Welcoming a new baby into your home is an exciting time for both you and your toddler. But it’s also time for a lot of changes! Make sure your little one is prepared. Read our tips here.
Pregnant women are busy, busy, busy! There’s an entire laundry list of things to prepare and on top of that, pregnant mommas need to make sure they get enough rest, remember eat healthy and always stay hydrated.
But if you’re a pregnant mom with a toddler as your firstborn, you might be worrying about more than just the color to paint the new nursery or when you need to buy newborn baby clothes.
In fact, with a second pregnancy, the usual first-time-mom fears and anxiety about labor, delivery or breastfeeding are low in your list of worries. You now have a good idea about what it’s like to give birth and you’re going to come a bit more prepared than you were before. Overall, you might just be a tad more confident and surer about yourself.
Now, though, you may have a newer set of worries concerning your toddler adjusting to having a new baby at home. You may ask yourself:
- “How is my baby going to react?”
- “Does my toddler even know what’s going on?”
- “How do I make sure my little one doesn’t feel left out?”
- “How do I make my 3-year-old become part of this pregnancy?”
If you’re asking yourself these questions and have similar concerns, it’s completely valid and normal. We’d also like to congratulate you, momma. Being concerned about all of your children, and not just the one you’re carrying, is a sign that you’re doing your very best to become a great parent.
Let’s take a quick moment to remind you that just like your first pregnancy, your new little sweetie will just be as great as a blessing to you and your family… especially to your toddler.
To help ease your worries and prepare your toddler for the arrival of the newest member of the family, we’ve gathered down some practical suggestions for you that we’re sure your toddler will enjoy, as well:
Even before you’re expected to pop, it’s best to slowly set the stage and have your little one ready to become a new big sister or big brother.
Small as they are, toddlers are naturally perceptive. Their developing brains catch on more than you expect them to. If you’re too focused on your pregnancy without getting your little one involved in some way, there’s a chance of them acting out or throwing regular tantrums even before you give birth.
Here’s some ideas to help your toddler with getting used to being an older sibling before your new baby’s arrival:
Ideas To Help Your Toddler
1. Read stories, picture books or watch videos/movies about new babies.
Toddlers love story time! And stories or videos are a great way to introduce your toddler to a new baby.
Aside from reading story books during bed time, try to plan a story hour during your toddler’s most active time of the day.
To further encourage your toddler to bond with your new baby, pick a quiet weekend afternoon, have your toddler choose a book to read “with” the baby in the tummy. Have your toddler occasionally feel your tummy and say “I think your little baby sibling just heard that!” or “Wow I think your baby loves the story, too!”
With regards to movies and videos, though, most toddlers still have short attention spans and babies below 18 months of age aren’t recommended to have any screen time at all.
What we suggest is to look for funny sibling videos on YouTube and show it on the TV in the living room to watch with your baby. These types of video compilations are usually short clips and will most likely catch the attention of your toddler. Even just 2 to 3 minutes of it every now and then will be fine. Don’t forget to turn it off when your toddler’s attention is elsewhere! According to child development experts, it’s never good to have TV shows or YouTube videos playing in the background with toddlers playing about as it interferes with their normal brain and language development.
The best thing about this bonding activity is that dad can also pitch in! Even aunts, uncles or grandma and grandpa can take turns reading about the joys of being a big brother or sister.
To get you started, here’s a great list of older-sibling story books your toddler will love.
2. Make a colorful Baby Countdown Calendar
To get your toddler involved with the arrival of the new baby, you can create a colorful baby countdown calendar. If you’re feeling up to it, you can create one using arts and crafts items at home or you can also head over to Pinterest to find some cute printable calendars for kids.
Don’t be disappointed if your toddler doesn’t catch on right away. The key with teaching toddlers anything is consistency. Make sure that you tick each day of your baby countdown calendar every day around the same time.
Also, not only is it a fun bonding activity for you and your toddler, it will also teach them the basic concepts of:
- Days of the week
- Months of the year
And most especially, it teaches toddlers the important value of patience. When we teach a toddler that we are waiting for their little sibling to come and that it takes some time, we are teaching them how to be patient, something that is very valuable for them to learn while they are waiting for you to give birth.
A Word On Patience
It’s important to remember that your toddler was an only child up until you found out you are pregnant. From that moment on, your toddler is set to become an older sibling for the first time! As you know, toddlers are territorial, possessive, not very good at sharing and never good at waiting.
Now is probably a good time to slowly start teaching them how to share and how to wait, as well. It will take time and lots of patience on your part, too. The countdown calendar is a good way to start letting them know that it’s important to wait for the baby because that means the baby will come out healthy.
You can also look for little teachable moments at home such as waiting for you to finish what you’re doing before you go get them a snack or have them wait for you to finish buttoning up your coat before you button theirs.
If your toddler is used to having you at their instant beck and call while you’re pregnant, it might be harder for both yourself and your toddler to adjust once the baby arrives. Learning to wait now will make them better older siblings later.
3. Throw a simple “I’m A New Big Sister/Big Brother!” party and DIY photo shoot for your toddler.
Being a big sister or big brother for the first time should be celebrated! And don’t little toddlers simply love cake, balloons and a good reason to have fun? When waiting for their new baby sibling, it’s important to get them involved and show them the same attention you’re giving to your new baby.
