Preparing older siblings for baby number two or even a toddler can be a little difficult. Introducing your firstborn to a new baby may be something you’ve never done before! While I was pregnant, I asked every mommy I met who had two small kids how the transition was for them. Over and over I received one answer:
But the veteran-mommy-of-two would always add, “But you’ll adjust.” One mommy even added, “And you’ll get into a new routine again.” That made me feel better.
Now, as a mommy of two with a six-day-old newborn, I can let you know what worked right away as we got home from the hospital, how our little one reacted and most importantly what you can do to prepare your toddler for a new baby.
New Sibling: How To Prepare Your Toddler For A New Baby!
We potty trained our toddler right before she turned two, at the end of my second trimester. Truthfully, it was not the easiest thing in the world to do as a pregnant momma (I SHOULD have had the hubby at home to help) but we did it. And not only did we do it, but we accomplished this feat in only a few days. I read extensively on ALL the ways to potty train…consuming hours of YoutTube videos and a few books.
- Potty training your toddler WHILE you are pregnant is totally doable and awesome. No more diapers. It’s AH-mazing. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that our little one is potty trained before baby number two is here!
- I have awesome blog posts on exactly how to do this here:
#1 How To Potty Train In A Weekend And Be Done!
#2 Stress-Free Potty Training This Weekend, Everything You Need To Know
Teaching independence is very important. Sometimes we can treat our toddlers like babies; not allowing them to eat by themselves, get their drink out of the fridge or even clean up (because they would do it wrong). But now your little baby is growing up! And you may be shocked at how much your toddler can do on their own, especially when properly motivated. Yesterday, I told our 2 and a half year old, “If you clean up the living room, we can watch 30 minutes of TV.” I’ve never seen her move so fast.
Shocked and mouth gaping, I watched her speed around the house putting things back exactly where she had taken them from. I had NO idea she could remember where all that crap came from and she placed every single item back flawlessly. I learned a lesson that day: our toddler is perfectly capable of cleaning up after herself and I don’t have to ask her 5 times to pick up the crayons!
Here are some other things you can do:
- Practice independence on stairs if you have them. Be careful and be ready to catch them.
- Ask your toddler to be personally responsible: “Please put your milk away in the fridge” and thank him or her when she does so. You can also hand her plates and things to help set the table and more. Say things to her like, “You are SO helpful!” She will love this and will also help with baby number two.
- Teach clean-up with toys and mess. If you like things clean, then teach your toddler to help. We’ve started putting away one set of toys and then taking out another. If she wants to play with Play-Doh, then her giant mess-pile of blocks all over the floor need to be picked up. Before naptime and bedtime is “cleanup time” and we sing.
- When baby is finally home, have your toddler “help” with whatever you can. Have her help wipe, give a pacifier, hold the newborn, read a book etc.
Download FREE worksheets to help in preparing for baby planning. This includes:
- Month-By-Month Blank Checklist Calendar
- Monthly Budget Sheet
- 1st Trimester Checklist
- 2nd Trimester Checklist
- 3rd Trimester Checklist
Read specific (helpful) books about having a new baby
I really do feel like this one is SO important. Because of reading these books, our two-year-old really does understand there will be another baby in the house. Most importantly, she knows what to expect (baby is fragile and basically will only eat, sleep and poop) and she wants to help out! Here are some FANTASTIC books we’ve read to prepare our older sibling for having a baby:
- Eat, Sleep, Poop
- Waiting For Baby
- Little Miss Big Sis
- You Were The First
- I Am A Big Sister (I Am A Big Brother)
- I’m A Big Sister
Consider buying a baby doll for your toddler
I have to admit, I was a little obsessed with buying the right baby doll for our toddler to prepare her for having a baby in the house. I POURED over comparison lists, reviews, YouTube videos and more. Every time we went to a store that had a toy aisle, you can guess which one we went down first.
I was torn between buying a doll that was realistic or one that was cuddly because it seemed there weren’t many that landed in both categories. We ended up going with Melissa & Doug’s Baby Doll. She LOVED it. She named her Tess and carried the doll around everywhere. We even bought some doll accessories. This worked perfectly to show her how we would care for the real baby to come.
