Updated: Jun 1
Congratulations Mama you have decided to have another baby or are preparing for the pitter-patter of little feet for the second time. From the early stages of pregnancy to the baby’s arrival and beyond, there are things you can do to prepare and help your child(ren) to adjust to life with a new sibling. Most importantly, remember you know what you’re doing and what to expect. You’ve done it before! Be confident and gentle with yourself.
From two Mamas with seven children between us, here are our top tips to ease the transition.
How to prepare toddler for new baby
• Read lots of books about being a big brother/sister
• Tell your children there is a baby in Mummy’s tummy (9 months is a long time for a child but you don’t want them to hear from someone else). As your tummy grows, it will bond with the baby before it arrives.
• Talk to your baby - and ask your children to too!
• What do you need to buy? A double pram provides an easy transition for your toddler, and a skateboard is fun!
• Let others spend time with your child before the baby comes, so your child can be settled, fed etc., without mum
• It is normal to feel torn or guilty. With each child, you grow another heart. You’re going to love this baby just as much
• Make any changes impacting your child a month or more before the baby arrives. Don’t let your baby replace your child in the cot (move to a different cot or bed etc). Same with the car seat, high chair and pram.
• Check that any preloved items from baby number one which you plan on using with baby number two are still safe and up to the Australian SIDS standards. (Particularly if there is a long gap between babies)
Introducing your baby to your toddler
• Introduce baby and child when you’re ready. Drips etc. can be scary for children. You want to put on a brave face.
• Don’t be holding the baby when your toddler comes in. If you can, go out and meet your toddler first (your baby can be in your room with your partner or in a bassinet) and go to meet the baby together
• Don’t be offended if your toddler doesn’t want to cuddle you or doesn’t have much interest in the baby (but also be prepared for your baby to want to manhandle the baby)
• If you’ve had a c-section, be careful kids don’t jump on you
• Children thrive on routine. When in the hospital, try to keep your child’s routine going (brief family members/careers).
Bringing your newborn home
• Rest as much as you can in the hospital. You will need your energy when you come out!
• Talk about those things that you can have/do as a big kid that the baby can’t do (chino etc)
• Be aware of germs, especially before the baby is immunised. Children bring germs home. Handwashing is essential
• At 6 weeks a child realises the baby isn’t leaving. It’s normal for a toddler to regress and want to be treated like a baby
• When you can, put the new baby in the cot so you can cuddle/carry the big one
• Give yourself time to adjust
• Organise support people to help with bath time etc (restrictions allowing)
• Prepare toddler snacks the evening before so they are easy to get when you need them
• Make dinner when baby is asleep and let your toddler help you
• Keep toddlers sleeping as long as you can! Our Sleep Expert Richelle Franklin says until 3 years old. Steiner Educators say until school
• Time sleeps so they cross over and you can sleep too
• Get out in the morning so the toddler can burn some energy, while the baby sleeps in the pram
• Don’t try and do everything you used to do
• Accept all offers of help!
• Tell visitors (if restrictions allow) to greet toddlers first, before wanting to meet the baby. “Can you show me your baby?”
• Every toddler is different. Some toddlers will want to kiss and cuddle the. Need gentle hands
• Never leave baby and toddler alone in a room together
• Don’t let your toddler pick up the baby
• Your toddler can buy a gift for the baby, baby can buy a gift for your toddler
• Make a bag of tricks for breastfeeding – special toys they can play with independently as when you sit down to feed, your toddler will want your attention. Play-doh, colouring in, fishing games etc. Can also try middle-of-the-day water play in the bath, toddler within arm's reach while you feed
• Get them involved with the change of nappies. Holding bag, picking out wipes etc
• They can pick out clothes for the baby to wear that day.
We are not going to lie. It is a huge adjustment going from one to two, as suddenly you are outnumbered. Be patient and allow everyone in the family time to adjust, especially your toddler, who will have very big emotions around the change. We promise it will be the best thing you ever do.
Many Mamas worry that they couldn't possibly love another baby as much as their first, but don't worry Mama, with every baby you grow a new heart.
You have got this!
To find out more about introducing a sibling book into our Parents You've Got This Toddler Masterclass.