Hey there and Congratulations! If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve either just welcomed a new addition to your family, or are planning on doing so pretty soon.
As a mother of kids who are 18 months apart, I know first hand what it's like to feel the emotions of this particular transition. I still remember the many 'side-effects' we experienced when our second child came home. Some behavioral changes but especially, the sleep changes that took place. Looking back, I wish I knew what I do now about what to expect and how to manage it. Welcoming a new baby into the family is an exciting time, but it can also bring about a mix of emotions for your older child, especially toddlers. It's important to navigate this transition with care and consideration to ensure a smooth adjustment for everyone involved, so today, let’s explore some strategies for introducing your new baby to your toddler, and prepare you for some of the potential challenges that may lay in store.
Embrace a Little Bit of Jealousy:
Accepting that your toddler may experience feelings of jealousy is the first step toward fostering understanding and empathy. Don’t attempt to curb or suppress these emotions. Acknowledge them, validate them, and reassure your toddler that their love and importance within your family unit haven't diminished. Encourage open communication and be available to listen, really listen, to their concerns.
Set Clear Expectations:
Maintaining boundaries is essential during this transition period. Clearly communicate your expectations to your toddler, explaining the new dynamics and what is expected of them as an older sibling. Frame these expectations positively, emphasizing the importance of their role in welcoming and caring for the new baby. Encourage them to participate in age-appropriate activities, such as helping with diaper changes or selecting a toy for their sibling. Ask them to pick out which bottle to feed, allow them to choose which pajamas you will change baby into and bring to you. Toddlers typically love the feeling of responsibility and maturity that comes from helping their parents with a new baby, so do what you can to nurture that older sibling relationship.
Prepare for Regression:
As your toddler adjusts to their new sibling, it's common to witness some regression in sleep patterns, behavior, and even potty training. Be patient and understanding during this phase, reinforce positive habits gently, and provide reassurance when setbacks occur, but remember, you set some expectations and communicated them to your toddler, so while it may be tempting to let them slide back into familiar routines, such as using diapers or sleeping in the crib, it's important to maintain consistency and encourage growth.
Consistency is key when it comes to maintaining boundaries. While it may be tempting to give in to your toddler's demands during this time of change, it's essential to stand firm. Resist reverting to previous practices, such as allowing them to sleep in the crib (if now in a bed) or returning to diapers. The most common boundary I see slide is reverting to co-sleeping. If this is the case for you and you’d like direction on how to get sleep back to normal, my toddler sleep program could be for you. Email me email@example.com for a full breakdown of how my programs work. Upholding daytime boundaries is crucial as well. If your toddler is protesting certain activities they have been fine with historically, this is a sign they are looking for where the line is. Reverting to doing certain tasks for them where they used to do them independently, i.e. dressing, or feeding themselves, confuses them and leaves them feeling insecure in their role in the family. Upholding these boundaries reinforces their role as an older sibling and helps create a sense of stability and routine.
Create Special One-on-One Time:
I get it, free time isn’t exactly in abundance after you bring a new baby into the house. But it's important to carve out moments of individual attention for your toddler. Set aside a little time every day for your older child to engage in activities they enjoy, such as reading a book together, going for a walk, playing a game, whatever makes them happy. These shared experiences will help strengthen the bond between you and your toddler, reaffirming their importance in your life and reassuring them that the new baby isn’t a replacement for
This is probably the single most important tip I can give you for preventing feelings of jealousy and resentment, so again, I know you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed, but make this a priority.
Prepare a ‘feeding time-only’ play bin for when you plan to feed your new baby. Perhaps have 2 in strategic areas of your home. Whether you breast bottle feed, this is the only time you won’t be able to attend to your toddler or preschooler. This bin should keep toys that only come out for feedings so to entice your kiddo more and keep them busy during baby's feed.
Introducing a sibling is a significant milestone for your family, obviously, but it’s particularly uncharted waters for your older child. It’s going to require patience, understanding, and a whole lot of conscious effort on your part. But familiarizing yourself with the potential challenges, and by setting clear boundaries and nurturing a positive sibling relationship, you can create an environment that fosters love, support, and harmony within your growing family.
Remember, with time, patience, and consistency, your toddler and new baby will forge a special bond that will last a lifetime.
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