There is no denying that bringing home a new baby is completely overwhelming, and wondering how to help your toddler adjust to a new baby is totally new territory.
You are now going to have the responsibility of meeting the needs of two little people who depend on you. As daunting as that may seem, it is normal for your oldest child to be jealous of the new addition to the family.
In This Article
10 Tips To Help Your Toddler Prepare Before Their Baby Brother/Sister Arrives
Tip #1: Tell Them What To Expect
It is important to let your toddler know that they won’t have a playmate right off the bat. Explain in simple words what to expect once the baby arrives. You may say something such as “your baby brother or sister won’t know how to talk like you” or “When baby brother/sister comes. We need to be very soft with them”.
Pre-framing weeks or better yet months, before their sibling arrives, will help them to know a little bit of what to expect. It won’t catch them by complete surprise since mom and dad have been explaining how things are going function.
Tip #2: Make Space For Baby
Toddlers often are running, jumping, making messes, and screaming all around the house. You want to make a space in your home whether that be a place in the living room or mom and dad’s room where it is baby space.
Have your toddler help you create this space. While doing so, explain to them that this is the baby’s space and that there are no running, jumping, or loud voices in this space.
This space is where you can safely place your baby in while you do other things around the house or while you spend one on one time with your toddler.
Tip #3: Establish A Hands-Off Routine
One of the hardest things for children (and parents) to learn is how to go from complete dependence to independence.
Your oldest has spent the majority of their lives being held when they want, feed by mom or dad, clothes changed for them, and have had direct one on one time and attention.
To help your toddler adjust to a new baby because they will no longer be an only child. Start establishing a hands-off routine by having them walk more then being held, teach them how to get themselves dressed and assist if needed, start teaching them the basics of self-care.
We started doing this with Bobbie (our oldest) right from the beginning of my second pregnancy. Bobbie was 14 months old when I found out that we were expecting our second. We started having her walk more while holding our hands and she would feed herself. Around 20 months old I started having her hold onto the grocery shopping cart and walk by me.
As she got older we had her potty trained at 22 months old and started teaching her how to get herself dressed.
Once Owen was born, Bobbie was fully capable of going to the potty by herself (we even taught her how to wipe after going potty) she could get dressed by herself although she would occasionally need assistance, she was able to get in and out of the car, open doors, turn on lights. etc.
This freed up so much of my time! I didn’t have two completely dependable children to help since Bobbie was already doing so many things by herself.
Now I understand that depending on what age your toddler will be when your second baby arrives will determine how much they are capable of doing more independently. As your toddler gets older slowly teach them how to do more things by themselves.
Tip #4: Role Play
Did you know that role-playing is an amazing way to teach your child something?
By role-playing, you are creating real-life scenarios so when a situation arises they know what to do because they have already done it before.
Role-play a scenario over and over again and again. Repetition is key! Especially for toddlers who may not effectivly communiate just yet. Help your toddler adjust to a new baby by practicing different scenarios before the baby comes, this will help them to be more prepared.
We would role-play with Bobbie about being soft with her brother with one of her baby dolls by showing her how to do nice and soft touches on her baby doll. We also taught her how to nicely treat her toys.
How a child treats their toys and stuff transitions over to how they are going to treat their new sibling. If you want them to be nice, soft, and take care of their new baby brother or sister. Start having them do so with their toys.
Tip #5: Make A List Of Quiet Time Activities
Making a fun list of quiet time activities that your toddler can do helps make baby’s naptime more fun!
Start by explaining that their new baby brother or sister will need to take lots of naps. And that during their nap time they are going to have to do some quiet play activities.
This was probably one of my favorite things to do with Bobbie. Since she can’t write yet we (more like I) drew pictures of things we could do during Owens naps. We drew things such as outside, play-doh, cars, puzzles, kinetic sand, coloring, etc.
Now when Owen goes down for his naps. She chooses which quiet time activity she would like to do. This time is also a great time to spend one-on-one time with your toddler.
Tip #6: Talk About How Babies Communicate
The first time Bobbie heard Owen cry she was so confused! Every time he started crying we would tell Bobbie that Owen is trying to tell me something, and since he can’t say words as she can, he cries.
Now when Owen cries. Bobbie will ask me if he is hungry, tired, or poopy. We will talk it through together and try to figure out the reasons why he is crying, how to soothe him, and what we can do to solve his need.
This is also a great way to help your toddler develop problem-solving skills!
