Preparing Your Toddler for a New Sibling

Updated: Oct 24, 2020

Bringing home a new baby is a big adjustment to any family. For your older children, having a new sibling can be a big change and often overwhelming as they learn to share your attention.

Here are a few tips to help prepare your toddler for the arrival of their little brother or sister.

When to tell your toddler about the new baby

Toddlers don’t really have a concept of time, although it may be a good idea to introduce the idea of a new baby three or four months before the baby is born. You can create positive associations around the baby so they can begin to feel connected.

  • Read books about babies and relate the story to your growing family.

  • Show your toddler pictures of themselves when they were a newborn.

  • Encourage them to interact with the baby in your belly. Let them feel the kicks and talk to the baby. You could even bring them along to one of your antenatal appointments so they can hear the baby’s heartbeat.

  • Let them be involved with the preparations around the house. They can help with shopping for baby items or decorating the nursery.

  • Role play looking after a baby with one of their favourite toys. Teach them how to change their toy’s nappy and give it a bottle.

  • Talk about the new baby when discussing day to day topics with your toddler so they become used to the idea of the baby being a part of their everyday life.

Who gets the cot?

“Do I keep my toddler in their cot or transition them to a big bed so the baby can have the cot?”

This is a very common question and will depend on the age of your toddler when the new baby is born.

I usually recommend you keep your toddler in their cot for as long as possible, transitioning them to a big bed around 2.5 – 3 years of age. This is due to them not developing a sense of impulse control until closer three years old. If you move your toddler into a big bed before they are ready, you are potentially setting yourself up for some trouble come nap and bedtime.

Keep in mind that your newborn will potentially spend at least the first few months in a bassinet which allows you a little more time before putting them in a cot.

If you have a small age gap between children, it may be worth investing in a second cot. Buy one which converts into a toddler bed, so you can get a bit more use out of it as well.

If you do transition your toddler out of their cot for the new baby to use, try to do this a few months before hand so your toddler doesn’t associate the change being due to the baby as they may not like the idea of giving up their bed for their new sibling.

Expect some regression

Having a new baby in the house will be a big adjustment for your toddler, so don’t be surprised if their behaviour and/or sleep regresses in the months after bringing baby home. Your toddler needs to learn how to share your time and attention. If you find an increase in tantrums, try not to punish their bad behaviour as this can actually encourage them to continue to act out as they are wanting the attention. Instead, try to ignore the tantrums and reward their positive behaviour.

Let your toddler “help” with nappy changes and bath time etc. This will let them feel involved and bond with their new sibling.

If their sleep regresses, try to remain consistent with their normal routine. You don’t want to get stuck forming new sleep associations with your toddler while also try to settle a newborn.

Tips for YOU when juggling two little ones

Invest in a good baby carrier or wrap. Wearing your newborn will help keep them settled and happy during those initial few months by keeping them close to you. By wearing your newborn, they will also likely have a few good sleeps in the day which will stop them from becoming over tired and means you aren’t spending hours trying to settle them to sleep in bed. It also keeps baby out of harm’s way if you have a toddler who hasn’t quite worked out “gentle hands” just ye

  • Have a special box of toys that only comes out at feed times.

  • Accept help when it’s offered. Getting to the shops or finding time to cook dinner will take a little practice, so if someone offers to do the groceries for you or cook you a few meals for the freezer, don’t hesitate to accept.

  • Try to schedule some one on one time with both kids. If you have time when your partner is off work, schedule a date with your toddler while your partner looks after the baby and vice versa.

  • Prep things in advance. For example, prepare extra servings when cooking to freeze meals for later, or pre-pack your nappy bag or day care bags the night before so it’s easier to get out of the house in the mornings.

  • Once baby is about 8 weeks old you can start following more of a routine around their feeding and sleeping. This will help you be able to predict your day and if your toddler is still having day naps you may even be able to time both kid’s midday naps to allow yourself some down time.

One on one consultations and downloadable sleep guides are all available online x

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