After finding out you were expecting…. again… your first thought was probably excitement followed by concern about how your first child will adjust. Although this transition may feel overwhelming, there are some easy ways you can prepare your toddler for a new baby!
We found out we were expecting baby #2 when our daughter was just 14 months old. Honestly, this took us by surprise, so we weren’t prepared at all. But from the moment I got a positive pregnancy test, we made sure to talk about and include our toddler in the whole process.
Now that our second little girl is earthside, I can say that all the prep work really helped make this transition easier on our toddler. With that being said, I hope these tips on how to prepare your toddler for a new baby make this season more enjoyable…. and less scary!
How to Prepare your Toddler for a New Baby
Before I get into my tips on how to prepare your toddler for a new baby, it’s important to keep in mind their age. Obviously, a three-year-old is going to have an easier time understanding what is going on versus a one-year-old.
What works for one child, may not work for another! You know your kiddo best…. so do the things that you know will help them get ready for this big change.
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1. Don’t Wait to Tell Them
If your toddler is a little older, you may be hesitant to tell them right away for a couple of reasons:
- Maybe you’re worried they will spill the beans
- Or what if you miscarry?
These are legitimate reasons to want to wait, but the earlier you tell your toddler you’re pregnant, the longer they have to understand what is going on. I think this is crucial to helping them prepare for the new baby.
We told our daughter just minutes after we found out. At 14 months, she really had no idea what was going on. But by the middle of my pregnancy, she was so excited to go to the midwife and listen to her baby sister!
With both of our pregnancies, we’ve told our immediate friends and family immediately (you can read why here), so that’s why we were comfortable sharing the news with our toddler so early.
2. Include Baby in EVERYTHING
Starting talking about and including your new baby in everything! I often would say things like ‘wait for momma and sister’ or ‘I’m hungry, I think the baby is hungry too!’
The more you talk about the baby, the more real it will feel to your toddler that they are having a sibling. Although, they might struggle with the concept of what a sibling is even for a while after you’ve given birth.
3. Read Books
Most toddlers love books, my daughter is especially obsessed with them. This was a really easy way to prepare her for the new baby.
There are so many awesome books about new babies and siblings. I think these stories really helped her understand the concept. We borrowed a bunch of books from the library, which is my favorite way to try out new books before we buy them!
Our Favorite Sibling Book:
- I am a Big Brother / Sister by Caroline Jayne Church
- The New Baby by Mercer Mayer
- What Brother/Sisters Do Best by Laura Numeroff
- Little Miss, Big Sis by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
4. Ask Toddler for Help
When you are in the nesting phase, ask your toddler to help you get things ready. This could be little things like taking the tags off of clothes or just putting baby bottles in the sink.
They will begin to associate these items with the new baby. When their sibling comes home, they will begin to piece together that these items were for the baby!
5. Watch Videos of Siblings Meeting for the First Time
My daughter LOVED to, every now and then, watch these sibling compilation videos on Youtube. I really think these helped her to prepare for that moment when they first met.
I often would narrate what was happening and then explain that soon she we get to meet her baby sister too!
6. Watch Birth Videos
I know a lot of moms who have their toddlers watch birth videos. They all say that these help them to process how the baby goes from being in mommas belly to held in her arms.
For me, I felt that my daughter was a little to young to know what was going on. Some of these videos are very graphic and I just wasn’t ready for her to see that yet.
But, there are so many AMAZING birth videos out there that would help your toddler to understand how the baby will coming into this world.
7. Explain Everything About New Baby
Another way we prepared our daughter for the new baby was by explaining what she could expect. We shared everything from her belly button clamp to where the baby would sleep. If we were having a boy, we would have explained the difference in body parts as well.
I think keeping your toddler in the loop with everything that they can expect from their new sibling is important. One thing that came up often was that she needed to be gentle with her sister. I think these next two tips helped with ensuring she knew how to act around the baby.
8. Get Them a Baby Doll
Giving your toddler a baby doll will help you to explain everything they need to know about the new baby. It also will give them some practice on how to care for their new sibling. (I will touch more on this on the next tip.)
We gave our daughter a baby doll for her first birthday, so once we found out we were expecting, we used her doll as the example. Throughout those nine months, she has created such a strong bond with her baby…. and I truly believe that’s why she’s had a fairly easy transition into being a big sister!
9. Practice Caring for Baby
Whether you use their new baby doll or their favorite stuffy, practicing how to care for baby will give your toddler confidence on how to act around their new sibling.
Our daughter LOVED helping us to chang her baby sister’s diaper. I think this was mostly because this was one of the ways we practiced caring for her baby.
Things you can practice: Swaddling, Changing Diapers, Feeding, Massaging, Bathing, Carrying in a Wrap, First Doctors Visits, etc.
10. Model Being Gentle
It’s very common for toddlers to be a bit overbearing, especially when it comes to babies. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cringed (and still do) when my daughter tried to play with her baby sister. Although there will need to be some parenting done around being gentle at first, I think modeling gentleness with your toddler will help them understand how to interact with their new sibling.
While I was pregnant, I would gently rub my daughter’s arms and caress her little face. Then I would let her know that I was being gentle, just like how we need to treat her little sister. It’s little reminders like this that will help them to have a calmer body when meeting the new baby.
11. Point Out All the Babies
Where ever we went, I always pointed out the babies. Usually, I’d say something like ‘aww look that little baby is like your sister in my belly.”
I also tried to bring attention to siblings that we saw in public. I would mention that she was going to have a sister soon that she could play with.
After a while, my 1-year-old would start pointing out the babies herself and saying “momma baby like Jo Jo!”
12. Show Videos of When THEY Were a Baby
I think most toddlers enjoy watching videos and looking at pictures of themselves. When you are preparing your toddler for a new baby, this helps them to understand the timeline of events that will happen.
If you start from when you were pregnant with them up through when they were born, this will help them to understand that they were once in your belly. Once you go into labor, the baby will be in mommas arms!
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13. Bring Them to Your Appointments
I mentioned this earlier, but my daughter LOVED to go to our midwife appointments. She would let her find her sister’s heartbeat and would show her how to feel her.
Before each appointment, she was SO excited to do these things. I think it helps when you have a provider that is willing to get the whole family involved!
14. Let them Feel the Baby
Like I just mentioned, our midwife showed our toddler how to feel for her sister. When we would go home, she loved to sit on the couch and feel my belly. I then would explain that that was her baby sister moving around in there.
Sometimes I would pick up her baby doll and say “Sissy is moving around like this,” while kicking the hands and feet around. She would giggle and laugh, but I think it helped her to have a mental image of what was going on inside my belly!
15. Have Toddler Pick Out a Gift for Baby
For some toddlers, it’s helpful to have them pick out a gift for their new sibling and give it to them when they meet! It gives them something to be excited about, especially if they are unsure of the new baby!
16. Let Your Toddler Play with the Baby’s Things
Last but not least, let you toddler explore and play with the new baby’s things. At first, I was frustrated when I had neatly organized the newborn clothes…. only to find them thrown about the room. After it happened again, I realized that she was trying to dress her baby doll!
I then realized this was helping her to prepare for the new baby. So, I made it a point to play with the bottles, pacifiers, lovies, and swaddled with my toddler. Not only did she have fun, but once her sister arrived she was using these items for her…… and she wasn’t getting jealous over them!
When you are preparing your toddler for a new baby, it’s important to keep them involved in every step of the process. At the end of the day, the transition is going to be difficult for everyone. BUT, if you can do a few things to help them understand what is going to happen, this will make this season a little easier!
I hope these tips help you and your family to enjoy and thrive through this exciting new chapter!
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