Tips #7: Make A Space For Your Toddler
To help your toddler adjust to a new baby, It is important to make sure your toddler doesn’t feel like the baby is taking over the house. Just like you created a safe space for the baby. Have you and your toddler create a space just for them.
Bobbie has a space called her “comfort corner” in a corner of our living room. She has her toy chest, a few books, some stuffed animals, and posters that help her learn how to identify her emotions and how to cope with them.
Just like adults like their own space. Toddlers like their own space as well. They need this space to have alone time, a place to keep their most valuable toys and a place to call their own.
We don’t force Bobbie to share her space or her favorite toys. We encourage her by saying “Bobbie, Owen shared his toy (or space) with you. Which toy can you share with him?” but if she doesn’t want to she doesn’t have to and vice versa. Often times Bobbie will share her toys and space because she wants to not because she has to.
Tips #8: Get Your Toddler Comfortable With Other Caregivers
This is a big one! If your toddler is used to only having mommy put them to bed, giving them a bottle, getting them dressed, etc. It is going to be really hard to have your toddler be helped by someone else besides you.
We did this by having Bobbie spend alone time at grandmas house, Tucker would get Bobbie food or drinks every now and then, we would have grandma or aunts help Bobbie go potty and every Sunday since Bobbie was 15 months old Tucker would put her down for naps and bedtime.
This will help get your toddler comfortable having others besides mom helping them out. That way you are able to care for a newborn while the needs of your toddler are still being met.
Tip #9: Make Transitions Early
Once the new sibling arrives your toddler (and everyone else’s) world gets turned upside down. Don’t worry this doesn’t last forever! Just like it took a while to get into a routine and schedule with your firstborn. The same goes for when your second baby arrives.
When the new baby arrives, it is not a time to make other big changes. Toddlers need a sense of consistency and security especially when their baby brother or sister is born. Making big changes such a moving, changing rooms, moving to a toddler bed or weaning from breastfeeding. All need to be done months before the new baby arrives.
This way it will give your toddler time to adjust and find new security with the adjustments in their lives.
Tip #10: Get Them Involved In The Pregnancy
Depending on the age of your toddler they may or may not totally understand what is happening with mom. Take these 9 months to walk with your toddler what you are experiencing and what baby brother or sister is doing.
You can help your toddler develop a connection with their sibling even before they are born. One of Bobbie’s favorite thing to do was to look at my baby app (Pregnancy +) on my phone and “look” at her baby brother.
We would talk about how big he is, what was growing that week and she would give endless hugs and kisses to the baby on the app and my tummy.
It is also important to watch how you talk about your unborn baby and your symptoms. Kids are like sponges and they soak up everything you say and do. If you are talking negatively about the baby they will talk negatively as well.
Pregnancy is exhausting and growing a baby while still taking care of another makes it 10x more exhausting. If you are really not feeling good one day (or every day) tell your toddler that you still love them and want to play but that mom really needs to rest or sit down for a while.
Will your toddler totally understand you and be like “okay, mom I’ll go play by myself in my room for a while” no! No one totally understands pregnancy until you’ve been through it yourself. But try your best to explain what it is you are feeling by using short simple phrases.
12 Tips To Help Your Toddler Adjust To A New Sibling Once They Arrive
Tip #1: Baby Has To Follow House Rules As Well
This may sound a little silly but this is a great tip to follow. If your toddler sees that the baby doesn’t follow house rules such as sharing, hitting, pulling, etc. It can come across to your toddler that their new sibling is getting special treatment.
Your toddler may begin to test the house rules to see if they still have to follow them because if the baby isn’t so they shouldn’t either.
We did this with Owen when he was around 6-7 months old and started to grab things. We would say things like “Owen, please share your toys with Bobbie” or “Owen, it isn’t nice to pull hair. Can you give your sister a hug and say I’m sorry?”
What may seem silly to you makes your toddler feel like everything is fair.
Tip #2: Say Positive One-Liners
Another tip to help your toddler adjust to a new baby sibling is to help them build a positive connection with one another. And a great way to do that is by saying these positive one-liners. Here is how you do it. When you notice that your baby is smiling or laughing at your toddler. Say something like ” your brother/sister thinks you are so silly” or “your brother/sister loves having you as a big brother/sister”.
Watch your toddler’s reaction after. They love it and will often get the biggest smile on their face. We say things like “Bobbie, Owen loves you so much”, “Bobbie, Owen thinks you are an amazing big sister”, or “Owen, loves it when you play nicely and share your toys with him”.
