Your first-born child has been the center of your life for his or her entire life, so it is no wonder that you are going to need to prepare your toddler for the arrival of a new baby brother or sister. In order to make the transition from only child to sibling as smooth as possible, you should consistently talk to your child about what to expect when the new baby comes home. Toddlers are at a tender age, so you have to take the proper measures to make your pregnancy and birth a happy, positive experience.
When you find out that you are pregnant, you do not need to inform your toddler right away. It is perfectly fine to wait until you begin to show so that there is a visible explanation of what you are saying (“baby is growing in mommy’s tummy”). Don’t expect your child to fully grasp what you are saying right away. After all, it is a confusing concept for a young child. To help illustrate what is going on in mommy’s belly, you should purchase one or more children’s books on pregnancy. One great book to buy is “What to Expect When Mommy’s Having a Baby” by Heidi Murkoff. There is also a fabulous follow-up book to buy called “What to Expect When the Baby Comes Home,” also by author Heidi Murkoff. You should also expose your toddler to babies as much as you can. If you have friends or family members with babies, ask them if you can set up some visits so that your child can get acclimated to what a baby is like. Visit the hospital with your toddler to see the newborns. In most instances, exposing your child to babies will help to build up the excitement about the new arrival.
While you definitely want your child to be exposed to babies, you also have to make sure that you and your spouse spend as much quality time as possible focusing on your toddler (and not the new baby). Your child has to be reassured that this baby is an addition to the family, not a replacement kid! Be attentive to your toddler’s feelings and anxieties, especially as the birth grows closer. Make sure that you remind your toddler that the baby is going to be “his” (or “her”) new brother or sister, a new member of “his” family.
Talk with your child about what to anticipate when the baby is born – diapers, breastfeeding, crying, bathing, et cetera. Even though it seems like just yesterday that you were doing all of these things with your first-born child, all of these activities will be brand new to your toddler.
Take your child baby shopping with you, and let him or her pick out some special gifts for the new baby, such as toys and a mobile. Your child will be excited to have some presents for his or her new brother or sister. When the baby is born, let your toddler come into your hospital room (or wherever you are birthing) to see just you, and not the baby. Talk with your child for a few minutes before bringing the baby in. If you have the baby in your arms when your toddler walks in, it could be a harsh visual to handle right away (your toddler could think, “Mommy was gone for a while, and now she is holding a new baby, so she can’t give me a hug”). When the new baby comes in, the likely reaction is that your child will be completely mesmerized by the little bundle of joy. He or she will want to touch the baby (just make sure that it’s a gentle touch) and talk to the baby. If your child becomes nervous and uneasy when the baby comes in, just give him or her time to adjust to the situation – don’t force it. Every child is different, and some take longer than others to come around, despite your best efforts.