Inside: Helping your toddler adjust to new baby – tips for before and after baby’s arrival.
We walked in the front door with our newborn son, and it hit me. There were now three babies in the house. The twins were 15 months old and were officially toddlers, but they were still babies to me.
I was curious as to how they would receive the newest member of the family. One of the twins, the energetic one, came running. As he reached the car seat that was standing on the floor, he curiously pushed down on it where the baby’s feet were, which rocked the car seat forward and brought his sleeping brother closer. He looked at the baby for exactly two seconds and ran off to play.
His twin brother is more observant. It took him a couple of minutes to walk up to his newest sibling who was in my arms by then. As I sat on the couch, he carefully came closer, looked at his brother’s face, and then looked at his feet.
He then did something that melted me completely. He put his little cheek against his brother’s tiny foot and just stood there. My 15-month-old was gentler than I’ve ever seen him before. He stood like that for a little while, then went back to look at his brother’s face. He then kissed the baby’s little fist, after which he seemed satisfied, and went on playing.
We took several steps to prepare our toddlers for the new baby’s arrival beforehand, but I really didn’t expect it to go over so well. Both boys accepted their little brother right into the club.
The transition may not be as easy for every family. There may be tantrums, whiting, and plain dislike for the baby. Take steps before and after the new sibling arrives to prepare your toddler for this big change.
How to help your toddler adjust to new baby before she arrives
Give him the news soon. Tell him he’ll be a big brother as soon as you’re telling everyone else, and talk about the baby often. Get him excited about his new sibling growing inside your belly, and satisfy his curiosity with age-appropriate answers to his questions.
Show him his baby pictures. Talk about how little he was, and tell him that that the new baby will be just as little when she arrives. This post contains affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, I will earn a small commission, but it won’t cost you a penny more. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
Read books about siblings with him. Pick books about new baby, like I Am a Big Brother or I Am a Big Sister and read to him often. Tell him about his own baby sister, and how she’s growing bigger and stronger every day. This will help him get used to the idea of a new sibling.
Let him put his hands on your belly and feel the baby move. He may not grasp the whole meaning of mommy growing a baby inside, but feeling the baby move will help him get more excited about his baby sister.
Let him help you pick the baby’s name. If your toddler talks, ask him to help pick a name for the baby. Write his suggestions down, even if it’s “Lucky,” “Peppa Pig”, or “Tiny Twinkletoes”. It’ll be fun to read them over later, and who knows, he may suggest a name that’s a great fit. For baby name ideas, see 100 Most Handsome Baby Boy Names and Their Meanings and 100 Most Delightful Baby Girl Names and Their Meanings.
Tell him what to expect when the baby is here. Explain to him that she’ll cry, eat, and sleep most of the time and won’t be able to play until she grows bigger. Tell him that he won’t be able to let her eat his apple slices or play with her until she grows bigger.
Visit friends or relatives with a new baby. Let him look at the baby and talk about his own baby sister. Tell him she’ll be just as small as this baby, and explain how to be gentle with the baby.
Get him excited. If your toddler will be staying with a relative while you deliver, get him excited about spending time with auntie. Talk about the fun things they will do together.
Get new routines set up before baby arrives. If your toddler shares a bed with you, and you know he will have to move to his room when the baby is here, do it a few weeks before your due date. This will give him time to adjust to the new bed and will be less stressful for him.
Same goes for milestones like potty training or weaning from a pacifier. Get new habits and routines in place before the baby arrives, this way all the new things happening will be stretched out over a longer period of time, and the stress of all the changes will be lessened.
Let him help pack the hospital bag. Ask him what color baby socks you should pack, and what hair bands you should take.
How to help your toddler adjust to new baby after she arrives
Let him meet the baby soon. Have your toddler’s caretaker bring him to meet the baby at the hospital or birth center soon after birth. Introduce his baby sister to him, and let him touch her toes and kiss her hands or cheeks.
Keep regular routines. Once you and the baby are home, do your best to keep the routines your toddler is used to. If it’s a book before bedtime, have daddy stay with the newborn for a while while you read, ask daddy to read, or better yet, do it all together. Ask your toddler if the baby can listen in, and read while daddy is in the room holding baby sister.
Have special one on one time with your toddler every day. If your toddler is a firstborn, he’s likely used to the fact that lots of the time he spent with you was one on one. Now that baby sister is here, things have drastically changed. Set aside some time to spend alone with him, when the baby is busy with daddy, or napping. Make sure he gets your full attention during his special time with mommy.
Get him involved in caring for the baby. Ask for help with his baby sister. He can bring you a diaper or wipes, throw a dirty diaper away, pass you the burp cloth you just dropped, help give baby sister a bath, and pick out her outfit. A quick tip: When it comes to choosing his sister’s outfit, give him two choices, there’s no need for him to go through the baby’s entire closet. This will avoid overwhelm, and will still serve the purpose of getting him involved.
Accept help with your toddler. If friends and family offer help, accept it, and suggest they do something special with your toddler. They can take him to a local park, or play at home and build the world’s tallest Lego Duplo tower. Make sure your toddler gets plenty of attention as you transition into the normal swing of things with the new baby in the house.
Things to remember
Your toddler may become whiny and needy. This is completely normal. He sees baby sister cry, and mommy tends to her right away. He wants such undivided attention too, so he cries, too.
When your toddler is upset, before reacting, try to understand him. He’s going through a major life change, things are not the same anymore, and that makes him uncomfortable, insecure, and scared. Acknowledge his feelings, and make room for extra time spent just with your toddler.
What if your toddler becomes aggressive towards the baby? When everything is all about the new baby, it’s easy for the toddler to start feeling resentful towards his baby sister. Some toddlers may flat out refuse to accept the new sibling. They may say things like, “Take her back!” Or “I wish she was never born!” Or “I want you to throw her away!”
Let me ease your mind. Your toddler is not a mean human being. He’s not cruel. He simply doesn’t know how to express his feelings and emotions. All he knows is that everything changed once the baby arrived, and he doesn’t like it. Therefore, the baby must go so things can get back to normal. Try to understand him. This will get better. Keep spending special time with him, just you two, and soon enough he will accept and love his baby sister.
This is a period of adjustment for everyone involved. You have a new tiny human to care for and nurture, your toddler’s world just turned upside down, and the baby went from a world of perfect temperature, consistent food and muffled sounds to now being periodically cold, hot, hungry, itchy, and adjusting to all the light and noise around her.
If you’re wondering how to help your toddler adjust to new baby, use these ideas and do it sooner rather than later. Be patient with him once the baby is here. Soon enough everyone will feel comfortable with the new way of life, and none of you will be able to imagine life without the newest member of your family.