Every time, Bobbie gets such a big smile on her face and gives Owen the biggest hugs ever!
Tip #3: Give Your Toddler Big Brother/Sister Roles
When there is a new baby in the house they will get a lot of attention. To help your toddler feel like a big brother/sister they are. Let them feel and be bigger.
To do this you can start by.
- Have your toddler go to bed 30 minutes after the new baby.
- Teach them how to dress themselves
- Move them to a big kid bed (preferably before the baby comes or a few months after they arrive)
Tip #4: Help Your Toddler Adjust To A New Baby By Making Them Feel Important
Toddlers love to help because when they are able to help they are able to achieve a sense of belonging and significance. When a new baby arrives this can threaten them. This is a natural response but shouldn’t be taken lightly.
From the get-go. To help your toddler adjust to a new baby sibling make it a habit of reminding your toddler of their roles and the importance their roles are as a big brother/sister and to the family.
Use encouraging phrases to help put point our your toddler’s efforts to help.
You could say things such as.
- “I really appreciate you helping me change the baby’s diaper”
- I can tell you really care about your brother/sister when you try to help calm him down”
- “Thank you so much for helping me put your baby brother’s/sister’s clothes away. This is a big help to the family”
- “That was very sweet of you to get your brother/sister’s binky”
By giving small but regular amounts of encouragement to your toddler. You are reminding him of his significance to the family and more importantly to the new baby as well. This is a great way to help your toddler dismiss any negative feelings of jealousy or sibling rivalry.
Tip #5: Don’t Let It Be All About Baby
Having a new baby in the homes is such an exciting time! but don’t forget about the goals and achievements of your firstborn too. The last thing you will want is for your toddler to feel unloved or forgotten just because the new baby arrived.
To help your toddler adjust to a new baby sibling and help them feel like their new sibling isn’t taking over their world. Be excited about something they made, or developmental achievements they reached. Make sure your toddler’s achievements don’t go unnoticed this is vital to help avoid sibling rivalry.
Tip #6: Don’t Compare Your Children
This is an easy trap to fall in. Once the new baby arrives, you will quickly realize how different each of them is compared to one another. It is especially hard not to compare when it comes to hitting milestones such as teething, crawling, walking and talking.
Even as they get older, it is important to remember that they are different people with different personalities and they will grow and develop at different rates and speeds. Let each child shine in their own uniqueness.
Tip #7: Don’t Add More Big Changes At The Same Time
This is sometimes unavoidable, but try your best to avoid big changes such as moving from a crib to toddler bed, moving to a new house or moving to a new room on top of the new baby’s arrival.
If big changes need to be made. Make them a few months before the new baby comes or a few months after the baby arrives. That way your toddler won’t have to deal with two major adjustments.
Tip #8: Have Baby Bring A Gift For Big Brother/Sister
This is probably one of the best pieces of advice! When the baby comes home from the hospital pick up a gift on your way home that the baby could give their older sibling. This makes it a very positive experience for both people.
You could pick up a small toy, but to make it more meaningful, grab something that your older child is really into. Your older child will feel like the new baby already knows them really well!
When we were able to go after Owen was born. We went and got Bobbie a little gift and she was so excited that she got a gift and a new baby!
Tip #9: Maintain Your Oldest Daily Routine
Life gets a little crazy for a little bit while everyone adjusts to the new baby in the home. The best thing you can do for your toddler is to keep their daily and nightly routine consistent.
Children thrive off of consistency! Consistency helps children know what to expect and plan for. It helps keep them grounded. Often times, when children’s daily lives are inconsistent and always changing it, makes them unsure of themselves and they feel unstable.
Don’t change up their routine. If they are used to going down for a nap at 12 o’clock and bedtime at 7 P.M. Keep it that way. The best thing you can do is get your newborn on your toddler’s schedule.
Since newborns don’t have a schedule that they have been following for a year or two.
Tip #10: Talk About Their Feelings
Toddlers haven’t had years of knowing how to cope and manage their emotions let alone their feelings. They are still learning how to properly communicate what they are feeling that isn’t demonstrated by throwing a tantrum or hitting.
Naturally, when the new baby arrives. They will experience some jealousy and sibling rivalry. They have quickly gone from being the only child that got mom and dad’s 100 percent attention. To now a new little baby in the home that has taken some of mom and dad’s attention away from them.
Talk openly in a calming manner to talk with your toddler about what they are feeling. If they are young and don’t know how to say what they are feeling help guide them by saying, “It seems like you are feeling sad, can you use your words or point to what is making you feel sad?”
