Preparing toddler for a new baby does not need to be hard or overwhelming! In fact, when it comes time to figure out how to prepare a toddler for a new baby, there are loads of ways to make the transition easier for everyone! Discover the best actionable tips to get toddlers ready for baby, including scripts, below!
From before baby arrives, to labor and delivery, and even after, these are the tips on how to “Cherrish” the Moment of welcoming a new sibling with a toddler!
This post is sponsored by the Chilean Cherry Committee. Thank you for supporting brands who support TCM! And be sure to Cherrish Every Moment with Cherries from Chile this season!
- WATCH Preparing Toddler For New Baby? 15+ Best Tips On How To Prepare Toddler For A Baby You NEED To Try!
- Preparing Toddler For New Baby Before Baby Arrives
- Cook together
- Gentle Hands
- Be real about the experience of a baby
- Explain sharing
- Teach quiet/indoor voice
- Practiced waiting and patience
- Remove the mystery of birth and baby
- Introduce a baby doll
- More Cooking!
- Breastfeeding baby
- Incorporate toddler into baby activities
- Adjusting your parenting based on toddler's stress response
- Get curious
- Give toddler alone time with baby
- Special bonding time
Preparing Toddler For New Baby Before Baby Arrives
This is really great to do before baby comes, as you stock your freezer with postpartum meals. It's a great way to Cherrish the Moment and connect with your toddler, while also providing ample opportunity for preparing your toddler for a new baby as you talk about how things will be different when baby arrives.
One of our favorite recipes to do, which you'll also appreciate with a new baby around, are immune boosting gummies! The recipe is super simple (video above!):
- Soak some Chilean Cherries in water
- Blend them with 2 cups of OJ until it's like a liquid; you can strain out any fiber, too
- Add OJ and cherry blend, plus 1/2 cup of leftover cherry water to a saucepan
- Add 6 tablespoons gelatin powder and 1/4 honey
- Heat on medium-low until gelatin dissolves fully, whisking every now and then
- Pour into fun molds or glass baking dish and set in fridge or freezer
These are great little immune boosting gummy snacks that you can add any other herbs, spices, or vitamins to which you will definitely want your toddler to keep up with once baby arrives!
Other ideas would be prepping oatmeal bowls, casseroles, etc. that you can just heat later.
Gentle hands is a concept we started teaching my first child when she was just 4 months old because we have a dog and is a great way to get toddlers ready for a new baby and their new role as a big sibling. The earlier you start this the better!
Simply show an open hand, and gentle touch. As a result, she's always been really good with babies.
It's helpful, too, because now that baby is here and we are teaching him gentle hands, it's not just a reminder we nag our toddler about, but rather something she teaches him to do when he grabs her hair. This way, nothing feels personal, which is a huge win since oftentimes, babies and toddlers have different rules/expectations, and this is one they share.
Toddlers face many transitional periods between 1 year old and 4 years old. Take some time to think through the transitions they'll face and the timing of baby's arrival. Decide what you may want to work on before baby arrives and what can wait.
Common transitions to consider making a plan for: starting school/daycare, potty training, switching from crib to big bed or switching rooms, or getting rid of binky.
Keep in mind that you do NOT want to force your toddler into a transition before they are ready, so be sure to look for signs of readiness to make the transition easy.
For instance, my daughter showed signs of readiness for toilet learning around 18 months to 2 years old. This gave us 6 months before baby so we impulsively jumped on it when a long weekend presented itself.
We also knew that we wanted her to start preschool, but didn't think things through enough. Instead of getting her into camp before baby arrived (I would recommend starting school/camp before baby!), she ended up starting 6 weeks after baby.
Transitions rule of thumb:
Lastly, while it's important for you to have a plan for these transitions, you don't need to overwhelm your child with them! Some people recommend no big changes 3 months before or after baby.
With starting school, we didn't have that choice, and she did great with the transition. We didn't make a big deal out of it and she handled it super well.
In fact, the only transition we tried to “prepare” her for was getting rid of her binky, and that was the only transition that we had a significant regression and issue with. Granted, she decided to do it the day she turned 3 years old, which comes with it's own regression!
