Introducing A Toddler To A New Baby: Your Questions, Answered
If you’re expecting another baby, you’re probably counting down the days to finally welcoming them into the world and bringing them home. But will your first born feel the same excitement? A toddler’s reaction to a new baby is unpredictable. They may be just as thrilled to meet their new baby brother or sister, or they could express other emotions like indifference or jealousy (which is totally normal).
So how do you best prepare your toddler for a new sibling? What can you do in advance for a smooth introduction? We’re breaking down all of your most frequently asked questions about introducing a toddler to a newborn below!
Will my toddler be jealous of the new baby?
Adding a new baby to the family is a huge adjustment. Your toddler is used to having all of mum and dad’s attention, and then suddenly a new baby has the spotlight on them. It’s only natural for your toddler to feel some pretty big emotions because of this.
Some signs of jealousy include temper tantrums, clinginess, and irritability as well as more obvious actions like speaking negatively about the baby. While you won’t be able to completely prevent newborn jealousy, with some extra preparation and adjustment support, it can make the transition a little easier.
How do I prepare my toddler for a new baby?
The best time to start preparing your toddler for a baby is once you are far along enough that you know the baby is healthy. Even though they may not fully understand what is happening, you can start doing little things here and there or having certain conversations all the way up to delivery.
Read books about babies and pregnant mums: Since toddlers are very visual, reading these stories could help them better understand what is happening.
Show your toddler photos of them as a baby: Point out your toddler in their old baby photos or you when you were pregnant with them. Tell them about how they were in your belly and how you cared for them as a newborn.
Make your toddler as involved as possible in the pregnancy: Let your toddler feel the baby kick, give them a say in what goes in the nursery, make them a part of the gender reveal parties, etc.
Visit a friend who has a baby: If you know someone who recently had a baby, ask if your toddler can visit and hold them or just observe the baby’s behaviour.
How do I introduce my toddler to my baby?
When the big day arrives, and you are ready to introduce your toddler to your newborn, there are a couple of things you can do to ease your toddler into this big life change. Whether your toddler is at home waiting or coming to see you in the hospital, here are our top tips.
Keep everything calm and collective: A new baby is already exciting and overwhelming, so make sure you don’t make a huge fuss when introducing your toddler to the new sibling. The calmer, the better.
Leave the baby in the bassinet or carrier, if possible: Your toddler will most likely miss mum and dad, so be ready for hugs and kisses when they enter the room or you walk inside, instead of holding or breastfeeding the baby just yet.
Have a gift ready for your toddler from the baby: A common thing that parents do is have a gift ready for the toddler from the baby. This makes the encounter that much more exciting for them.
Let your toddler decide how they want to greet the baby: If they want to immediately hold or touch the baby, let them carefully do so. If they are shy to greet the baby at first, don’t push them into interacting – they will likely warm up to the idea shortly.
How do I help my toddler adjust to a newborn?
After you’ve done all your preparation and gotten through the introduction, you’ll have to continue helping your toddler adjust to the newborn for a few weeks or months. They will adjust in time, but you can help speed up the process with these strategies:
Keep to your routines as much as possible: Toddlers thrive with a schedule, so try to keep up with the schedule you had before the new baby as much as possible.
Spend one-on-one time: Spending individual time with your toddler is one way to curb jealousy. Tag teaming with your partner and going on special outings are great. Or, when the baby is napping, all three of you can do something fun together at home.
Give lots of praise and love: Toddlers love to feel important, so use phrases like “you’re such a good big brother” or “you played with your sister so nicely today” to encourage this behaviour. Also give a bit of extra “I love you”’s and hugs during this time and help them feel secure.
Watch your words: Don’t blame everything on the baby. If the baby is napping, but your toddler wants to go to the park, say, “We will go in just a few minutes” instead of, “We can’t go because the baby is sleeping.”
Expanding your family is always a huge adjustment – one that might take some extra time for your toddler to get used to. With the right preparation, introduction strategy, and ongoing adjustment support, soon enough this transition will become your family’s new normal.