How do you prepare a toddler for a new baby?

by Jessie K on December 3, 2013

IMG_6453The baby is due anytime now and while I feel ready (more or less), I’m concerned the adjustment will be hard on June. As much as I want her to have a sibling — an ally! — I  feel kind of sad taking away her special only child status.

I’ve been hitting up friends who have more than one child for advice on how to ease the transition on June and here are a few of their suggestions:

  • Get out June’s photo albums and replay events of her babyhood: “Mom is going to spend a  lot of time feeding your new sister, just like I did with you.”
  • Ask her opinion when I’m shopping for baby stuff — what color of socks she thinks her sister might like, whether to get her this plushy toy or that plushy toy.
  • When Jake has the baby, take that time to spend one-on-one time with June, not race around the house catching up on chores.
  • Stock up on books and videos to help her prepare. Lately, June has been obsessed with the Dora the Explorer “Big Sister Dora” DVD that we checked out from the library. She asks to watch it every day. It puts a really happy, positive spin on all the great things that come from being a big sister.
  • To give June a feeling of special privileges, ask her to select which of her toys her baby sister can play with and which are for big girls only.
  • Upon their first meeting, have the baby present June a gift…but what?
  • Give June some baby responsibilities. She’s really taken to this one. So far, she’s been practicing how to change diapers on her dollies, push them in the infant swing and tuck them into bed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShe’s laid out nap stations all over our house.

  • Tell her this is her new baby too.
  • Expect a little regression. If she wants to drink from a bottle because she sees the baby doing it, let her. It’s all about picking your battles!

Do you have any other advice we should heed?

 

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

JulieO December 3, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I asked my girl if she wanted to sit with me and snuggle when it was time to nurse the baby. Most times she wanted to. We found books about being a big sister helpful. We asked for her opinion often. And it was big sister’s thing to bathe the baby! This was her ultimate joy. Ours too, actually.
This being said, big sister reverted to wetting the bed at night. She was much older than June. Four and a half. After about a week of changing the sheets every night and worrying about it- we put pullups on her. This lasted for about 6 months or until just before Kindergarten when we had a talk about it being time to stop wearing them. She decided she was done wearing them and we never had another problem.
I only tell you this because I remember how stressful it was. A joyous time to be sure, but definitely hectic and emotional for everyone.
Enjoy this beautiful time in your life. My best to all of you.

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Liz Knadler Thompson December 3, 2013 at 12:28 pm

When my second child arrived I made sure that my first child (as far as he knows) was the very first person to hold the baby. I made sure that #1 thought #2 was HIS baby. I did the same thing with #2 when #3 arrived and didn’t have any problems either time. Of course, now that my youngest are 2 and 3 they compete for my attention all the time! :)

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Rachel December 3, 2013 at 12:37 pm

We made sure to compliment #1 for all of the help she provided with #2. “Thank you so much for helping get sister’s diaper” or “you are such a good big sister for sharing that toy with baby sister” And the times that she took real responsibility have stood out to her. While watching baby in the swing (which shouldn’t really have much work to it), she saw that the baby had wiggled and was almost falling out the bottom. She held her sister in the swing and called for help. We praised her tremendously and she’s always remembered “the time that she saved her baby sister.” I also make sure to have lots of 1-on-1 time, keeping special times that we had before (like story time at night).

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Karen S. December 3, 2013 at 1:43 pm

It might take an adjustment period, but those two are going to be so close! I think all those things that others have said. It’s hard to give one-on-one time to the older when the baby requires so much time and energy. Reading time is a great time to sit with both of them. Never too early to read to a baby, and June would love being read to. She’s definitely old enough to bring diapers, sing lullabies, and help pick up toys that could be dangerous to her sister.

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Janelle December 3, 2013 at 2:04 pm

We made sure that Daddy spent a lot of time with #1. It was that easy. We were able to afford this luxury at the moment since we are both teachers and #2 came in May which allowed Dad to have all summer with #1. No difficulties. But then again, she’s now 12 and she’s always been easy. Maybe I’m just lucky.

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Janelle December 3, 2013 at 2:06 pm

And good luck with the birth. Our blessings for a safe and easy time of it.

