How To Help A Toddler Adjust To A Newborn Sibling

January 22, 2013  |  

I was a maniac while pregnant. Correction. Maniac is sugar coating it. I was worse. I’m a worrier but when pregnant it’s kicked up a hundred notches. My main worry was whether my fourteen month old son would welcome his newborn sister into our home. He was a baby himself and didn’t understand our warnings and frequent heart to hearts about the upcoming changes. Thankfully the transition was much smoother than I had anticipated. Here’s what we did to prepare our toddler for life with a newborn.

Lavish Attention

With two little ones in the house it might seem impossible to pull yourself away from a newborn to spend alone time with your toddler but find a way to make it happen.

Hire a mother’s helper or babysitter. Invite a relative to snuggle the new baby. Take turns with your significant other having special afternoons out alone with your older child. Whatever works.

A newborn baby is overwhelming for everyone but especially a young child. The crying, diminished attention, and changed energy of the home can throw a toddler off track. Some might act out. My son handled it well with the exception of exploring cause and effect.

I turned my back to grab the vacuum and while I was distracted he grabbed an attachment and bopped his sister over the head. He’s not a hitter and he seemed frightened by the crying and my horrified reaction. It was scary and I kept an even closer eye on him after that (It was a nice excuse to take a break from vacuuming) but that was fortunately the only major incident.

My husband and I made sure to remind our son how special he was and how wonderful it was having a new baby in the house not just for us but him as well. We reminded him of all the fun things he’d be able to do with his sister once he grew older and he responded to that well.

Buy new toys

Call me materialistic but this was a must for me. I was a new stay at home mother with a fourteen month old and a newborn to look after with no outside help. I was in deep. There were countless Sophie’s choices made throughout my day. Both kids stink. Who do I change first? Everyone is crying. Can I pick them both up in one fell swoop? I have to pee. Is a fourteen month old responsible enough to keep an eye on a newborn? It never stopped. It’s difficult balancing the needs of two children especially while alone. Keeping a stash of new toys in the closet was a godsend.

When I needed to take care of my newborn daughter but my son was getting all up in the mix I’d pull out a fun new toy or book to distract him. It didn’t have to be anything extravagant. Sometimes a balloon was all he needed. I also saved a few special toys that we could use together when his baby sister was asleep.

Encourage involvement

It sounds like a cliche but it works. Kids love helping out their parents. Get them involved in the care of your new baby. It’s challenging with a young toddler but it’s doable.

Have them pass you baby supplies. Ask him or her to help you make the baby laugh. Enlist their help picking out the baby’s clothes. It might add some time to your tasks but your child will feel empowered by his involvement in the care of his or her new sibling.

I think early involvement helps set the stage for their relationship down the road. My son is protective of his sister. He asks her if she’s alright when she coughs. He holds doors open for her. If his sister cries he becomes concerned and starts grilling me. It’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. Get your older child involved early in the process and hopefully the behavior sticks. What’s more heartwarming than siblings caring for each other? Most of the time anyway.

Bringing a newborn to a home with a young toddler already in it sounds like a daunting prospect but it was worth it for me. Now that my kids are out of early toddler-hood I am reaping the benefits of having them close together. My kids always have someone to play with.

There were some days when I wasn’t sure I’d make it. I won’t lie. It was hard. However now that they’re out of the needy baby stage it’s mostly smooth sailing. Besides that they’re huggers. I get to watch them hug and it’s wonderful. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Do you have any tips for helping a toddler adjust to a newborn sibling?

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