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Preparing your Toddler for Baby #2

Having a baby the second time around is almost more fun than the first. As a parent you feel far more confident this time around, you know what to expect and you are no longer nervous about how to handle a new baby.

When I was expecting my 2nd child, my son was under 2 years old…a baby himself. While I felt much more confident about taking care of a new baby I was worried and apprehensive about how my son would deal with having a little baby around.

It is not easy for a child who has always been the center of attention to share that space with another baby. An invariably a lot of attention goes to the new baby!!

Like everything else about parenting I found that when I sought help on this topic I either got contradicting advice or the ‘things will fall into place by themselves’ kind of advice. So it was basically all trial and error for me like many other parents…I got some things right and I wish I did some differently. Today I am sharing all that I would do if I had to do it again with my first born (hindsight is fantastic :-)).

1.    No Major Changes just before baby:
Avoid any major changes in the life of your toddler in the last 3 months before the new baby is born. Moving house, changing your baby’s bedroom, moving your child from a crib to a bed, starting a new school, potty training etc. are some changes that are best avoided to ensure your little toddler does not undergo undue distress and starts to feel displaced just before the arrival of the baby.

2. Take care of any Existing Sleep Issues
You should take care to make sure your toddler is sleeping well before the new baby comes along. Your new baby is definitely going to keep you awake at night for feeds. If you need to wake up to attend to your toddler as well at night, you will be exhausted and at your wit’s end. It is best to ensure that your toddler’s bedtimes and sleeping habits are well set before the second baby comes along. Moreover a well-rested child will be more capable to adjust to the changes in his environment.

3. Plan the first meeting:
We didn’t plan this one very well! When my son came to the hospital and saw his baby sister for the first time he didn’t think much of her. Every one told him he was going to have a play buddy and I think he was expecting someone more fun than a wrinkly baby wrapped in a blanket :-)  So after the first few minutes he decided to give her a little smack to get her attention! Luckily we were all watching and could stop him just in time!

It is a good idea to plan when and where your toddler will first meet his sibling. I personally think it is best they meet at home when your toddler is in a good mood. Irrespective of where they meet I think it is a good idea that mummy’s arms are free for the toddler while the baby is lying in bed.

4. Have a Gift Ready:
There is a lot of power in a gift! Buy something special for your little toddler and keep it nicely wrapped and ready for him. When you come home with your baby, give him the gift and tell him it’s a gift from the new baby for him. It’s difficult to dislike a baby who got you a gift you were waiting for!! Somebody told us about this little trick about 10 days after the birth of our daughter. So I prompty organized a present and left it for my son to discover at the table and told him it was from his sister. It worked like magic!!

5.   Get Your Toddler Involved:
Think of ways that your child can feel involved in your and the new baby’s life. When there is a little baby around, it is natural that a lot of the mothers time and attention goes to the little one. While you may not have any choice in this matter, involving your toddler will help to not make him feel disconnected or isolated from all the fuss. When you give your child jobs to do to help you out with taking care of the new baby, he starts to feel a strong sense of pride and purpose in being the big brother/sister. There is also a feeling for him that he is teaming up with you in baby care. Depending on the age of your child you can him involved in getting diapers ready, picking out the baby's clothes, singing a lullaby to the baby etc.

6.   Allow a Little Regression:
Very often parents complain that their 3 year old who did many things on his own like eating or putting on his shoes etc. now refuses to do it and behaves like he is a little baby. Some toddlers even start demanding milk in a bottle even though it is over a year since they started drinking out of a cup.  These are all very common regressions.  There is no need to get strict with your child or get upset with him for being unnecessarily demanding. Such minor regressions are just a way of asking for a little attention in an indirect manner. Your child will settle down soon.

7.   Make One-on-One Time With Your Toddler:
In the last few months before the baby is born create a special one on one time with your toddler once a week or so. Make sure to really focus on him and avoid talking about the new baby during this time. Continue this tradition with him even after the baby is born. Let it be his time where he doesn’t have to deal with sharing you with his sibling. This helps a lot with the jealousy your older one may feel.

8.   Get Help:
Irrespective of how well planned you may be, taking care of two children is no simple task. It is always a good idea to ask a family member, relative or good friends to spend time with you right after the baby's birth. Avoid asking them to handle your first child for you. Your toddler needs your attention so get help with other things so you can focus on spending time with him.

Good luck with the 2nd baby!!    Here's wishing you and your toddler a smooth transition into the next joyous phase in life.

What did you do when your second child was born?   Let's help parents with more and more ideas on how to address this issue. Please share your ideas in the comments below.  Thanks :-)