How to Create a Strong Bond between Your New Baby and Toddler.
I remember telling my mom to “TAKE HIM BACK!” when she brought home my baby brother. I was a week shy of 3 years old. When I was pregnant with my first, I vowed that I would someday handle the situation differently. I am happy to report that after 4 babies and 5 pregnancies, my children have never asked to ‘return’ a sibling. Not only that, but the two oldest (ages 5 and 7) have been inseparable since the second was born. I kid you not – they have slept together and have yet to ever spend more than a few hours apart. You know that saying, ‘Know what you do well, and excel at it.’ I have so many flaws – SO MANY – but I KNOW that I am good at raising my children. What works for me may not work for you. Hell, I know that most families roll their eyes when I tell them that we bed-share with ALL of our children until they want their own space. But it works for us. I was terrified when Baby#2 was growing. I was worried about change and went through a period thinking I needed to change everything before he was born. I wanted to transition our 18 month old out of our bed. I wanted her to sleep through the night. I wanted her to wean from breastfeeding. I considered signing her up for a 2-year-old preschool… The list went on. How wrong I was about everything. At some point, I had this feeling of sadness come over me. It was a giant wave of realization. Why was I wanting to change everything my daughter knew and felt secure about so that I could let her watch from the sidelines as her sibling took her place? Talk about a WAKE UP CALL.
This was the exact point my babies became best friends.
After getting over my own Type A self, I let go of everything and trusted within myself as a mother and wife – and woman. I had done a great job so far; I would do a great job with two babies.
10 Ways to Prepare a Toddler for a Sibling
#1 Tell your toddler there will be a baby.
Do not hide your pregnancy. Share your excitement and allow your toddler to explore her emotions. There is no right or wrong emotion, so be prepared for a rollercoaster of them! Never underestimate the intelligence of a toddler; they are quite brilliant. Your oldest will need time to digest it all – and daily confirmation of what is coming – in a positive way! Skip talking about anything that could make your toddler feel replaced by the baby, but instead; choose wording that helps make her feel special. You are bound to slip out words that are not right; apologize and love on your toddler.
#2 Get your toddler a baby doll (and baby doll carrier).
I wear my babies, being hands-free allows me to keep on living (and loving on my other children)! I really don’t understand how anyone with more than one child does not baby-wear! It just simplifies the whole transition. Purchasing a doll sling or ergo-style carrier and a new baby doll will let your toddler -BOY or girl- feel connected to you. (Make sure you order yourself a new –beautiful- carrier too!) Show your tot how to hold a baby, nurse a baby, swaddle, rock, and sing to a baby.
#3 Include your toddler in planning and shopping.
Let her make something for the nursery (or the ‘baby nook’ as we call it). Let her come shopping for baby clothes, room décor, or anything else needed. Let her record a message to her sibling that can be treasured forever in a heartbeat animal. Have a ‘Big Sibling’ gift waiting for her once baby arrives.
#4 Watch birth videos with your toddler. Babies are not picked up at the hospital.
Again, toddlers are smart. Please don’t bring home a baby that a “stork” dropped off – or that you ‘brought home’ from the hospital. The human body was created to make babies! Take the time to watch natural birth videos on you-tube. Explain what birth is and that the pain you will feel is normal and that you will bring this baby into the world with tears of joy. Heck, help your toddler be ready to be a part of the birth experience. My oldest was 1 year and 51 weeks old when I went into labor. She reached out to touch her brother within a minute of him being born. She was a part of everything. This helped to make her realize that a sibling is ‘non-returnable;’ she knew that this baby came from inside of ME – and was HERS to love forever. (My children have been a part of every birth experience!)
#5 Read books with positive sibling relationships.
So much out there about siblings has a negative underlying, take the time to find the best books for your family. We are an ‘At-Home’ birthing family, so we love books like Tell Me About the Day Max was Born. Whatever your birth style – and wherever you choose to birth, make sure that you read books that support your plans and parenting style, but also books that help raise your toddler up – books that help her understand and feel part of the entire thing. Take the time to READ THE BOOKS FIRST.
#6 Talk about what is going to happen after the new baby arrives.
Transitioning to a family of 4 may seem overwhelming to you, but a toddler does not understand all of the details. She does not truly grasp what is about to occur – as you may not either. Let your toddler know that there will be quiet times, there will be crying, she needs to be gentle, and that she can help you take care of the baby (if she wants to). But there will still be book readings, craft times, snuggles, and block-building. Her heart will grow and life will change, but she is so loved.
#7 Let your toddler hear baby’s heartbeat and see baby on ultrasound.
Bring her with you to appointments. Ask your midwife or doctor to let her help with the Doppler or talk to her during an ultrasound. It has been proven that ultrasounds increase the bond between families and the baby. This also opens the door for talking about when your toddler was in utero. Share how special she made you feel when she was inside of you, and tell her about her birth.
#8 Do not change everything at the same time.If you have a long list of things that you want to accomplish, that’s fine. Just remember that your toddler is a tiny human. She is going through changes herself. Do not overwhelm her with life-shattering moments one after another. You do not want her to feel isolated, left-out of everything that is happening around her. If possible, change nothing that is within your control or do any changes naturally and unforced.
Hug your toddler. Sleep with her. Take her out for special dates and treat her well. Soak in all that it is to have a single child. This is important throughout pregnancy but also throughout the first months after birth. Sibling rivalry and jealousy can begin at birth, but including your oldest in daily snuggles to help boost confidence and security will help ward those issues off.
#10 Give your toddler jobs.
Set up a list of things that your toddler can help with. Let there be stickers or glitter or whatever else involved! Talk to her about breastfeeding, rocking baby, changing diapers, and finding binkies. Your oldest just wants to feel involved – like nothing has really changed, only that her own heart (and yours) has grown.
What did you do you help your toddler prepare for a new sibling?