Last week, I asked some of the coolest moms I know how they got through that first while after bringing their newborn infants home from the hospital when they already had a toddler to attend to. (See what they said.)
I’ve also been gathering advice over the past few months from moms I bump into at the grocery store and the playground. Here are some plain old practical ways they said they prepared for taking care of an infant and a toddler at the same time.
Preparing your older child during your pregnancy
- Pregnancy gives you lots of time to help prepare your toddler. Talk and talk and talk with him or her to help give a realistic idea of how things will be.
- Search out a few books on being a big brother or sister to help illustrate what it will look like at home. (Joanna Cole has written some good ones.)
- Point out to your big kid how great it is to be a big brother or sister, so they’re looking forward to having a baby in the house.
- Try to avoid using language like “We can’t do that because the baby has to…” or “You know mommy can’t do that because there’s a baby in her tummy”. Portray your pregnancy and the newborn stage in a positive light, so the toddler doesn’t feel like it’s the baby’s fault you need to sleep or can’t go to playgroup that day, etc.
- Help your first one gain some small independences well in advance of the baby’s arrival, so it isn’t felt as a direct result of the baby moving in (e.g., transition to big kid bed and out of the crib well before the baby will need it).
- Get his or her input on things like names and clothing you’re buying for the new baby. This can help plant a small feeling of responsibility toward the younger one from the start.
When your older child first meets your newborn
- Prepare a special gift for your toddler from your new baby, and give it to him the first time they meet. One mom told me that even 10 years later her son could recall all the toys in the gift basket his little sister brought him.
- Set the baby down and hug your older one the first time you see him or her after the baby arrives.
And then the real fun begins…
- Get into baby wearing, so you can still get out and do things your toddler might like to do comfortably. Even baby wearing around the house will be good for your newborn, too, so you can spend time with both at the same time.
- Let your toddler help in small ways. Maybe he can fetch things for you when you’re nursing, bring a toy for the baby or stack diapers.
- Show her how the baby likes to “play”. Let the baby hold your toddler’s finger. Ask your toddler to sing a lullaby with you for the baby. Have group hugs. All these things show your older child that he’s now a special part of a family unit that has grown by one more.
- Try to sync their schedules as much as possible to take advantage of naps and downtimes.
- If relatives offer to help, accept. Sometimes having guests invites a bit more work for you. But their presence may be reassuring for your older child, and they can even take a turn watching the baby so you can spend time with your toddler.
- Write things down. Even if you could keep up with things mentally the first time around, you’ll have much more on your hands this time.
With just over 3 months to go, I’m actually starting to feel prepared for little boy number two to make his appearance. (Except we don’t have a name yet!) But we’ll see how it goes. You never really know until you’re in the midst of it all, it seems.