Our tip is to plan a big sister/big brother party for your toddler that can double up as a DIY baby announcement photo shoot.
Have your toddler be involved in the whole thing – from baking cupcakes to picking the color of the balloons, your toddler will simply love the attention and being mommy and daddy’s little helper.
Remember that it doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer, too. Photos from your phone snapped during happy moments will be enough to create great memories with your toddler.
Remember to print photos to frame as family mementos and photos are great for scrapbooking as well. Which brings us to our next idea….
4. Let your toddler become part of your birth story through a “My New Baby Brother/Sister Scrapbook”.
Using photos from your toddler’s big sister/big brother party plus other memorable pregnancy photos like the first ultrasound photos and even baby photos of your toddler, a scrapbook is a fun DIY activity you can do with your toddler to help them feel included in the new baby’s birth story.
You don’t need to finish it all in one sitting, too. You can do one or two pages at a time to make sure all pregnancy highlights are included in the scrapbook.
You can do side-by-side photos of maybe your toddler at one month old and then leave a blank spot for you and your toddler to fill in once your new baby becomes a month old, too.
Our DIY suggestions so far include the Baby Countdown Calendar, a simple party/photo shoot to celebrate being an older sibling and this one – a scrapbook, are great as bonding activities that you can have with your toddler before your new baby arrives.
Us parents want to give as much time and attention to all of our children but we all know that once the new baby arrives, it can be exhausting. These precious moments of planning and creating will make for great memories with your toddlers before you give birth.
Not to mention, these activities will help develop your toddler’s fine motor skills and creativity.
5. Let your toddler come with you to shop for newborn essentials.
As this article is currently written in the time of a national lockdown/self-isolation period due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this wouldn’t currently be applicable but, we are confident that better days are ahead.
When this is all over and we can safely take our children outside, you can have your toddler come with you during one of your shopping trips to buy newborn essentials. Of course, this usually takes a lot of time and you’ll probably need to focus on a shopping list so we suggest maybe taking your toddler with you when you go out to buy “non-priority” items that are easy and enjoyable to pick like baby blankets, booties or hats.
To wrap up this section, here are some more bonding ideas for your toddler and your new baby before birth:
- Have friends or family with two or more children come over to visit (or visit them). Discuss the older sibling/younger sibling relationship when you see an opportunity e.g. “Do you see Tyler helping out his little sister with her shoes?” or “Wow. What a good big sister Sarah is!”
- Help your toddler bond with the baby while still in the tummy by asking them to rub your tummy say “good night” to the baby before bed time or encourage your toddler to “talk” to the baby every once in a while.
- While waiting for your due date, try to find time to prepare busy bags and activities. These will come in handy when your new baby arrives and your toddler will need to be kept preoccupied with other activities.
- Find moments to tell your toddler all about how great it is to have a younger sibling. If you have a pet or if you belong to a large family, that will be easier to do. If you belong to a small family and do not have brothers or sisters, then you may need to remind your soon-to-be older sibling of how they’ll finally have their very own playmate forever and someone to talk to or hang out with as they grow older.
- Never forget to make your toddler to feel loved. As much as you’d like to do everything you can to prepare your toddler for this happy event in your family, it won’t be a perfect ride. Your toddler will have moments where they’ll feel a bit left out and they won’t know how to properly express their feelings. But as long as you’re doing your best, that’s what’s important.
Preparation doesn’t stop there, though. A lot of the real “work” happens when your new baby is actually born.
That’s why we’ve also compiled a quick list of tips and ideas to help your toddler adjust better with a new baby at home.
Leave a “going away” gift to your baby a few days before your due date.
Let your toddler know that their new baby sibling will be arriving soon and that you’ll be away for a few days. They might not comprehend everything completely but they will understand that that mommy will not be in the house for a little while.
Remember that 3 or 4 days without mom and dad home is a long time for a toddler. Leaving your toddler a present is a great way to distract them and let them know that you’re still thinking about them even while you’re away. If you can make something homemade, that would be more meaningful.
Plan your toddler’s trip to the hospital when you’re ready to head home.
If it’s at all possible, have your spouse or another family member pick up your toddler and take them to pick you up at the hospital. It’s going to make for great photos and the hospital setting will be an ideal way for your toddler to meet their baby sibling for the first time.
If you can also have them ride with you in the car ride home, then that’s great, too. It might be a bit challenging – handling your newborn and the toddler in the back but it will mean a lot to your oldest. Don’t be pressured, though. Do what you think is natural and is best for everyone.
Let them be mommy’s little helper.
As soon as you’ve settled in at home with a new baby and a toddler in tow, things will get a little crazy sometimes! But it’s going to be so worth it – especially if you see the bond between your two babies grow as they both grow, as well.
Help them develop both empathy and their precious sibling bond by letting your toddler help you with whatever they’re capable of doing like handing you your phone, a burp rag, a clean diaper or just be a good little boy or girl while you’re breastfeeding or giving your newborn a bath.
Having a new baby at home is a big deal for your toddler! They might not know how to express their feelings properly but they do feel when changes are happening. The key is make sure they will always feel loved and that you find time to give them the attention they need.
Don’t worry mom and dad – time flies! Pretty soon, your toddler will best friends and be super-protective of his new little sibling.
If you have adorable stories to share about your toddler and newborn, let us know! We’re excited to hear your stories, too.