How To Help Your Toddler Bond with a New Baby
Preparing to have your first baby includes all of the registering and furniture building, but preparing for your second baby, that includes worrying about how your first baby is going to handle having a sibling.
Take time to explain the changes that will be happening in your house, even if your toddler is too young to fully understand. The more you talk about it, the less anxiety you will have once your second baby joins the family!
10 Ways to Help Your Toddler Bond With a Baby
#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.
#2 Get your toddler a baby doll (and baby doll carrier).
Babywearing simplifies the whole transition to two babies. Purchasing a doll sling or ergo-style carrier and a new baby doll for your firstborn will let them -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. You'll be surprised just how much this is absorbed and demonstrated after a sibling arrives.
#3 Include your toddler in the planning and shopping.
Let her make something for the nursery. 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 My Baby's Heartbeat Bear, and make sure to record the new baby's heartbeat, too. Have a ‘Big Sibling’ gift waiting for her once the new 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. You can opt for your toddler to be a part of the birth - or not, but knowing that the baby is a part of you is very important.
#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. A great home birthing book is Tell Me About the Day Max was Born. But 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. The books should 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. Let your toddler know that there will be quiet times, crying, gentleness, and times to be helpful. But there will still be book readings, craft times, snuggles, and block-building. Her heart will grow and life will change, but she will still be loved. A mama's lap is always big enough to hold her first baby.
#7 Let your toddler hear the baby’s heartbeat and see an ultrasound.
Bring her with you to an appointment or two. Ask your midwife or doctor to let her help with the Doppler or point the baby out 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-altering moments one after another. You do not want her to feel isolated or left-out of everything that is happening around her.
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 the pregnancy, but also throughout the first few 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 a baby, changing diapers, and finding binkies/pacies/lovies. Your oldest just wants to feel involved – like nothing has really changed, only that her own heart (and yours) has grown.