Bring your toddler to prenatal appointments
Bring an erasable fun educational marker book like this one, a mess-free water-reveal activity pad (with a little water brush-it’s awesome), a few books or whatever engages your little one while you are on that table thing getting the ultrasound. I also brought our iPad just in case those things failed since screentime is special and used sparingly.
When you are getting ready, talk to your toddler about the appointment: “We are going to go see your little sister at the doctor!” It probably helped that the nice office ladies usually gave her a lollipop. She always became excited and after I explained to her that the projected ultrasound pictures (or the heartbeat) were of her baby sister, she became even more elated. She would say, “Sister! Sister!”
Additionally, you can have her talk to your tummy and tell her all about the new baby coming soon from mommy’s tummy. Our toddler even would ask me to lay on the couch so she could lift my shirt up gently, put her head on my tummy (to listen to the baby) and give her kisses. It was the most adorable thing.
Giving special attention to avoid resentment
You can do this even before baby number two arrives. Try not to say things like, “That’s for your baby sister” while taking away the object. Instead say something like, “Oh, you are a BIG girl now and you don’t need that. It’s for babies.” Then tell your toddler about some things SHE can do now that she’s a big girl that the baby won’t be able to do. Try to make your little one’s age feel special and cherished. She/he should be proud and confident about their age and their abilities which babies cannot do.
- When baby arrives, it’s okay to ignore your crying newborn for a second and give your undivided attention to child number one. Schedule play-time with just you and your first while baby naps or have someone you love look after your newborn for a little while (even if that’s your significant other) and play with your first child.
- Children spell love: T.I.M.E. and while that may seem crazy-impossible while juggling a newborn AND a toddler, it’s doable. Have your toddler feel like A PART of the family caring for the newborn. Have them feel like this is their baby too! This will help so much!
- I read a really great analogy regarding newborn + toddler interactions. Pretend they are puppies. You may want to jump over and grab that pacifier out of your toddler’s germy hands and tell her not to touch it. You may even want to put a fence up around your newborn so your toddler can’t get to her! Don’t. Let them interact. Let them play. Give a level of trust to your toddler. Teach her how to be responsible with and care for the family’s new baby – his/her new baby too.
- But do remember safety. Teach your toddler to NEVER to put toys in the baby’s resting areas. We reprimanded this with two-minute time-outs. Quickly this became a non-issue! Let your toddler play around your newborn but never leave your toddler alone with your newborn. Let your toddler know that baby only drinks milk and does NOT ever need any other food OR play food. We are strict about this.
Prepare mommy-free activities before baby number two arrives
This will be the HARDEST thing! Your toddler is used to flyin’ solo and being the only child. Now, there’s a new little screaming squishy human that demands a LOT of attention. Attention your toddler used to get. At first, this will likely be challenging.
Our newborn would cry and then our toddler would cry and say, “Hold me, hold me.” I almost cried because I couldn’t help my little two-year-old besty. It had always just been us and now it wasn’t. After a week or so, she got used to those newborn cries.
But what helped the most, besides verbal assurance and lots of hugs were the activities! I was SO suprised that she would just do things on her own.
Some of the BEST MOM-FREE, independent activities our toddler loves are:
- Busy Toddler activities. Her Playing Preschool book is fantastic.
- Coloring in coloring books (These JUMBO Melissa & Doug coloring pads are great)
- Low odor Expo markers on a large whiteboard on the floor (this has captivated her for hours!)
- Books with sound
- Playing with water or snow (I put a pan full of water in the bathtub with various cooking utensils for pouring/stirring and laid down towels to make sure she didn’t slip. I did, however, stay near her to make sure she didn’t. She loves and uses this pan set and these cooking utensils by Melissa and Doug pretty much every day.)
- She LOVES this tea set and has been captivated for hours playing with it (we put a little bit of water in it so she can actually pour “tea” for her animal friends)
- This AWESOME food cutting set (this may be played with the most!)