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Jessie K December 3, 2013 at 4:28 pm

You’re just lucky ;)

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Shelby at Fresh Eggs Farm December 3, 2013 at 2:17 pm

With the get the baby a present suggestion – let her pick it out. Use it as a moment to teach her about things the baby can/can’t have – soft, plush toy, not hard toy etc. Also, pick out a present FROM THE BABY for June. Have it in your hospital bag, so that when June comes in, you can have the baby give her a present too – like a “thanks for being my big sis” gift. Maybe a book about sisters, a photo frame to put in their first photo and a toy to occupy June, while you feed/change. But I think involving her as much as possible, with whatever she feels comfortable with is the best. Some days, she’ll be overly happy and excited about grabbing wipes and a clean diaper etc. – other days, she could care less. Watch her feelings. If she starts to act up, know that it’s time to focus on her a bit. Let Jake doing a bottle or a change, while you and June do manis and pedis for each other.
You’ll figure it out. It won’t be all wine and roses – but it certainly won’t be a living hell either.

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Jessie K December 3, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Thanks for the advice, Shelby!

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Sarah December 3, 2013 at 2:22 pm

We bought our girls matching stuffed animals. I put one in my hospital bag so the baby could “give” the big sister a gift at their first mtg and my oldest daughter brought the matching one to the hospital to give to her sister. Gave her lots of “big sister jobs” and constant praise.
Also arranged big sister only activities when we could- taking her to the movies, out for ice cream– and always made sure to make a big deal that babies couldn’t do these fun things!

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Jessie K December 3, 2013 at 4:27 pm

I love the idea of taking June to the movies, which is something we haven’t done yet. I have a feeling she’ll love it!

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JennNY December 3, 2013 at 4:25 pm

When you have the baby and see how much June loves her, you will wonder why you even worried about it! :)
All my 6 kids adjusted well to a new sibling.. <3

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Bob F December 3, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Hi Jessie, it sure looks like you have plenty of ideas and suggestions for making this transition to a new member of the family. Remember my math lesson – love is not something we divide, we multiply it.

I hope and pray all goes well for you and Jake and June – what a great Christmas present!

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Penny December 4, 2013 at 10:36 am

Well said Bob!

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Jennifer December 3, 2013 at 10:16 pm

I made sure to pick my toddler over the baby once in awhile, like ‘one minute baby, sister needs a drink then I’ll play with you’ or whatever. The cutest thing was after a few weeks she would get mad at me and tell me to help him first! I think the less dramatic you make it the better she’ll adjust. Good luck!

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Cath December 4, 2013 at 5:46 am

Totally agree with JenNY…it’s a natural transition, and once June knows this is her new sister and you are all a new bigger family the transition will be complete

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Stephanie December 4, 2013 at 10:16 am

Not really a transition, but something that saved me… put snacks where June can easily reach them. Because it won’t fail that you sit down to nurse the baby and the other one will also want something to snack on.

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Jessie K December 4, 2013 at 11:14 am

Great advice!

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Addie December 4, 2013 at 12:37 pm

One of the best ideas I have seen for a ‘gift’ from the new baby to the big sister is a camera. It can be an old, used digital one but this way she can take part in documenting the baby and it gives her something to focus on when everyone is oohing and ahhing over the new little one.

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Olga December 4, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Such an awesome idea!

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Celeste December 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Don’t worry about it. Concentrate on the “this is her baby too” part. I have 3 girls and the older ones were always much more interested in their baby sister than in me or toys or anything else. Just involve her with everything you do with the baby. Given your posts, she loves baby dolls. Expect that to transfer to the baby.
When we brought home #2, #1 kept saying, “Put the baby down!” and I thought, here we go with sibling rivalry already. But when I did put the baby down, she ran over to her sister, and not to me! She just wanted a better look!
When we brought home #3, #2 wanted to play with her just like a doll. Example, “Put her in the crib”, “Now put her in the swing”, “Now put her in the bassinet”, you will have to explain that the new addition is a real baby and not a doll, but my guess is that she will love being a big sister.

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Rose December 4, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Sounds like you’ve hit them all! The one thing that I remember I did that seemed to help was to explain to my oldest daughter that she was the only one who could teach her new sister how to be a good sister. The only way the new baby could learn to be good to her big sister was if the big sister showed her how. Hope that makes sense and best wishes to your family!

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