I think the anticipation of it led to some anxiety, and then once it happened, there was some anxiety, since it was talked about so much before. Sometimes, the best thing we can do for our toddlers is tell them about the transition the day of or even an hour or two before. For instance, “you're getting a big bed today! When we get back from the park in a couple hours, your big bed will be here!”
Kids often look to you to see how they should feel about something, so if you're nervous about it, I think they are more likely to be nervous too, and in my experience, less hype is definitely more effective with transitions.
Be real about the experience of a baby
Let's be real – while newborns are cute, they aren't particularly fun, especially for toddlers.One of the best ways to get toddlers ready for a baby is to be real about the experience of having a baby around.
Listen to baby cries, talk about how often baby eats and sleeps and just how little they can do to communicate and care for themselves.
In preparing our toddler for the new baby, we found it especially helpful to spend time with one of our friends with a toddler the same age as ours, who had a new baby 2 months before we did. When baby cried, I'd get down on my toddler's level and explain to her:
“The baby is crying. Babies do that a lot. It's how they communicate. Nothing to be nervous about. See how the mommy responds to the baby? Mom's need to pick up the baby when it cries and sometimes feed baby or sometimes hold baby. See how the big sister is comforting the baby by touching his feet? See how the big sister is now playing by herself while mom uses both hands right now to help baby? Now that baby is comforted, see how the mom goes back to pushing the big sister on the swing?”
If you don't have people around in a similar situation, there are loads of Youtube family vloggers you can turn the sound off on their videos and just narrate however you'd like. I personally found this way more effective than any of the books I got to help transition my toddler to the new baby.
In the case of going from one child to two, what was once all your only child's will soon be shared with a new sibling.
To prepare a toddler for the transition, start noting the shared toys/spaces of the house.
Communal vs. Personal:
For example, my toddler, like most 2 year olds, began saying “MY ball (or whatever toy it was)” while we spent time in the playroom.
So in preparing toddler for the new baby, my husband and I began pointing out, “yes it IS your ball, and my ball, and daddy's ball and soon baby's ball! This is our ball! In our playroom! The toys in here are for everyone!“
We made sure to distinguish communal toys/spaces versus the toys in her room/her space.
When the baby gets a little older, I plan to add some Montessori activity mats to the playroom to distinguish each child's work/play space. But right now, we are focusing on group projects. I often ask my toddler to teach baby how to use whatever she is playing with, like blocks or trains.
What NOT to share:
On that note too: we also explain what NOT to share, even in communal spaces. For instance, toddlers can eat more foods than babies. So before baby started solids, if our toddler was having a snack (she loves cherries with honey), we'd explain the importance of not giving baby food without us around since cherries have a pit that needs to be removed and should be sliced into quarters for children and honey isn't safe for babies until after the age of one.
Teach quiet/indoor voice
We didn't do this before baby arrived and I wish I had! Teaching the difference between inside or outside voices, and quiet versus loud, can be really useful once baby is here!
Practiced waiting and patience
While we did have our daughter wait before baby arrived, I wish we would've spent more time practicing it. We used a timer to help her understand countdowns for transitions, like “1 minute till we brush teeth!” but we could've done more in terms of waiting for more exciting things like food or a fun activity.
After baby arrived, one thing we focused a lot on was telling baby to wait while we helped our toddler. I know she liked this as she'd often echo my sentiment and say, “Yeah baby! Wait!” I think this is important to show the older siblings' needs are still important, too.
I'll often add on to it, “thank you for respecting your big sister's time and waiting patiently for her to do X” to further reinforce the importance of waiting for everyone.
Remove the mystery of birth and baby
To the extent you’re comfortable with, and in an age appropriate way, remove the mystery around pregnancy, labor and delivery, and what it's like having a baby.
Show your toddler where babies come from, where you’ll give birth, what things will be like for them during the actual labor and delivery experience, etc. (to the best of your ability).
For us, we did a home birth, so we watched a lot of home birth videos to prepare with a lot of different scenarios. In some videos, the big siblings were in the room, and in others, they came in after. Since my toddler wasn't even 3 years old yet, I reminded her she had a choice in where she wanted to be.
