Monday, May 02, 2011

Inquisition Monday: Preparing a Toddler

Today's Inquisition Monday question comes from McKay's cousin, Deb via Facebook, so I can't link to her, but if you want to see some gorgeous nursing pictures of her, go here.

Deb asks, do you have advice or good reference on how to prepare your toddler for a new baby? My daughter will be 21 months when the new baby arrives and I'm a little terrified.

Yes and no. I was in a similar position as you because Margaret was 27 months when Isaac was born. I scoured the web for ideas, but unfortunately most of them are for older children. For example, one preparation activity that was really endearing to read about was a suggestion of using candles to show how love is shared: Mommy's lit candle would light the toddler's candle and then light the baby's candle and you saying something like, "Mommy loves you and when the baby comes, Mommy will also love the baby, and the love for you is still bright." Beautiful. If we do that in the future, I'll probably cry (I'm like that), but Margaret was just too young to understand that.

So I don't know if I really have any good advice for a little one like yours. I now some people have done gifts from the baby: a toy or book that can help keep the child busy while you nurse or change diapers. That sounds like a good idea, but we didn't do that.

What we did do was take advantage of the small parental leave we had. McKay was an intern, so it wasn't full-blown parental leave, but it was something. Having him to play with Margaret and entertain her was great. He was able to fill her needs for those first 3 weeks so I could take care of Isaac's needs.

Margaret did get really fussy in those first few weeks after the birth, though. She needed attention because she was, in many ways, a baby herself. Nursing helped a little, if you nurse through your pregnancy. Bedsharing helped a little as well. Before Isaac was mobile, Margaret slept between us and Isaac was on the outside of me. She could get Daddy cuddles if I was nursing Isaac.

Be patient. And be gentle with yourself. You need to take care of you and heal postpartum. And feed your baby. And tend to your older baby. That's a lot. Maybe invite some friends for your toddler over to play in the days, so she's happy, but don't try to act the part of hostess and keeping the house neat and all that. Just let it be.

If you can, try to keep the toddler's schedule the same as far as bedtimes, bath times, meal times, etc. And if you don't feel too touched out, cuddle with the toddler when you can. Read books while you nurse.

But be kind to yourself. Overworking yourself is going to prolong your own healing which is bad for you and also bad for your baby and toddler.

Anyone else have any suggestions for Deb?


  1. Only ideas I have to add are to talk about the baby a lot, show your child the baby clothes, baby crib/bed/where the baby will sleep, baby diapers, etc. If you already know the name of your baby, use the name a lot to help the child can make the connection between the bump in your tummy, the baby clothes you've talked about, and the newborn. You can have the toddler practice taking care of a baby doll. (Maybe she already does that though...I have boys and didn't have any dolls and unfortunately didn't think of this until after my baby had been born.) Read books about adding a child to the family and being a big sister. Talk about all the things she can do as a big sister for the baby and how she can help the baby.

    Not all of it will sink in, but at least some of it will, and that little bit will help.

    I've also heard the idea of having the baby "give" a present to the older child when born and also having the child give a gift to the baby. I thought it was a little cheesy, our child wouldn't understand it was "from" the baby and it just costs money to do that...But in retrospect, it might have helped a bit. And in those early times, every bit counts. :)

    Good luck!

  2. My daughter was 2 years 7 months when my son was born, and he will be a couple weeks from his 2nd birthday when this new baby is born (hopefully in a few weeks!). One thing that caught me off guard, which I know warn other second time moms about, is that once the baby was here, my expectations of my older child changed, without any change in her behavior and abilities . Since I had this new, helpless, completely dependent newborn in my arms, it was easy to compare my 2 1/2 year old and see all her amazing abilities and skills and expect her suddenly to be way more grown up than she was. It happened to both my husband and me, which frustrated us so much! One day I realized what we were doing, and that it was all based on our perceptions, not reality. Once I came to the realization, I was able to re-calibrate my thinking and all of a sudden the antics that were driving me insane a couple days before, were back to being cute and endearing, or at least tolerable.

    Your advice to be gentle with yourself and your toddler is fabulous! I wish I had been more aware of that last time, but now I've learned and hopefully won't fall into the same pattern with this next one!

  3. Thank you everyone for the advice. I keep telling myself I'll be fine, and that I'm not the first woman to do this. I just want to make it as easy on everyone as I can. I have been reading her a lot of books and I hope it's sinking in. When I ask her where her baby brother is she rubs my belly, so I think she gets it. I also had someone tell me to get her a baby doll that she can take care of while I take care of the new baby, which sounds like a good idea.
    I'll have to try and keep you updated on facebook on how everything is going...but I don't know how much time I'll have. :)
    Thanks again!


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