How can I prep my toddler for a new sibling?
August 8, 2018 8:17 AM   Subscribe

We're about to have Baby #2 in a few weeks, and I'm thinking about how to prep or chat with Baby #1 (who is currently 17 months) about the upcoming changes to our family. I'm not sure how much he'll understand, but would like to help him navigate these changes. Do you have any book (or other) recommendations? We've been told the Daniel Tiger big brother book is pretty helpful, so I plan to get that one. Also any tips on how to navigate the first few weeks with 2 under 2 would be much appreciated. Thank you!
posted by melodykramer to Human Relations (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Can you get a baby doll and some accessories so he can mimic what is being done with baby?

I'm under the impression is it having to wait for attention that is the issue at this age.
posted by k8t at 8:26 AM on August 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

My favorite advice is from AskMefi a few years back - my two are a year apart, and from day one I "took turns" when they both clamored for my attention, meaning I talked to my newborn and let him know he would need to wait because big brother needed Mama (even tho my newborn was most likely in my arms at the time) so that my older child could see that he wasn't being constantly made to wait in favor of the baby and that baby had to wait for him, too - I know there isn't a large age gap and that's mostly why they get along so well but I think it set a good precedent for both of them.
posted by annathea at 8:32 AM on August 8, 2018 [16 favorites]

I did the same as annathea and definitely hammed it up for the toddler. "Baby, you have to wait now because it is Toddler's turn. So I am putting you down now because YOU have to WAIT YOUR TURN." Gently scold the baby in the same voice you use to scold the toddler. Won't hurt the baby, will make the toddler feel Very Important.
posted by telepanda at 8:38 AM on August 8, 2018 [6 favorites]

We also did the same as annathea.
We also made a point to not "blame" things on the baby. For example, if we were at the park and had to leave because it was the baby's naptime, we simply said it was time to go, and were very cautious to avoid making it appear to be the baby's fault we were leaving.
posted by avocado_of_merriment at 8:49 AM on August 8, 2018 [8 favorites]

Mine are 15 months apart, and I suggest letting the big one help take care of the little one. Obviously at that age the "help" is purely nominal, but it makes the big one feel good and part of the team. I would ask my older child to go get something for the baby from across the room or another room. It often took several tries, because he was just a little guy and didn't necessarily understand what I wanted, but he liked to feel he was helping.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 8:55 AM on August 8, 2018

I feel qualified to answer this, with a 2 year old & a 4 week old. Nthing the telling the baby to wait because it's toddler's turn. Nthing getting a baby doll (and one of those toy milk bottles) for toddler to practice on (although my son prefers using his favorite stuffed animal).

At 17 or 18 months, though, I'd say that the adjustment period for the toddler is going to be relatively smooth - it generally is from what I can gather for most toddlers under 2.5, and especially for those younger than 2. So many things are changing in their lives & so many new concepts are being introduced (or they're developing the capacity to understand them) that a new baby is just one more new thing that they take in stride. Honestly, my just-turned two year old was more excited about carrying his backpack to daycare than his new sister.

Definitely involve the toddler on activities with the baby - we do family tummy time & family baby gym time, he's a BIG HELPER by grabbing the burp cloth or baby's swaddle blanket, etc.

For books, Daniel Tiger is one of the simplest ones about a new baby, so I'd recommend that one. Most of the books are geared more to preschoolers, with complicated storylines about feeling left out and smashing something to get back at the busy parents, which is a bit too cognitively advanced for the under two set. I also liked Waiting for Baby & I am a Big Brother. The Mr. Roger's book is good because it talks simply about having sad feelings, but might be better for you a few months in when those feelings actually pop up.

The book How Toddlers Thrive (which is excellent in general) has a good section on how toddlers process having a new sibling & how to best support them.

Wishing you as much sleep as possible in the months ahead!
posted by Jaclyn at 9:09 AM on August 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

A classic, and definitely older but STILL one of the best IMO is Siblings Without Rivalry and (by the same authors) How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk

In the sibling one, they give an example of a hypothetical world in which there has been some plague that's killed off most men and now they are required to have two wives. The husband brings the (new, younger, more beautiful) wife home and says all the things that people say to and around siblings when the new baby comes home, like "Isn't she beautiful?" and "Aren't you so happy to have a new wife in the house?". It really helps you understand how much of what we do and say provokes some painful jealousy and how much more aware and sensitive we can be about that fact. Highly recommend!
posted by SinAesthetic at 9:57 AM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

The hardest time for me was when Big turned 4 and Little was 1,5.
Because Little was constantly up Big‘s business. Big didn‘t have the self control and was constantly pushing Little away in anger. Little on the other hand was so wobbly on her legs.

We spent two consecutive weekends at the ER because Big pushed Little and Little was bleeding profusely from her head wound.

I‘m telling you this so you can prepare emotionally for what I think will be the hardest phase, and also so you know that my Big and Little are now 7 and 4, and cuddle in bed almost every night because they are best friends.
posted by Omnomnom at 10:18 AM on August 8, 2018 [6 favorites]

I have almost precisely the same experience as Omnomnom, except while there was deliberate, and upsetting, violence from Big to Little, we never needed the ER. And Little is now 17, and much bigger than his Big sister, who's 19, but they're still super close.
posted by LizardBreath at 10:34 AM on August 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

The New Baby by Mercer Mayer is a good one.

We also got our then-24-month-old a baby doll, although in the end he preferred to baby his favorite truck, whom he named "Truckbaby" and would "breastfeed" from his bellybutton.

Another good idea is to practice some of the ways your toddler CAN interact with the new baby -- gentle pats, high fives, bringing the baby a special toy/a pacifier/a burp cloth/whatever, maybe rocking the baby if you have something safe for a toddler to rock (car seat was good for us, b/c it was too heavy for him to tip over and couldn't rock wildly). So that when he DOES want to interact with the new one, he's got some idea of the appropriate things to do.

"Also any tips on how to navigate the first few weeks with 2 under 2 would be much appreciated. "

So much PBS kids and cheerios on demand.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:55 PM on August 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

I had to have an emergency c-section for my second. My first was very scared and upset to see me hooked up to the IV in the hospital bed while rocking her new baby brother. I think she attributed it to him at first. So if hospitals and such are going to be involved, that may be something to watch out for and have another grownup preemptively explain.
posted by Night_owl at 7:52 PM on August 8, 2018

We were in the same situation and can echo many of the comments above. When the older one is <2, a new baby is no big deal. Seriously. Ours was more interested and invested in his new overalls than the baby for the first few weeks. We got him a baby doll a month before the baby came home—he didn’t much care for it, so there went that idea. We relied really heavily on Your Schedule from Before the Baby Shall Be Maintained. Our toddler didn’t visit us in the hospital, he kept going to daycare without a break, dinner/bath/bedtime stayed just the same as before the baby. At that age, we really limited “touching the baby” (due to germs and toddlers just wailing on things) until our newborn was a bit sturdier. I think we had a weird, “You can pet your brother with the back of your hand” thing that worked. Anyway, two under two can get pretty crazy, but I always tell people I’d rather change twice as many diapers for half as long.
posted by whitewall at 9:05 PM on August 8, 2018

On the "go grab a burp cloth" theme -- I just remembered, we chose one section of his living room toy storage (many cubbyholes) to have the basket with all the burp cloths, which made them easy and convenient for adults to grab, but also for him and it was a big-boy job he could do very reliably, and one that was legitimately necessary.

We also used them to have him clean up after his own spills, which was an accidentally great idea because he'd spill, say "uh oh!" and then go clean up after himself. Self reliance! Self cleaning!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:13 PM on August 8, 2018

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