6 Tips for Introducing Your Toddler to a New Baby

toddler baby

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If you're getting ready to introduce a new baby into your family and already have a toddler, you may be wondering how your little one will handle the transition.

Every family is different and every toddler will handle welcoming a new sibling differently, but to ensure that everyone is as prepared as they can be, here are some tips for transitioning into a family with both a toddler and a baby.

Talk to Your Toddler

It may seem obvious, but one of the easiest places to start preparing for how your family will change is to simply talk to your toddler. Ask him or her what they think is happening to find out where their thoughts are. If you're pregnant, for example, your toddler may already have an idea that there is a baby in your belly. If you're adopting, he or she may have some questions about where the baby is from.

Kids can pick up a lot on our moods and stress. Try to keep conversations about the baby light and positive.

Practice Role Play

Gifting your toddler with a doll or similar toy can be a great way to introduce the concept of taking care of a baby. Practice how to change diapers or tip-toe near the playpen or crib or how to be gentle around the baby. You can even give your toddler his own set of baby supplies so he can help you take care of the baby when she arrives. My toddlers loved being tasked with special "jobs" to help Mom out when there was a new baby on board. Might as help get some help fetching those wipes, right?

Make Any Physical Changes Ahead of Time

If you will need to make any physical changes, such as transitioning your toddler from a crib to a bed to make way for the new baby, you might consider making those changes before the baby comes. If your toddler sees you try to take "her" crib, she may resent the baby. Making the changes ahead of time and celebrating the fact that your toddler is a "big kid" now who gets new things can help make that transition a little easier.

Let It Happen Naturally

To be honest, in our family, we did not go overboard to prepare our toddler for life with a new baby. At 2 years old, toddlers may not understand everything about a new baby and in a lot of ways, it made sense to let the transition unfold organically. We talked about the baby and made a big deal about the sleepover at her grandma's house when the baby came, but other than that, we didn't try to place an emphasis on how much our lives would change. We treated the new baby as just a normal part of our family and our toddlers just went along with the changes without any issues.

Give a Sibling Gift

Some families have found that it helps if the new baby "gives" his or her big brother or sister a special gift. So while the new baby is getting passed around with lots of attention from grown-ups, big sister or brother can get some extra attention from a special gift from the newcomer.

In our family, our fourth baby "gave" her big siblings a special gift they could use together. My older kids still talk about the present she got them. Bonus points if the gift is something that can help entertain the toddler while the baby's parents catch some much-needed rest. Some suggestions for toddler sibling gifts could include a special day out, an activity toy, a new coloring book, and crayons, or even a small camera that the toddler can use to play "photographer."

Don't Force It

If your toddler just doesn't seem interested in the new baby, don't force it. Your toddler might need time to adjust and prepare to observe the baby from a distance for now. It won't be long before your baby will grow and they will be playing, and probably getting into squabbles, together.

By Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN
Chaunie Brusie is a registered nurse with experience in long-term, critical care, and obstetrical and pediatric nursing.