Second Child Tips – Getting your Toddler Ready for Baby’s Arrival
So you are expecting your second bundle of joy, but you have already started to worry about what that means for your family. How will your first handle the transition? How will you handle having two children to attend to? How will you ever give your new baby the same amount of love and attention you gave to your first? How will you continue to give your first-born enough time and attention when they have been the center of your universe since they entered this world? Well firstly mama, don’t fret. Every mom worries about these things at some point when pregnant with her second. Even if they don’t always admit it.
Secondly, I promise you that while it will be an adjustment, you will figure it all out. It’s cliche, but it’s true, your heart will magically expand…and somehow you will love the second just as much as you already love your first. For some the bond is instant, for others it takes a little time, but either way you’ll find that there is room enough for both. In the meantime, here are some practical and simple tips to help prepare for new baby:
1. Introduce the concept of having a baby brother/sister
One of the first ways to prepare your first born for the arrival of their little sibling is to introduce the concept of baby brother or sister and to let them know that you’re expecting. Opinions vary on when to tell children. Telling them too early may lead to a very difficult conversation if things do not go as planned, and it also forces them to wait a really long time for the arrival of baby. Telling them too late won’t give them enough time to prepare. We personally started really introducing the concept to our daughter around the time of our anatomy scan. You know your child and family best, so go with your gut.
We had an initial conversation where we told my daughter she was going to be a big sister and that a baby was in mommy’s belly. We then repeated that from time to time, but didn’t make it the center of everything. As far as how to teach the concept, big sibling books are a great way to familiarize your child with what will happen. Here is one that Miss P became obsessed with reading before baby arrived (here is the analogous book for big brothers). It can also help to get out some of their baby photos and talk them through what it was like when they were a baby.
2. Involve your child
After letting your child know that you are expecting and that they are going to be a big sibling, involve them in some of the baby activities. You can bring them to some of the baby appointments, let them be the center of the baby announcement to the world, let them help with decorating the new nursery or with getting out their old baby clothes. All of this can help your child get excited about their new title as a big brother or sister.
3. Visit another baby
Particularly if your child has not had any exposure to babies, it can be helpful to visit a friend or family member who has a little one. This helps familiarize your child with babies (the sounds they make, the fact that they need to be gentle, etc.), and it can give you a taste in a temporary setting of how much jealousy you can expect when your baby comes home.
4. Make any needed transitions early
If there are any transitions that you have to make before baby arrives, make them well in advance. For example, if you need to free up the crib and move your oldest to a big kid bed, do it early so that they don’t associate baby coming home with losing their crib. Otherwise, they may feel like baby stole it. Same thing with potty training or room swaps or any other transitions. Earlier is better so that they don’t feel like baby is causing it to happen and build resentment.
5. Arrange help for when baby arrives
While you’ll need to arrange childcare while you are in the hospital, you might want to arrange some planned breaks in the first couple of weeks home as well. If your oldest can have a special day out with their grandparents or babysitter that may give them the special attention they need while baby is taking up more of mommy and daddy’s time. Or if someone can watch baby for a couple of hours, then you can give your oldest some of your undivided attention for a little while.
6. Shop for a Big Brother/Sister Gift
Another great idea to make the arrival of baby exciting for the older sibling is to pick out a small gift for them from baby and bring that to the hospital. You can then have baby “give” that to their older sibling. It’s a small gesture, but it can help your first born feel like this is a special time for them too and to have positive associations with their little sibling.
7. Plan special time together before the big arrival
For your own peace of mind, if there are some things you like doing with your oldest (or want to do) and know that you won’t be able to do when baby arrives…just go ahead and make time to do it before baby arrives. Even though you may not be feeling 100%, you’ll look back on that time and cherish the moments with your first “baby”. We planned our first trip to Disney while I was almost in my third trimester. I knew it would be awhile before I would be up for going with a little one in tow, and I wanted to experience it with my daughter while she was still in the young toddler stage. So we just went for it. Even if it’s just a local outing, make some time to soak in your first child before they become a big sibling.
8. Plan some ways to occupy your older child
Before you come home, you may want to find some toys that keep your oldest entertained and well-occupied. There will be times will they will be sitting watching you feeding baby and waiting impatiently on you to finish. Your hands will be full, so it helps to be able to say “why don’t you go get your XYZ toy and play with that in here while mommy finishes this”. My daughter really enjoyed mimicking what I was doing with her baby with her doll. It was great having that for her to play with while I was occupied.
Alternatively, if your oldest attends any preschool/daycare/classes you may want to up the time or days that they are attending. Maybe not right when baby comes home (so they again don’t blame baby for it), but a few months after to ensure they get the time and attention they need.
9. Introduce sharing and waiting
Additional concepts that can prove helpful for when baby arrives are waiting and sharing. Learning to share their toys ahead of time and learning to wait will be valuable lessons for when their little sibling is here. If mommy has already begun saying “you need to wait for mommy to finish doing this task” before baby, it won’t be as foreign and difficult to accept for your oldest.
My last tip is to just relax! I worried endlessly about what it would be like having two. I asked all the parents of multiple children what it was like and how their oldest handled the transition. In the end, it was not as big of a deal as I thought it would be. Sure, there was an adjustment and some jealousy here and there, but overall my daughter loved my son. She wanted to help with him and be close to him and love on him with us. The fact that you are worrying about it already shows you care enough to be a great parent to both of your children.
Your oldest may grow up just a little bit faster with the new baby in tow, but know that you are giving both of your children an irreplaceable gift — a companion in life who started in the same boat as them. Someone to count on through thick and thin who knows their history. You’ll also likely find that nothing will give you as much joy as watching the love that your two children will have for each other – even if that takes some time to develop. So know that it will be worth it, and it will all work out in the end.
Good luck Mama! You got this!
You might also be interested in reading what I planned on purchasing for my second baby while I was expecting.