How to help your toddler adjust to a new baby
By Katie Bugbee, Care.com Senior Managing Editor
My goal: Raise siblings who were “close.” Close in age and close in friendship.
My plan: Have two kids as close together as (I felt was) possible.
My result: We had two kids under the age of two.
Granted, it was a very short time that my oldest child was still one, however, he barely spoke, was still in diapers and was attached at my hip. So adding a new baby was not the easiest transition. While I still can’t promise they’ll be best friends for life, here are some tricks that worked as we eased our second baby into our daily lives. If you find yourself in the same situation, I hope they’ll work for you.
And please share anything that worked for you below!
Create Special Toys for Quiet Times. It’s amazing how quickly you realize you can juggle once you have two kids. And while your hospital stay is all about you and your newborn, life at home will be focused on the big kid all over again. Until the baby cries or needs to eat. That’s when you need to figure out something he or she can do by himself, or with you helping one-handed. I recommend creating a special bin of toys and books for these times. You can call a fun name (the Lila-Bin) and when you need to nurse the baby – or have some peace and quiet — she takes her bin and pulls something “special” out.
Get a Baby Doll. It’s so hard to explain to a 1-year old that a new baby is coming home. Or that a baby is inside your belly. The good news is that in a few months, he won’t remember a time without his new sibling. But it’s important to create a loving sense of babies pre-and post-sibling arrival. While you’re still pregnant, get your child a baby doll he can hold, sway, and sing to. Include the baby in bedtime story routines, and have him be in charge of his baby. Then, once the new baby arrives, he can hold his baby when you hold yours. This should help him understand how to love and nurture a newborn.
Make all adjustments now. If you’re planning on moving big sister out of her room or crib, or change from daycare to a nanny, do it as far in advance as possible. You don’t want her to associate the new baby with the other big change that’s happened. I recommend not making any big changes, unless absolutely necessary. So many families rush the big-kid bed or start potty training to prep for a new baby, but your other baby isn’t ready, and two months later, you’re dealing with a toddler who won’t stay in bed or who is having accidents while on errands. (And what’s worse than cleaning up after a toddler who has an accident in public? Cleaning up the accident with a crying newborn in tow.)
Give big sib jobs. There will be small ways you can let your oldest feel in control of all the change and attention the new baby is causing. Create jobs that he’d find fun, like letting him pick out the baby’s outfit, throwing out the dirty diaper, choosing a book to read, or singing him to sleep.
Create special time. Aim to set aside at least ten minutes of special 1-on-1 time for your older child each day. It might be while the baby is napping, right before bed, or when a partner or helper is home. Let her choose the activity (give choices) and play along. The sense that she has you alone will help keep her from acting out.
Allow for two babies. You might find that your oldest wants to be a baby again. He wants to drink from a bottle, be held more, get carried all the time. This is normal and okay. You won’t permanently set him back if you allow for baby-like behavior. Eventually, you can get him to talk about how cool it is to be big and the special things big kids can do – like go on swings, skip, have races, go sledding, choose books, say words, and pride in not being a baby will come back. But you might just have to accept two babies for a little while.