Having another baby can be both an exciting and unsettling time for the whole family – including your older child. So, anything you can do to make that first meeting with his little brother or sister go smoothly is always helpful. The secret? Making it as low key as you can.
Do the prepAs well as involving your toddler in parts of your pregnancy, a book can also help him start to understand what’s going to happen. ‘I like Hello Baby, which brings in ideas about birth and a new addition to the family,’ says Sarah Ockwell-Smith, author of ToddlerCalm: A Guide for Calmer Babies & Happier Parents.
But don’t expect too muchYour toddler’s only going to understand so much, so don’t worry about over explaining. ‘Excitement about a new baby varies and that’s normal,’ says Sarah. ‘It's just about gauging your child.’
Set the sceneIf you think your older child will be freaked out by being and seeing you in hospital, save that first meeting for when you’re home. ‘Toddlers can also find newborn belly buttons strange with the cord stump, so perhaps have your baby in a nappy and dressed,’ says Sarah.
Pick your momentHave that first sibling get-together when your toddler’s happy and not too tired (read: grouchy). ‘It’s important for you to be calm, too,’ says Sarah. ‘So if you think you’d feel more relaxed waiting another day, then do that.’
Keep it relaxedYour two little ones meeting is a big moment, but try to not make it feel like that for your toddler. ‘Little ones tend to be interested in this first introduction, but keeping the pressure off will help him not feel too unsettled,’ explains Sarah.
Mind your languageThis is about your toddler feeling involved – as well as understanding babies don’t really do much at this stage! ‘So, something like “This is our baby” or “This is your little sister”,’ says Sarah. ‘You could also add “Baby is really small now but can play with you loads when she’s older”.’
Expect heavy hands…Whether it’s your toddler being overly affectionate with his sibling or the other way around. ‘Toddlers are heavy handed with most things,’ says Sarah. ‘Some may hit or pinch the new baby – it’s not nasty or naughty behaviour, just feeling unsure.’ Supervise their time together and perhaps use a carrier or sling with the baby.
Have a family cuddleFor the first hold, start with you all on the sofa or in bed together. ‘Ask your child if he actually wants a hold and respect that if he says no,’ says Sarah. ‘But if he does, lay the baby on him in a way that you don’t need to worry about her head being supported, or even try a breastfeeding cushion.’
Hold onto routineThis will help that business-as-usual idea to take your child through the change. ‘It may be tempting to keep him off nursery or pre-school, especially if your partner’s off, too,’ says Sarah. ‘But actually it’s better to keep his routine as normal as possible.’
Be patientSome regression in your toddler’s behaviour is completely to be expected around this time, whether it’s with sleep, playing up or potty training. ‘It can happen after a few weeks as he realises the new baby is a permanent part of the family,’ says Sarah. ‘It’s just part of the process as he gets used to things.’
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