If she chose to be in the room, I'd point out how the big siblings stood with the daddy, the doula, or whoever and gave mommy space. I showed a mix of births where mama breathed the baby out quietly and others where mama roared the baby out and explained the noises were okay and that I roared her out because birth is powerful and beautiful. I always screened a video beforehand to make sure there was nothing traumatizing in it, while also showing a healthy mix of loud births, not just beautiful montages.
If delivering in a hospital, maybe take the child there or show videos/photos of your time in the hospital with them. Let them know who they will stay with while you are at the hospital.
Introduce a baby doll
You can introduce a baby doll to a toddler before baby arrives, or get toddler a gift from new baby so you could do that the day baby arrives, so they can care for their baby alongside you.
We personally waited until after baby arrived and it's been one of my daughter's favorite items! She swaddles it and asked for a crib and stroller to go with it. She even breastfeeds it and calls herself mama!
Aside from helping them process all of the changes, it can give parents nice insight into how the toddler is perceiving their new sibling. For instance, during stressful times in our house, I'd notice my toddler's “baby” would cry a lot more and sometimes she'd handle it ultra nurturing, and other times, she'd give a big exhausted “SHHHH!!” – watching a toddler’s interaction with their doll can give you a good idea if anything needs to change to better support the entire family system.
After Baby Arrives
Once baby arrives, involve your toddler in cooking together again, especially FOR baby!
A lot of times people focus on the jealousy period between toddler and baby in those first months, but sometimes toddlers can have delayed reactions, especially as baby goes from newborn to full on mobile baby!
Make sure to keep big siblings involved, even after those first few months. Cooking together is a great way to do this, especially if you have a picky toddler!
One of the easiest recipes to get started with are popsicles or smoothies! My daughter LOVES antioxidants and is all about Cherries from Chile in her popsicles! You can also freeze these into tiny cubes and put them in a little feeder pacifier like this for a teething baby. My toddler loves helping load it and getting more for baby.
I find that she went through a very picky phase, but now that baby is trying solids, she's trying loads more too!
I'm doing extended breastfeeding, so when baby was on the boob, my toddler wanted to be on, too. It was definitely taxing in its own way, but also made things a lot easier in others. It's probably an entirely different video.
I know a lot of other moms have a special basket of toys that only comes out when baby is nursing. I would also suggest learning to nurse in a baby carrier (click here for the best baby carriers for breastfeeding moms!). It’s not something I’d recommend jumping to the first 6 weeks by any means, but it will help a lot as the months go by.
Incorporate toddler into baby activities
Obviously everyone suggests having your toddler get baby a diaper or wipes, which are SO helpful!
But like I said, toddlers can sometimes have delayed reactions to their new sibling months down the road, especially if we fall into a monotonous rut after baby arrives.
One way we personally break that rut is to set up some special activities that involve baby and toddler.
We recently did this where we made little heart shaped cherry pies using the Fruits From Chile recipe. Before we ate them, we used them for baby's milestone photo shoot. It was a great way to Cherrish Every Moment of baby growing up with Cherries from Chile, and our toddler loved celebrating that too!
Adjusting your parenting based on toddler's stress response
Take special note of your toddler's stress response when correcting them during this time. Typically, this looks like them getting more silly, repeating the behavior with a big smile, or perhaps even getting aggressive. To some, it may seem like the toddler “isn't listening” or “just looking for attention.”
But typically, it's them feeling insecure or anxious. In my experience, it’s pretty similar to what we see in adults who are embarrassed after making a mistake, where they double down on the behavior instead of owning it. So when I notice that I just say some simplified version of the following:
- Name it to tame it: “Oh it seems you’re embarrassed (or X) about your mistake!”
- Optional (clarify/further identify the feeling depending on child' age): Is that why you are smiling and repeating the behavior I asked you not to do? or Are your nerves causing you to laugh because you feel bad about your mistake?
