7 tips for helping your toddler survive the arrival of baby #2

Introducing a new baby into the mix can be hard on kiddo #1.  I've asked a bunch of moms how they survived the transition and here's what they had to say. 

    1. Make or buy them a book about what's happening (or do both!). One of my wise mommy friends made a book for her 2.5 year old daughter, When Mommy Goes to the Hospital.  It explained not only how the toddler was going to become a big sister, but all the changes that were going to happen at home.  As a result, nothing came as a huge shock to her. Homemade books are a smart choice anytime a big change is about to occur as they can help ease the transition.  If you aren't that crafty, there are a ton of great books that can be purchased on this subject.  For example, "I'm a Big Brother/Sister" by Joanna Cole is perfect to read to your little one before the baby arrives.

    2. Bring your toddler to an ultrasound. You've probably already shared the news and are showing enough that your toddler knows something is different.  However, the idea of a baby in mommy's belly can be rather conceptual for many toddlers. A great way to help your toddler understand is to bring him to one of your ultrasounds.  We brought our son with us and he was enthralled by the large video screen of the baby growing inside me.  He got to hear the heartbeat and connect to the idea of his sister in a more tangible way. It's a more scientific approach but it resonated my son and he continued to talk about it from that day forward.  It's important that the toddler understands that nothing is "wrong" with mommy and that this is a positive visit to the doctor.  If your toddler is more fearful of doctors and hospitals, this may not be the best method for your family. 

    3. Buy your toddler a gift from the baby. It's already happening in my house - people bringing over clothes and baby gear to help us prep for the arrival of our daughter.  Have a few new toys tucked away and a special one specifically from the baby that you can give to your toddler after the baby is born.  This will help your toddler feel important in the midst of all the chaos and attention that is being placed on your newborn.

    4. Ask family members and friends to give extra attention to the toddler. Everyone will be clamoring to see and hold the new baby, but it may be prudent to ask your closer family members and friends to greet and engage with the toddler before rushing to meet your newborn.  Maybe even instruct them to ask the toddler if he or she would like to take you to meet their new brother or sister. This helps them to feel important and involved in the introduction process.

    5. Have their favorite foods freezer ready and favorite snacks on hand.  People will bring you food when the baby is born, but they may not bring food your toddler enjoys.  My guy is in a particularly picky phase so I'll make sure the house is stocked with food he likes that is quick and easy to prepare. 

    6. Make one-on-one time with the toddler. Both before and after the baby arrives, make sure you set aside plenty of time to bond with your toddler. While you are pregnant they can sense that changes are coming and may become more clingy. Try giving your toddler as much dedicated mommy time as you can, while you can, perhaps planning some special outings or activities together at home.  And after baby comes, you'll really have to make a special effort to find time for your toddler who will likely be confused by the changes in the family dynamics.  Even 10 - 20 minutes of dedicated time together can make a difference. Put your newborn in a sling or carrier so you can be hands-free and accessible to do a fun activity with your toddler or take a neighborhood nature walk.  You probably need to get out of the house anyway!

    7. Make them your special helper. My son loves to feel needed. I've made sure to include him in all baby care activities when possible. "Can you get mommy some diapers?" is a daily request I make of my son.  He feels so good knowing that he helped me and could participate in caring for his baby sister.  There is so much time put into diapering, feeding, napping etc. it's easy for the toddler to feel like they aren't getting as much attention from mama. This is one small way to remedy that reality and make taking care of baby a joint activity.