How to prepare your toddler for a new baby

Having officially entered the second trimester with my second baby, I'm finding myself thinking more about how to prepare my toddler for his little brother or sister's arrival. 

These are some things I've been implementing and intend to implement in the coming months: 

- Teach gentle hands - 

Preparing your firstborn for a sibling may differ in some ways depending on your child's personality and developmental stage. For my toddler, we're working on the basics of touching mommy and daddy's faces gently, not poking eyes, stroking (instead of scratching or touching roughly) - These principles will come in handy once the new baby is here! 

- Encourage your child to be around younger babies - 

If you have friends or siblings with younger children, encouraging your toddler to notice or interact with them may be helpful to acquaint him or her with the concept of younger babies. (Of course, make sure that the baby's parent is okay with it and make sure you are being hyper-vigilant to practice those gentle hands!) Take the opportunity to talk about how tiny the baby is, what a big boy/girl your toddler is, encouraging and giving positive reinforcement for the good ways in which they are interacting, and correcting and redirecting less gentle behavior.

- Talk to your toddler excitedly and positively about the new baby - 

I am a firm believer in talking to babies and toddlers, even if they will not grasp any or most of what you're saying. Share excitedly about the new baby and talk about what your child can anticipate with the new baby in positive terms. ("When your baby brother comes, you can show him the fun toys we have!" "This would be a fun book to read with baby sister when she arrives." Or hearing another baby cry can be a good opportunity to mention, "Our baby will cry too, then we get to see if he's hungry or dirty and help him feel better. Isn't that a special job that we get to have?") 

My husband has reminded me that I can err on being too positive and has needed to comment before that it IS okay for life to be hard sometimes. In honor of that, I want to add - It's okay for your toddler to not find your newborn's tears endearing, and that can be affirmed either beforehand (if they are clearly disturbed by whoever they hear crying) or in the midst of your own newborn's tears, ("Baby brother is crying so loudly, isn't he? Do you want to go to the playroom and pick out some books for us to read together and I'll help him calm down?") 

- Include your toddler in your preparations - 

My toddler loves to "help" me fold laundry, it takes a lot longer, but I've let him join me in sorting through baby's clothes. I tell him how cute he looked when he wore them, and comment about how baby will fit it around Christmastime, or similar bits of information. 

I don't know how much he picks up, but it is still including him and habituating myself to encouraging interaction between my children with joy and excitement. 

Especially as the time gets closer for baby to arrive, you can show your toddler baby's movements inside your womb, tell them about the bassinet that's going in mommy and daddy's room, talk about the fun they will have with grandma and grandpa while mommy is having the baby, etc.,

Another idea I've heard that I think is really sweet, is buying a baby doll and teaching your toddler about holding, burping, feeding, and changing the baby through play so that these are not foreign concepts once the new baby arrives. 

- Your newborn session with a toddler - 

As a final note, I wanted to mention some things to keep in mind if you're preparing for an in-home newborn session once the new baby arrives. 

Toddlers love to feel special, and they may be feeling displaced. It can be so helpful if the photographer gives the toddler attention right away upon arriving. (If I'm your photographer, I will definitely try to do this for your child!) 

Of course, the newborn session is the baby's big debut - But, these photos are also big brother or big sister's inaugural photos of siblinghood and they will enjoy them so much more if they can be loved on throughout the time as well. 

As the parent, you can help the session go smoothly by engaging with your toddler and making sure to keep them close during family photos, lots of snuggles and tickles and smiles! 

Try not to discipline naughtiness or rambunctiousness during the session, but let your child run a bit and laugh wildly, acting all the while that everything they are doing is adorable. (Your photos will show if you and your child are feeling stressed and frustrated!) 

When the toddler is having their picture taken with the newborn, having dad or mom nearby to be readily able to take the newborn is so helpful and provides safety to the baby. Then, whichever other parent is free can stand directly behind the photographer and help make silly faces or sounds to encourage the toddler to look towards the camera. 

Your photographer will definitely be doing that too, but young children generally respond most willingly to their parents, and strangers can many times never illicit the same sweet reactions that you can! 

sister with newborn natural newborn photographer Monticello MN