- Moving on: We are all learning to do better for next time! Now, let's go do X” or “Let's take responsibility for our mistake, it happened, we are learning, now let's move on to X.“
To build off the last one, having a plan to deal with the new emotional rollercoaster can be super helpful. We practice “name it to tame it,” where you name the emotion to help the child make sense of it.
Afterwards, I try to sit with her and wait and listen until she's ready to move on.
Sometimes though, I have to go to sleep or do something, so sitting for an hour just isn’t an option.
In those times, I get curious and try to find a way to restore a sense of control or security for her. So we name it to tame it, then ask what she needs to feel calm/safe.
While toddlers won’t always tell you what they need in fact they will often sit there silently) you can get curious and eventually they will share some stuff.
Some questions/areas to hit on:
- Movement (do you want to dance or jump up and down?),
- Grounding (do you want to count or take a deep breath?),
- Change of scenery (do you want to stay here or go outside?),
- Comfort (do you want a hug or something to hold?)
My daughter usually wants something comforting, as her anxiety typically creeps higher at night, so if she says no to a hug and wants something to hold, this is usually my line of questioning:
- Is it in mommy’s room or your room?
- What color is it?
- Is it hard or soft?
I find getting curious gives her a sense of control and helps her find her own coping skills.
Give toddler alone time with baby
Depending on the age of your toddler, and maturity, you may want to consider giving them a little time alone with baby!
This can be very powerful in allowing the children to bond and build your toddler’s confidence. Do it in a way that makes sense for your family.
This could be small like having the toddler “hold” baby in a supported way on a couch or in bed. For us, our kitchen opens up to our playroom so I can see it pretty well. I would often leave baby on the playmat with my toddler and ask her, “Can I leave baby with you while I get a drink?” To this day, those moments I catch of them “alone” when they think no one is watching are my absolute favorite.
Personally, I think it allowed them to build their relationship, while showing her I trust and respect it. I think it taught her a sense of responsibility and understanding that this is another person to love.
Special bonding time
They suggest finding 15 minutes a day to spend with the older sibling, providing one-on-one, totally undivided attention. I find that one of the great ways to do this is with a bedtime snack.
In addition to being incredibly delicious, Chilean Cherries have a ton of health benefits, are rich in antioxidants and packed with melatonin for a good night's sleep.
Cherrish Every Moment
Welcoming a new baby to the family can be overwhelming, and is certainly a big change for everyone. Figuring out how to prepare toddler for a new baby so they are ready will be unique to each family with one thing in common: preparing toddler for a new baby takes a lot of love and repetition (as with all things in parenthood!).
While pregnancy, the newborn days, and even the first year can have their challenges, making some days (and weeks) feel extra extra long, they really do go in the blink of an eye and pass so quickly.
Finding little ways to Cherrish Every Moment can make them extra sweet for everyone, especially when Cherries from Chile are involved!
Pregnancy Diet: How To Eat Healthy During Pregnancy [+ What I Eat In A Day While Pregnant] | Trouble Drinking Water During Pregnancy? 5 Tips To Stay Hydrated While Pregnant! | What I Eat In A Day While Pregnant + Chasing A Toddler
Preparing for Labor: First Time Mom Simple Birth Plan: Our Vision | How To Prepare For Labor | Positive Natural Birth Story At Hospital With First Baby | Are Placenta Pills Good For You? Why I Won’t Eat My Placenta Again | Positive Birth Affirmations | Home Birth Labor and Delivery Story + Vlog | Positive no epidural experience with baby #2!
Maternity Pajamas | What To Wear After Giving Birth In Hospital | Maternity Tights | Maternity Yoga Pants + Leggings | Best Maternity Bras + Nursing Bras | Maternity Pants | Pregnancy Supplements | Pregnancy Skincare Must Haves | Pregnancy Journals | Pregnancy Shoes | Prenatal Probiotics | Pregnancy Support Belts
Postpartum: Nipple Creams For Breastfeeding | Breastfeeding Must Haves | Postpartum Pads | Postpartum Underwear | Best Maternity Bras + Nursing Bras | Maternity Pajamas What To Wear After Giving Birth In Hospital | Baby Carriers for Breastfeeding