not be able to play with them for a long time. We regularly told our daughter that babies cry as their way of communicating.
During the last few months of my pregnancy, my toddler decided she would no longer use a public restroom. Then, one day, she simply changed her mind. We had just survived our first dentist appointment as a trio, when she requested to use the restroom before we headed home. Honestly, I was exhausted and I just wanted to ask her to wait. But since she had not requested to use a public restroom in months, I figured I should take her. It was a complete success from that moment on. Your toddler is experiencing a lot of changes in a short amount of time, so expect some back sliding. They are trying to gain some control over their rapidly-changing world.
The First Meeting
We did four important things to help our daughter adjust to the new baby.
- For our daughter’s first initial meeting with the new baby, we didn’t allow other visitors during that time. During this time we could connect as a family of four.
- Greet your toddler with open and (empty) arms. I was the first person my toddler saw when she came into the room. We hugged and had a moment of reconnection. Then my husband had her help push the hospital bassinet over to me so she could then meet her sister.
- We gave a gift to the toddler from the baby.
- We didn’t want our toddler to feel like we were bringing the new baby into her territory. So we came home from the hospital as a family of four.
With all the big changes that were happening so rapidly in my toddler’s world, we knew it was important to keep her schedule as normal as possible. This included not allowing her any extra screen time as a supplement. Our first week home, my toddler went on two outings–one with myself and one with my husband. The second week I was flying solo and determined to keep her on schedule. At just 10 and 12 days new, our little bundle of joy got to tagalong with us to library story time and the apple orchard. For me, this was challenging in those first few months, but it gave our toddler a sense of normalcy and routine.
When speaking with my toddler, I often said things like, “Our baby needs a diaper change. Can you get a diaper please?” or “Can pick out an outfit for our baby to wear?” This allowed her to feel she is a part of the decision.
Handling New Issues
In those first six weeks, I was so naïve. I assumed the issues that plagued other parents when adding new additions to the family would not happen to us. Oh, how wrong I was! After what I felt was a smooth-sailing first six weeks, my toddler began waking the baby anytime she was asleep. I explained to her in every possible way that waking the baby served her no purpose, as I would have to stop attending to her needs and tend to the baby’s instead. It made no difference, so I just rolled with it! Now, almost seven months later, I see it as a blessing and not a curse. She keeps the baby awake long enough for both of them to nap at the exact same time!
Think Before Speaking
Nothing will cause a child to dislike the new baby more than consistently being told what they are doing wrong. Phrases like, “Be careful,” and “Don’t Touch,” create a disconnect. If our toddler wants to interact with the baby, my husband and I patiently take turns sitting with both of them on the floor, casually moving the baby as needed.
Now, seven months later, I am watching my preschooler pull her baby sister across the living-room floor by her feet, with both laughing deeply with excitement.
Tell The Baby No
While your baby doesn’t understand that she just took your toddler’s toy, your toddler doesn’t understand how she “didn’t mean to do it.” In our home we replace the phrase, “She is a baby; she doesn’t understand,” with “No, no baby–that is your sister’s toy.” Occasionally telling the baby no allows your toddler to feel as though she matters, too.
Carving out one-on-one time with your older child can be tricky, especially in those first few months, but it is so important. In an effort to rebuild and restore her emotional piggy bank daily, my husband and I would hand off the baby to one another every evening to spend 20-30 minutes of time with our toddler.
It has been seven months since we became a family of four. I am no expert, and most days are still a roller coaster. I can tell you this: your days and nights will be filled with a mix of exhaustion, love, laughter, and poop. (Lots and lots of poop!) So buckle up, and enjoy the ride!