- Our Melissa And Doug Cookie Set has been played with for HOURS
- We also have this cute white play kitchen and she plays with it almost every day + it’s adorable
Introduce your toddler to baby number 2 the right way
This plan worked AWESOME last week when we introduced our toddler to her new baby sibling. I sincerely believe setting the foundation of the relationship the right way is just so important. Doing so can prevent jealousy and regression from the start.
Plan on having someone bring the older sibling to the hospital. We did this in the morning right away, which I believe was the only thing I would change. The hospital staff…cleaning, breakfast, vitals, baby check etc. etc. etc. kept coming in. Plus, we were not ready when grandma, grandpa and our first arrived at the hospital!
- Plan on midmorning after your first night. I might have even preferred the evening before which would have been hours after our new little one was born.
- When the older sibling is coming to the hospital, have a nurse take your newborn baby from the room to the nursery. Be sure to tell them that you will want her back soon, so please don’t run any tests. Our nurse asked if that was okay and I said yes but then we waited forever for her to finish!
- Be very happy and excited when your first child comes into the room. She/he may be uncomfortable in the hospital (ours was at first too), so have a bag prepared with some snacks and books if you can. If you don’t have things prepped, just focus on your child and love on her. Play, laugh, snuggle, hug, kiss, and do what will make them comfortable. Our toddler was fascinated by the buttons on the bed. She got to wear a spare hospital robe just like mommy and walk around in mommy’s slippers.
- When your toddler is comfortable, excitedly ask if she’d like to FINALLY meet her brand new baby sibling. Then ask the nurse to bring in your newborn.
Make sure to try to include your second child as if the baby were hers too; ‘this is the family’s new baby’. This is SO important! That way she can share the excitement and responsibility while avoiding resentment.
Arrange for childcare for your toddler
Do this for the baby’s arrival AND after your newborn is home. Juggling a newborn and an older sibling is HARD work!
We have ZERO family where we live so this was a challenge. I started going to “mommy and me” classes. We have a local Gymboree where I met some mommies that I actively sought out, along with the staff! There are also MOPS groups and more.
Our childcare ended up being a friend of ours in the middle of the night! Thankfully we had planned a night list and a day list, even though they were short. Be prepared to have at least one or two people you could trust calling in the middle of the night!
My point is this: don’t try to do it all alone. You are a super-tough warrior mommy but it’s okay to have help. You need help for your sanity. Seek out help from family, friends or find fellow mommies you can trust if you have recently moved.
Pack a hospital bag for your toddler
We had our little one pick out her own backpack (it’s super fluffy, light pink and she loves it). Here’s what to add to it:
- A schedule written out for the babysitter (when your little one gets up, eats, naps, goes to bed etc. + emergency information)
- Kid safe hand sanitizer
- A few books
- A fun activity he/she likes (We added the perfect little portable Play-Doh set, a little on-the-go dry erase alphabet book & a little baggie of legos for 18 months plus)
- Sippy cup
- A toddler potty cover for public restrooms that is amazing + disposable covers (I always have this in her bag so she can fit sanitarily on “big potties”)
- iPad. Sometimes during doctor visits and travel, we have used the iPad. We try as much as possible to have zero screen time but have agreed at certain times, a little is okay. Do what you think is best!
Bringing home baby number two is a momentous time in your family’s life. And it’s a world-changing event for your toddler. If you take the correct steps, it can be an AMAZING, exciting thing for your first born. It’s SO helpful to have a potty-trained toddler who has been taught independence and is super excited for the new baby to come home.
This excitement can be kindled by reading the right books, talking positively about the baby to come and bringing your toddler to prenatal appointments. When the baby arrives, don’t forget to introduce your first born the right way, have a hospital bag packed and childcare prepared. This will pave the way for a smoother transition and trust me, you will need as much help there as you can get!
Once baby is home, remember to give good behavior MUCH more attention than bad, reinforce safety habits, avoid resentment and have mommy-free activities ready. Bringing home another child may rock your world. It’s rough FOR SURE. But if you follow these tips, you will be on rock solid ground and eventually, you will get into a new, comfortable routine again!