How to Prepare your Toddler for a New Baby

Anticipating the arrival of a new baby is a precious time for your family. But if your firstborn is in the toddler stages, you might have questions about how to make bringing the new baby home a smooth transition for both your toddler and the new baby alike.

Your toddler’s world is about to change drastically. And young children simply don’t understand why babies cry so much, or why they require so much of Mommy and Daddy’s attention. Here are some tips for helping your toddler better understand their new big-sibling status and get excited about meeting the new addition to the family.

Familiarize your toddler with babies.

Use a lifelike baby doll or even photos of your toddler as a newborn to help manage expectations of what the new baby will look like once he or she is born. Point out some of a newborn’s characteristics, like the belly button with a stump attached to it, floppy necks that need extra support and the delicate soft spot on the baby’s head.

Model how to be gentle with a new baby.

Toddlers don’t realize how important it is to be careful with a new baby. Your child may be eager to hold their new baby sibling, so take time to explain that babies require a very gentle touch. Teach your toddler to use “gentle hands,” and show how to give the new baby love by gently stroking baby’s back, feet or tummy.

Teach your toddler that babies communicate without using words.

A newborn’s cries may be unsettling or upsetting to a toddler. Explain that this is how the new baby will communicate when they are tired, hungry or uncomfortable in a dirty diaper. Reassure your toddler that crying is normal for babies, since they can’t use words to communicate what they want or need.

Train your toddler to help.

Toddlers find great joy in helping Mom or Dad around the house. Prepare your toddler for the new baby’s arrival by teaching them simple tasks they can do to help with the baby. For example, your toddler can fetch a clean diaper and wipes when the baby needs a change, or pick up toys off the floor so the baby will have a safe place to play during tummy time. Allow your toddler to help pick out some of the essential items for your new baby, such as a new blanket or bath toys. Preparing your toddler to help with the new baby gives them a sense of responsibility in caring for “our baby.”

Make a list of quiet time activities for your toddler to do when baby is napping.

Infants sleep frequently throughout the day. Explain to your toddler that it is important to try to keep quiet while the baby is sleeping. Make a list of quiet activities you and your toddler can do together while the baby is napping, such as coloring, playing with play dough or reading books.

Teach your toddler to wait.

Your toddler will need to have a lot of patience when the new baby arrives. But patience isn’t exactly something toddlers are known for. Before the baby arrives, practice patience with your toddler by taking some time to respond to his requests. Get your toddler used to waiting so your toddler doesn’t blame the baby when they don’t immediately get their way. Once your baby arrives, allow the baby to wait sometimes too (as long as the baby is happy and not screaming) so that your toddler understands he doesn’t always have to come second.

Incorporate your toddler into the celebration.

Explain to your toddler that new babies often get lots of gifts and presents from friends and family. Point out the special gifts your toddler received as a new baby. Engage your toddler in the celebration by allowing them to be the baby’s special helper when it comes to opening gifts. Take your toddler shopping for the new baby and let them pick out a gift to give. And don’t forget to celebrate the fact that your toddler is now a big sibling. Give your toddler a “Big Sister” or “Big Brother” shirt to wear on the day of the baby’s arrival.

Give your toddler an enthusiastic introduction to the new baby.

Once your baby arrives, make a big deal out of introducing your toddler to the new baby. Use phrasing like “Here’s your baby brother or sister,” or “Meet our new baby.” Begin using the baby’s name right away to help your toddler become familiar with the baby and to solidify that the baby is now part of the family.

Acknowledge your toddler’s feelings.

It is normal for a toddler to feel some negative feelings about a new baby, such as jealousy. This is typical toddler behavior after a new baby arrives. Allow your toddler to express his or her feelings. Validate them and reassure your toddler that their love for the new baby will grow in time.

Welcoming a new baby into the family is so exciting, but it can also take some time for your toddler to adjust to the new state of things. By taking some time before the baby arrives to introduce your toddler to the idea of a new baby, you may be able to help ease the transition for your toddler. Before you know it, your toddler will have adjusted to their new role as a big sibling and you’ll never be able to imagine life without your new addition.

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