Remember when you open the door for your toddler to talk about what they are feeling. Make sure you are not undermining what their feelings are. It should be a safe place for your toddler to tell you or show you what they are feeling and why.
Getting upset at your toddler’s feelings will make them feel as though what they are feeling is not important, and therefore will act out in different ways to get the point across.
Tip #11: Stay Calm
This is a lot easier said than done. Just imagine that you have brought your new baby home and it has been 2 weeks since they were born. Your toddler seems to be adjusting well and you think all is grand.
You lay your newborn baby in their bouncer to sleep while you go make dinner. Right as you look away, all of a sudden your newborn goes from deep sleep to screaming. You look over to see why they are crying, and to your surprise, you see that your toddler has a ball in their hand and there’s a red spot on the baby’s forehead.
You quickly grab your crying baby to help calm them down, you have to grab your toddler by the hand to move them away from the bouncer (or possibly in time out), you a furious about what your toddler just did, and now you have your new baby crying and your toddler crying.
At this point, you may feel like joining in the crying festivities that are going on.
Toddlers hit, bite, kick, etc to see what reaction they will get from the person they are causing harm to. It is a natural curiosity, even as adults we may do something to see what would follow.
What matters the most is how the situation follows after the harm has been done. As parents, it is our job to stay clam. Do toddlers know that the baby will cry if they hit them on the head with a ball?
Probably not, even if you have told them that they need to be soft.
So what do you do when you find yourself in the situation I described earlier?
- Pick up the new baby to calm them down again
- Give yourself a few minutes to calm down before talking with your toddler about the situation.
- Once you are calm, ask your toddler what they did that made the baby cry.
- If they don’t speak a lot of words yet. Ask them a question such as “did you hit baby brother/sister on the head with this ball?”
- Once they say “yes” show them the red spot on the baby’s head and say “look, the ball made a red spot on the baby’s head and what you did really hurt her.”
- “What do you think you could do to make your brother/sister feel better?”
- Give them a second to think about it. If they can’t come up with any ideas say “could you kiss her owie and say sorry?”
- After your toddler has apologized. Restate how soft and careful they have to be around their brother/sister.
Tip #12: Spend One-On-One Time With Your Older Child
When a new baby arrives it can be difficult to make sure you are spending one-on-one time with your toddler. However, taking the time to spend distraction-free (I’m talking about phones, Ipads, and tv here) one-on-one time with your toddler, will help your toddler adjust to a new baby sibling and adjust to the new family life dynamic.
When you get the baby down for a nap. Take some time to do unstructured playtime with your toddler.
Unstructured play-time is where imagination and creativity get to run free. With everyone’s busy and sometimes overbooked schedules. Children are getting less and less one-on-one time with their parents. Which they so desperately need!
While the baby is sleeping, take that time to read books, play games, role play, or even ask questions. You will be amazed at how much you maybe didn’t know about your toddler!
Planning The First Meeting
The entire birth process is a little chaotic. Rushing to the hospital, you deliver your baby in a room full of doctors and nurses, and you have family waiting in the waiting room all anxiously waiting to meet the newest member of the family.
When you are ready for your toddler to meet their new sibling. Make sure this meeting is a clam and very peaceful meeting. Have them hop up next to you and if they are old enough help them hold their new baby brother or sister.
Take To help your toddler adjust to a new baby sibling take this moment to explain how much their brother or sister is going to love them and look up to them. Always reinforce good positive behavior by seeing how softly they hold, kiss, touch, help and play with their sibling!
How Long Does It Take For Toddlers To Adjust To A New Baby
During this transition phase, once the new baby arrives, it does take a while for everyone to feel like things are back to normal. For our family it took a good solid 4 months before I finally felt like I had both kids on a great sleeping, eating and playing schedule.
During those first few months, there will be some very difficult days. When you experience both kids crying at the same time, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of whos needs are needing to be met first.
Not only do you have a household to run but you have two little people the depend on you. It is hard to find time to take care of yourself as well. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
The biggest thing to remember is that it will and does take some time for everyone to adjust to life again. Just like it was when you brought home your first newborn baby. It takes time to find a system and schedule that works for your family.
A great place to find support and get tips and insights to help you become even a better parent. Is my Facebook group, inside of my group I teach parents how to raise children! It is such a hard task but it is one of the greatest blessings. It is my goal to help you be able to use your power as a parent to bring harmony to your home.
Click here to join my group! Can’t wait to see you there.