Supporting New Families
Becoming a sibling: 6 Expert tips for an easier toddler transition
Having a baby can be a lot for your toddler to adjust to! It’s common for a young child to regress when a new baby arrives and they may show signs of aggression, anger and jealousy.
Here are 6 things our sibling care doulas recommend to help with this transition so that expanding your family can be a joyous occasion.
#1 Share the experience of preparing for baby with your toddler
- Talk about the upcoming birth beforehand, letting them know a new baby is on the way.
- Read books about new babies.
- Let them in listen to your belly.
- Point out babies to them when you’re out.
- Show them pictures of themselves as a newborn and talk about how they came into the world.
- Visit a friend’s baby.
- Talk about their aunts and uncles, letting them know that they are your sisters and/or brothers!
- As your belly grows give them the space and time to think about the idea of having a new baby in the house.
- Let them know that this is “our baby”.
#2 Make some time and space just for your toddler
When they meet their new sibling for the first time welcome them with open arms and then show them baby together. You might give them a present. Pay attention to the things they are doing when they watch baby—this will help them to understand that you are paying attention to them, and are also there for them. Give them a special treat like a trip for ice cream with grandparents, or a walk around the block with just mom.
#3 Include your toddler
Giving your toddler tasks can help them connect to the baby. You will be feeding baby a lot and they can be a part of this by sitting next to you and feeding their own baby doll, or, they can help with burping baby by gently patting their back, as long as you’re confident they understand ‘gentle’. You can also have them read or tell a story to you and baby.
#4 Encourage your toddler to express their needs
It’s normal to be sad or mad about this transition and they are likely to be testing boundaries that have already been established. But you also need to help them understand that it’s not okay to take it out on the baby. Letting them express feelings in real time can be helpful. Even calling attention to it is okay. Then encourage them to let you know when they’re feeling left out and what they might need. Having them be able to ask for what they need helps you be able to provide it. It may be as simple as your child letting you know they need a cuddle.
#5 Avoid saying “No”
As you are caring for your newborn, it can be easy to slip into saying ‘NO’ to your toddler. “No you can’t sit there, No you can’t play with that diaper, No you have to be quiet.” Simply focusing on the positive can make a real difference. “Wonderful job playing with your toys, eating that apple, not touching babies head, using an inside voice since baby is sleeping.” Look out for the ways they are trying to adjust and then redirect the ones that aren’t as helpful.
#6 Stick to routines
This is a time of transition for your toddler and sticking to routines can help them readjust. Don’t change sleep, feeding or bath times. This will help them understand that not everything has changed.
And if your child is older, try this fun and easy mindfulness game to help them when they are losing control.
Are you looking for support for your child during labor? Birthways can help the children in your family prepare and adjust to the arrival of your baby and support them while you give birth. Contact us at 888.506.0607 or schedule a one-on-one call.
Photos provided by Maggie Cuprisin, Chicago Motherhood Photographer