What can I do to prepare my toddler for a new baby? How will they react? How will I cope? Sound familiar? Don’t worry – help is at hand. Here is some practical tried and tested advice, 10 tips for surviving with a new baby and toddler.
#1. Manage your toddler’s expectations
Before the baby is born, it can help to talk with your older child about what to expect. A good place to start is when you are pregnant and get your toddler to talk to the baby in your tummy. Explain what they look like, that they will often cry and needs lots of sleep. A baby doll has helped work wonders for many toddlers I know.
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#2. Keep up your routines
It’s a time of change for the whole family when a newborn enters the family unit. That means those first months can be filled with blissful sibling snuggles and family naps or sleep deprivation and jealous acting out. Usually, it’s a combination of the two that can vary from one hour to the next.
So the most important thing to remember is that you are expanding your family and changing everyone’s role. Make one-on-one time for your toddler and any older children. Encourage them to help out, maintain established routines and praise them for being amazing big brothers and sisters to their new baby.
#3. Ask for help and create a support network!
We are all so independent these days and slow to look for help as we think we can manage it all! In those early days of bringing a new baby home we all could do with a dig out until we establish some kind of routine with the new baby.
Having a good network of friends and family around you can be a huge help and will enable you to catch a nap, have a cooked meal provided to you or just someone to hold a crying baby so you can attend to your toddler. Don’t be overwhelmed by everything on your own – go on – call in a few favours and don’t forget an easier (!) time is just around the corner.
#4. Consider how to manage breastfeeding
If you are breastfeeding your new baby, try and make some opportunities for your toddler to see young babies and nursing babies (a La Leche League meeting can be a great place for this, especially if you don’t know any nursing moms), and read books that show newborns and nursing babies.
You may need to explain that mum makes milk for the baby especially if your toddler has weaned or was never breastfed. While you are breastfeeding it may also be useful to use this time to play some games with your toddler and to use this time to bond. Games like “I spy” or having their favourite book near you when feeding can be a nice downtime for all involved.
#5. Give your toddler a gift from the baby
Once the baby is born the toddler can become quite jealous of someone else in their mother’s arms. Let them meet the new baby and a good trick I used was wrapping a little gift for your toddler from his/her new brother or sister.
They are instantly amazed and an immediate bond is struck between them as he/she becomes more accepting of this new arrival.
#6. Give your toddler little jobs to do
Once home and into your new adjusted lives, your toddler can feel really important if you give them little jobs to do. Discuss things that your toddler can do to help with the baby: fetch nappies and wipes for you, talk to and sing to the baby. This will keep your toddler amused as well as stimulating your newborn in those early days. Including them from the start will ensure they feel needed, wanted and less likely to have a meltdown!
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#7. Ask your toddler’s advice!
This is another easy way to get your toddler involved in helping out. When dressing the baby, lay out a number of different outfits and let your toddler decide what the baby should wear today.
Tell him/her how great they are to be helping out mummy/daddy with the daily routine for baby. This will also increase their confidence.
#8. Don’t forget to acknowledge your toddler
With a new baby it’s easy to get overwhelmed with their needs and making your toddler fit in with that. Once you get the hang of having the new baby at home a while – don’t forget to get out and about with them and your toddler. A visit to the local park or playground that your toddler enjoys will ensure they get the outside play they need as well as giving you a welcome break from the routine at home. It may also allow you to meet new friends and/or establish new contacts.
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#9. Help them feel connected to the baby
Get them involved when the baby is at those developmental stages, e.g. rolling over on the floor / taking their first steps/ identifying shapes/colours, etc. Encourage them by asking them “did you help your baby brother/sister to do that?” “That’s great, well done”. Discuss things that your toddler can do to help maximise that interaction with your baby.
#10. Enjoy the madness!
This may seem like the most challenging time for any new parents but experience has told me that it’s probably the most rewarding time of all. You are nurturing these wonderful little people who in a few short years will grow up and become so independent! These years go so quick and soon you will be looking back reliving these moments in years to come. So enjoy, and don’t be so hard on yourself – after all you are only human and doing one of the most amazing jobs in the world!
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Over to you! Let us know how you are getting on with your new arrival and toddler by sharing your comments below.