So you've decided to have a second baby. All is well, you are prepped, you are ready and now you are just waiting for the newborn to arrive. Out of nowhere someone asks "Is your toddler ready for his/her baby brother or sister?" That 'helpful' someone starts to tell you stories of how their toddler or a toddler they knew behaved. Words such as 'going backwards', 'resenting baby', 'attention seeking' are mentioned, and you started to panic.
From a mother of two's point of view, I can tell you that it really is not that bad. First you need to understand that having a sibling is something new and scary for your first child. He/she might see the baby as a competitor for your attention, which in a way is true. To make your toddler accept his/her baby sibling easier, all you have to do is re-assure him/her that there is nothing to worry about, and point out all the advantages for having a sibling.
Here are a few things you can do to prepare your toddler for the newborn's arrival.
1. Speak to your toddler before the baby is born
Find a time to speak to your toddler. It should be a time of the day where your child is calm and will listen to you most. Avoid times when he/she will be easily distracted.
Explain to your toddler that the baby will be arriving soon, and gently explain that things are changing, but in a good way. For example, instead of saying "You'll have a baby brother/sister to look after soon", say something like "Baby has been telling mummy that he can't wait to come out and meet you. The baby can hear your voice and laughter all the time, and really wants to join in and have fun playing with you." instead.
You can go on with what they can do together, how he/she won't need to play on his/her own anymore at home; things that are an advantage to your toddler with a new sibling.
If your toddler tells you about personal worries, re-assure him/her with good reasons, or advantage for having a sibling that will outweigh his worries.
2. Prepare a gift from your baby to your toddler
This worked like a charm. We bought our daughter a play dough set, wrapped it up and hid it in the car's boot. When my husband came home from the hospital after the baby was born, he gave it to her and told her that it was a hello gift from her baby brother. She loved it very much and 9 months later, she still remembered that it was a gift from her baby brother.
There are lots of personalised gifts now for such occasions. Make sure it's something your toddler will love, and give it to him or her in the first instance after your baby is born.
3. Let your toddler hold your baby when they first meet
As worrying as this can be, letting your toddler hold the baby (with your help, of course) when they first meet is just as important as letting you hold your baby as soon as the baby arrives. It is the best way to introduce your baby to your toddler. It also shows that you trust your toddler, and that he/she is included in this family miracle.
4. Try not to be over protective
Try to avoid pushing your toddler away to protect your baby, as your toddler might feel resented. He/she is just curious about your baby and is being a loving sibling.
Instead of brushing his/her hand away when, for example, he/she tried to touch the soft spot, hold their hand and guide him/her to gently stroke the baby at a safer spot, for example the forehand or cheeks, while explaining to him/her that babies are delicate and need to be handled gently. Explain to him/her as well what the soft spot is in this case.
5. Explain to your toddler that two babies are a handful
If your toddler started acting like a baby, the best way to deal with this is to tell him/her that looking after one baby is already too much for you, and you prefer to have a toddler that you can speak to and do things a baby cannot do. Your toddler will then realise that you do appreciate him/her, and although the baby has taken up most of your time, you don't really enjoy it (well, except all the cute and goodness).
I am not saying that having two is as easy as having one. It really is not. But there are ways to make your life easier. You just have to understand how your child feels. Try to put yourself in his/her shoes more often and you will see.