Preparing sibling for new baby
Congratulations! You have a toddler, and you are either pregnant with a baby or recently had one! This is a wonderful but challenging time. I’ve gathered some resources and ideas in this handout, and hope it will help you and your family as you adjust to life with your new baby.
Janet Lansbury articles, books, and podcasts. Go to her website and search the word “sibling” and tons of great content is available. https://www.janetlansbury.com/
Facebook groups (Two under Two Support Group, 2 under 2 support group, 2 under 2 Stay At Home Moms, 2 or 3 Babies under 2 or 3 Years Old). The best part of these groups is often reading other people’s posts, and you can easily search the posts and see what other people have been through.
New Sibling Help – A 6-minute video geared toward the older sibling, letting them know what to expect. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGLMyOWnU3M&feature=youtu.be
(these first 2 are "old" but really well done)
The New Baby, by Fred Rogers
The New Baby at Your House, by Joanna Cole
Little Miss, Big Sis, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Peter H. Reynolds
Nine Months: Before a Baby is Born, by Miranda Paul
Hello in There!: A Big Sister's Book of Waiting, by Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
I am a Big Brother, by Caroline Jayne Church
Big Brother Daniel (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood), by Angela C. Santomero
Wilbur Waited, by Gill Davies
The Baby Is Here! (Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood), by Angela C. Santomero
Rebekka Helford, LMFT, has a great list of books for children about siblings. Go to livingincaptivity.blog and search for the word “sibling”.
Tips and Tricks
Many families find that giving their toddler a baby doll or stuff animal to care for as the pregnancy progresses or postpartum is helpful. He may already have one, and you can just bring it out more often and introduce new activities. You can model holding the doll carefully, using words such as “baby” and “gentle” and modeling safe ways to touch the baby. You can also show your toddler how to feed the baby.
Special Toddler time
Make time for special on-to-one toddler time. It may not be as difficult as you think! One of the best things about toddlers is that it does not have to be anything huge or planned out. You can make even a brief activity special by how you do it. How you do this depends on you and your toddler. You can use a fun voice and tell them it is special, jump up and down, whisper it in their ear. Bath, lunch, story time, a quick walk to the car, can instantly be "SPECIAL Mommy and Toddler time!!!!" Just make it seem exciting, give a couple extra kisses, tickles, giggles, and you’re done. If you/partner can do this multiple times a day (or whenever you can) it will help give them that attention they crave without having to "beg" for it, which could look like hitting, breaking things, etc. Other family members can do this, too. Ideally you want to be filling up their cup with love a few times a day so that it is still pretty full when you don’t have time to add to it.
Many children love to be helpful, and may enjoy helping you when you are pregnant and once the baby is born. You can ask your toddler to do simple tasks for you, such as to get a diaper or burp cloth. Diaper changing time will happen A LOT and your toddler may get annoyed by all this time you spend with the baby, so this is a great time to try to involve your older one as a helper. He may be able to hand you wipes, and even gently help wipe the baby’s hands once she’s older. Be sure to ask, rather than tell, and respect the toddler’s refusal if he doesn’t want to help. If you force it, he may resent the baby. If he does want to help, you can thank him and tell him what a good helper he is.
There are going to be a lot of times when you need to give your new baby 1:1 time: nursing, bottle-feeding, soothing, dressing, changing diapers. Your toddler may become jealous at this attention and want some for herself. You might have success asking her to be a Helper, but this only lasts for so long. Another idea is to set up an activity your toddler can do right by your side. For example, your toddler can feed her baby doll while you feed the baby, or change her doll’s diaper as you change the baby’s. The side-by-side activity can be completely different, too, such as looking at a book while sitting by you or even just snuggling with you while getting a few minutes of video time.
Understandably, your toddler may be extremely jealous, and seek out your attention any way they can. They are most likely to act up when you are very busy with baby and you can’t do anything about it. They LOVE attention and sometimes any attention is better than none, even if the attention comes in the form of being yelled at. If you are stuck nursing, or covered in baby poo, or bathing baby, then your toddler will likely learn that this is the best time to cause trouble. This is when it is super important to pick your battles. If you tell them to stop 5 times, and then do nothing about it, then they will quickly learn that what you say does not matter, because you won't enforce it anyway. Then they will have a lot of power over you. I recommend that you are very careful to not yell or demand things that you will not, or cannot, enforce.
For example, if your toddler is playing in the dog’s water bowl and you are nursing and pumping and eating, you clearly cannot stop and physically remove them from playing in the water. They probably are not going to listen to you if you ask them to stop. The best option would be to redirect them. "Abby, come see this cool shiny thing," or "Jack, can you get me the wipes, please."
But if that does not work, then it is sometimes better to turn your head and just ignore it. But know this: If you ignore an attention-seeking behavior, it WILL increase at first! Expect this, be prepared for this, focus on your baby as you wait for your toddler to go through the expected escalation and finally stop. Only do this if the behavior is not dangerous or destructive.
You can also explain what is happening and how to clean it up, going to the Helper strategy.
Changes, Changes, Changes
The times before a new baby arrives and after are times of so much change for the whole family, including your toddler. You can support your toddler’s need for consistency by avoiding other major changes around when baby is due, if at all possible. Try to avoid changing childcare arrangements, beginning toilet training, moving to a big kid bed, etc. These things will probably be easier for your child to handle if you do them a few months before or after baby comes. Also, be prepared for some regression, especially with toilet learning, weaning from bottle and breast, and giving up the pacifier.
Help from others will be essential. Try and get in the habit of saying, "Yes, that would be amazing if you could help me_______, thank you." You can also work on a list of things that would be helpful for others to do, besides hold the baby. For example, walk the dog, pick up milk, do a load of laundry, wash the dishes. I know this is easier said than done but, good luck!
There will be many times your toddler lets you know she wants you to do something with her, and you won’t be able to because you need to care for the new baby. Some experienced mothers suggest that you don’t make the baby the reason. Try to avoid making it seem like you’re blaming the baby for everything as it can lead to resentment. For example, if your toddler wants you to read to her, instead of saying, “Because the baby is nursing,” try saying: “Because Mama’s voice is taking a quiet time.” Or, “Because the book needs a nap.” Or, “Because your trucks really need to visit the construction site dump we set up this morning.”
Reminders and tips:
Learn to put a diaper on a toddler who’s in motion.
If your children will be sleeping in separate rooms, consider a sound machine or fan for both. This may help keep them from waking each other up.
Baby wearing will likely be really helpful. YouTube can remind you how to use one.
You are never going to get everything done, so decide what things you can let go.
There will be a lot of crying, yours included, and that is okay! Tears make us stronger!