Whether your pregnancy was planned or surprise, a new baby is going to bring a somewhat shocking change to your toddler’s world. While they may not be old enough to fully grasp what is going on, there are a few things you can do to prepare them for the changes ahead.
Make the idea of a new brother or sister exciting. Yes, we know that adding a newborn into your home is inevitably going to mean less time and attention to your toddler, but the point is to minimize the negatives. Talk often of how much you love having your toddler around and how they are going to love having the baby around, too. Tell them about ways they can help with the baby and how much fun it is going to be to have someone new to play with. Spending a little time thinking about what type of relationship you would like to foster between them will help these encouragements to come naturally to you.
Though tempting, talking about the significance of your growing belly may serve more to confuse than inform your toddler. Most are not yet able to grasp the concept of a sibling growing in a belly and then coming out, and many a mother has been surprised to find that their toddlers didn’t even notice the watermelon-sized loss in their midsection when the baby makes its appearance. An occasional belly comment or kiss is fine, but for the rest of the time, stick to emphasizing baby over belly.
Get around another baby or two to help your toddler conceptualize what you’ve been talking about. There’s always a surplus of new moms who would love a little break, and giving them one can actually help both you and your toddler prepare for life with another baby. Be sure not to put any expectations on your toddler while the baby is around—if they prefer to play on their own as if the baby isn’t even there, that’s okay. It is still a productive exercise.
Get your baby gear out early. Don’t wait until the last minute to get the swings and playpens out. Minimizing the amount of change that happens at the time of your baby’s arrival will help your toddler not to feel overwhelmed. They may not fully understand you when you explain to them that soon a baby will be inhabiting those items, but they will be much better prepared to deal with it when it happens.
Lastly, begin now to think of ways for you and your toddler to spend time alone. Whether it’s going to the park or enjoying an ice cream cone together, make a habit of doing it often, and don’t break the habit once the little one arrives. It is normal for children of the toddler ages to be needy whether they are an only child or one of dozens. Giving your toddler some quality time and affirmation is what they need most. After all, it’s not the knowledge that they are your only child that they need; they need to know that they are your very special child. And thankfully, that is something you don’t need to work very hard at.