13 tips to prepare your toddler for the new sibling

by Sr Ann Richardson
the beautiful journey of preparing a toddler for their new baby sibling, where love and anticipation fill the home
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Expanding your family is exciting and a great cause for joy and celebration, but it won’t be without its ups and downs! How can you prepare your toddler (and yourself) for the new baby? By BYY parenting & sleep expert, Sr Ann Richardson.

It is perfectly normal for you to be worried about managing to have enough love for more than one child when you have a new baby on the way.

Here are my top tips:

1. When you are still pregnant, put together a little box of age-appropriate wrapped goodies for her (for example a small box of smarties or a toy bottle), and keep this in the baby’s room. 

When you are busy with the baby and cannot attend to your toddler (such as when you are changing a nappy, or feeding), allow her to go to her ‘special box’ and select a present.  The selection and the subsequent unwrapping and exploring will buy you the time you need to finish off your task.  This way, she will only associate a positive experience with the fact that you are unable to attend to her immediately.

2. Avoid falling into the trap of overcompensating by allowing your toddler to always get his own way.

3. If your toddler is still quite little (under the age of 4), adopt a low key attitude about the forthcoming arrival – she is still too little to understand the concept of pregnancy. A pre-school child is able to have more understanding.

4. About three to four months before baby is due, tell her truthfully and directly about the coming birth (she will most likely be asking questions about the size of your tummy by now), but don’t go overboard with too much detail( unless she asks).

Check out: Dealing with sibling rivalry

preparing a toddler for the arrival of their new baby sibling, where feelings of curiosity and wonder abound

5. Assure her that having another baby will not affect how much you love her.

6.  If your toddler is in day care, or you can organise a babysitter, avoid taking her along with you when you go for your ante-natal check ups. You may have to wait for a long period of time before seeing the midwife or doctor, and it is unfair to expect your toddler to be happy and entertained in that environment. Use this time to start bonding alone with your unborn baby.

7. Invite your toddler to help you shop for and set up the nursery, it will make her feel special and involved.

8. About two to three weeks before your due date, prepare your toddler for your upcoming absence.  If she has never been separated from you, start to leave her with her dad or a sitter for a couple of hours a day, this way she will be used to your absence when the time comes.  Dispel any fears and doubts that she may have by discussing the arrangements as clearly as possible (eg. “Granny is coming to look after you while Mommy is in the hospital”).

9. If you are planning a home birth, invite your midwife to come round with her equipment and spend some time explaining to your toddler what will happen when she arrives to take care of you.

Visit: Raising more than one child

10. Keep her away from the hospital while you are there. You may be anxious about not seeing her for a few days, but it is more traumatic for her to have to say goodbye to you after visiting hours. She may not understand why you can’t come home with her, or why she can’t stay with you. 

You may also not be able to pick her up if you have had a c/section. Hospitals are also breeding grounds for all sorts of germs, so don’t expose your toddler to them unnecessarily.

11. Keep her routine and structure at home unchanged. If she is happy and content in her home environment, and has adequate emotional support, she should take your absence in her stride.

12. A morning and evening video chat will reassure her that you are still around.

13. Get organised – pre-cook meals and stock up your pantry.

Also read: Why do siblings fight & how to deal with it?

Check out: Does birth order affect your child’s personality

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