Having a new baby in the house sounds like a lot of fun for your toddler, but reality may prove more difficult for them. First-born children are used to commanding the room and being the center of attention. When a crying newborn arrives, they may quickly feel ignored or second-best. Of course, their reaction is not a reflection of your effort or your parenting. Their sensitivity to the change of becoming a sibling is normal and the intensity often depends on their personality.
No matter how your kid reacts, we know you want to do everything you can to make them feel more loved and at ease. At the same time, it’s just as important that you are able to devote enough time and attention to your new baby. We have a few essential tips for this milestone transition in your family, so you can feel confident that everyone is happy.
Be Patient with Your Toddler’s Reactions
When a new baby arrives, some toddlers begin to behave like infants themselves. They may whine more often, suddenly want a pacifier or protest their potty training. Your child is regressing to a younger age because they see the attention a newborn receives. At the same time, they’re also responding to a need to be cared for and nurtured. Instead of getting frustrated, take a deep breath, give them a hug or kiss and remind them how wonderful it is to be a big kid.
Some children may also become hostile or forceful toward their new sibling. As soon as you see them display aggressive toddler behaviors like snatching a bottle or poking the baby, it’s time to correct them. Explain in a simple way how their actions could harm their new brother or sister. Instead of a punishment, offer them a solution. Perhaps they’d like their sippy cup from the cupboard or would like help playing with the baby. You can also show your toddler how to gently touch and stroke an infant. With repetition, loving behaviors will become like second nature.
Schedule Some Quality Time Together
With all the focus on the baby, your toddler may feel left out of the family picture. They may even wonder why things have changed. Since you are still their everything, it’s important that you spend quality time together, so they know that they are important, too. Aim for at least a few moments of alone time each day, as well as an outing or playdate once per week.
Some of the best ways to connect include reading a few nightly bedtime stories together, taking a morning walk or having a mommy and child lunch while the baby naps. Fun ideas for playdates and outings include going to the playground, making sandcastles at the beach or creating crafts on the patio. If you’re having trouble juggling your roles, ask a loved one for help. Perhaps your partner can watch your newborn for an hour or two while you take your toddler to the park. With a little organization and creativity, you can make everyone feel special.
Teach Them About Their New Role
You are your toddler’s first and most revered teacher. Sometimes, all it takes to get your child feeling more proud and confident is explaining the importance of their new role. From the time you tell your little one you’re pregnant, explain to them how wonderful it is to be a big sister or brother. Show them examples of siblings you know, such as neighbors or cousins. There are also plenty of books out there about being the oldest child. By framing the story around having a younger baby in the house as early as possible, they’ll have fewer questions when your new addition arrives.
Since kids this age love to learn, you can narrate everything you do to care for the baby. Teach your toddler how to fold the baby’s blankets, let them help with feedings and ask them to help you fetch supplies like baby wipes and bibs. Once they discover how important they are to your newborn and family, they’ll see the adjustment as a way to contribute and receive positive attention.
Fill Your Toddler with Pride
While your child will be proud of being a bigger sibling, you can also boost their self-esteem by purchasing them a couple of toddler outfit sets. There are plenty of bodysuits, t-shirts and long sleeve shirts online and in stores with fun sayings like “I’m the Big Sister,” “Big Brothers Rule” and “I Love My Baby Sister.” Let them wear their favorite to the hospital and in their first pictures with their sibling. They can show the photos off to grandma and grandpa or take them to school.
Toddlers also like it when you ask for their input. Let them help you decide which burp cloth to use, where to take the baby for a walk or which toy to let them play with. As you notice your child begin to become more confident with being an older brother or sister, empower them to learn new things. Most children this age can help with bathing or changing diapers, even if it’s handing you a washcloth or a bottle of baby powder. At the same time, praise your toddler as often as you can. Reinforce behaviors and gestures such as kindness toward the baby, helping with chores and listening to directions while the family is out running errands.
Welcoming a New Baby Is a Family Transition
When a new baby arrives, everyone in the family is experiencing change. Remember this as you respond to your toddler’s questions, regressions and reactions. Even if your child is mild-mannered, you’ll probably be dealing with sibling jealousy, behavioral changes and sleeping adjustments. Be as calm as you can and remember that just like the first year of baby’s life, everything you’re witnessing is a phase. Your oldest child will begin to adapt and thrive in their new role as a big brother or sister.
In the meantime, remember to care for yourself and your partner. Nurturing and teaching two children is more than a full-time job! Taking the time to relax, unwind and connect can make it easier to care for your newborn and devote time to your precious toddler.