• Doula Rowan

How to Help Your Toddler Adjust to Life with a Sibling

You have a toddler. Yippee!

You’re expecting a new baby. Hooray!

But how do you keep your toddler busy, safe, and thriving once your newborn arrives? This is a stress inducing predicament that we can work through together. Let’s start taking action before baby arrives, so you have systems and activities in mind and in place before you need them.

Let’s start with when you are feeding your newborn. Whether you are bottle feeding or breastfeeding you’re going to want a way to keep your toddler entertained. An activity basket, box, bag or other containment you may have on hand is ideal. Fill it with favorite and new toys, puzzles, books etc. that your toddler can do on their own while you are busy. This will only come out when you are feeding the baby. Having one or two of them to rotate would be even better but if

all you have is one, that’s fantastic too! If you can get your toddler to help pick out what goes into this even better. Then you know they will be excited to dig in many times a day!

I caution against pulling the activity basket out every time you feed the baby. It gets old and ho-hum if we do that. Sometimes have your toddler pick out books to read while you feed the baby. You can both snuggle on the couch; toddler can turn the pages (like a BIG kid!) while you read the story. Sometimes, this turns into both of you staring at the baby instead. Embrace that. Show your toddler the tiny little fingernails and the way baby’s eyes flutter. Tell them about when they were a newborn and how you loved admiring all the little details about them too. This makes them feel special and secure in their place within your family.

Next subject, how to keep your bond with your toddler and strengthen it if you can. This is one of the things many parents struggle with. “Am I giving enough love and attention to my older child(ren)?” I promise that you are. But if you feel you aren’t there are a few ways to do this. Spend five minutes a day just you and your toddler. When the baby is sleeping, when you partner has the baby when another adult is visiting and can keep an eye on the baby. Spend five minutes with your toddler. On the floor playing with them, sitting on the porch counting cars, coloring a picture to hang in their room anything. Those five minutes will help immensely! If you can’t manage five minutes everyday plan for a culmination of around 45 minutes over the course of the week that are just you and your toddler. Or plan an outing just the two of you.

Try and keep up with family routine as well. Does your toddler always go grocery shopping with you once a week? Keep bringing them. Do you go for a nightly walk as a family after dinner? Get back to that as soon as you are physically and mentally able. Until then have your partner or other support person go with your toddler so they have the continued routine. Finding small ways to keep them included is the best thing you can do.

To that end. Toddlers, for the most part, love to “help.” Ask them to grab the clean diaper and the wipes from the next room. Ask them to keep an eye on their baby sibling while you run to the bathroom (make sure baby is in a crib or other safe place so toddler can’t roll around and wrestle with them) Let them pick the books that you will read to the baby before bed. Encourage them to sing a song to the baby while you cook dinner to keep them both occupied. “Can you close the baby gate when we get to the top of the stairs?” “Would you like to hold the bottle?” “Could you throw away the dirty diaper?” (this one, for some reason, toddlers love doing!) So many small ways that, again, keep them involved. The key to a happy toddler is an involved toddler.

Flip side, if they want space to be by themselves away from a crying baby have a safe spot for them to do that. Just like we, as adults, need time away from stimuli so do children. Let your older child know it is okay to ask for that space. It’s a healthy tool to build and a great time to build it.

Overall, you’ve got this. You got through babyhood with your older child, you will do so again with your new baby. If you ever need more ideas or support, feel free to reach out to me HERE. Best of luck!

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