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How to Prepare Your Toddler for a New Baby

11/07/2016 14:40 | Updated 11 July 2016

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So my daughter has been mad about dollies since she turned one (she's now two-and-a-half).

She likes to look after them, to change their nappies, to feed them (mainly a diet of cake and chocolate - but it's plastic/wooden food so, hey, that's ok!), to put them to bed (in cardboard boxes covered by a blanket!).

People at playgroups, friends and family have frequently said how good she'll be when we have number two - it did seem a promising sign.

However, the more we started seeing babies the more jealous or upset she'd get. Whenever I'd visit clients or friends and cuddle their babies she'd cry: 'That's my mama', or she'd just cry.

There were even a few incidents with our cats. One of our two cats would be sitting on my lap and she'd get jealous or go to push them off saying: 'that's my mama'. This worried me.

Thankfully that phase seems to have passed - coinciding with my second pregnancy!

A new baby

It was hard at first to get our daughter to understand we were having another baby when there wasn't much of a bump. Plus nine months is a long time for adults, imagine how long it must feel for toddlers!

But as my bump's got bigger she, like us, has got more excited.

Now the most frequently asked question in relation to her baby brother, is:
'Is Pecan (she was peanut) coming out yet?'
'No'
'Is he coming out soon?'...

Whereas before it was:
'Is it still a boy mama?'
'YES!'
'oh, (cue sad face)',

So yes, her excitement has been a welcome transformation.

But how do you prepare your toddler for the arrival of a new baby? As, let's face it - their whole world is about to change. There have been a few pointers and tips that I've picked up along the way, from clients and friends, that definitely helped get our toddler to the excited stage.

Make it all about them

Obviously toddlers are all about themselves, so this idea worked really quickly. One lovely couple I taught told me how they referred to their unborn baby as 'Frank's (their first son) baby'. So we've been calling Pecan 'Immy's baby' for a while.

This may perhaps have caused some initial confusion, as she would often say she had a baby in her tummy too...but then she started saying that daddy and the cats had babies in their tummies as well.

I'm also making a photo book of her first year with the plan of showing her lots of photos of her first few days, with family and friends holding her and one or two of me heavily pregnant with her.

Take them shopping

Although I don't really find taking my toddler shopping the most fun or relaxing thing to do. We've been getting her to choose clothes for her baby brother. She's already got quite strong opinions on what he would or wouldn't like and has told my husband politely that 'Pecan wouldn't want that daddy'.

She's really enjoyed these shopping trips and it's made shopping more fun for us too. She's now asked if she can buy Pecan a dummy and cot - so she's got the essentials sorted!

Take them to the scan

Completely a personal choice of course, and although we had to wait a while in the waiting room, it was so lovely taking our daughter to the 20 week scan. She sat there holding my hand and getting really excited. Some of that excitement did wear off when the sonographer revealed that she would be having a baby brother rather than a sister.

But, for us, it made the 20 week scan even more special and the sonographer gave Immy an extra photo of her brother to keep - OK, she wasn't particularly interested in it but it was nice for us.

Bond with baby

So, the first time round I found singing, talking and reading to bump a bit contrived at first, but then I completely got into it. This time round it's been so much easier.

I'm constantly talking to my toddler, reading to her loads as well as singing - so baby number 2 is hearing our voices all day, which is lovely. Often when I teach second-time mums they say they feel guilty because they're not making as much time to bond during their second pregnancy.

But they are, just not consciously - they're doing it automatically when spending time with their eldest.

Immy is now also cuddling my bump, and saying hello or goodnight to him. I'm finding that he often kicks when she's sitting on my lap and we're reading stories - my interpretation of this is that he's bonding with his sister already, my husband's is that he's trying to move her out the way (I'm a first-born child and he's a second...).

Make distinctions

We've been talking about how important Immy will be when the baby arrives - how she can help us look after her baby brother. How she can choose his clothes, help change his nappies (fingers crossed!), help bathe him, help feed him - you name it. It's also good that we got rid of her dummy long enough ago that now when we visit babies she gives them their dummies back when they drop them rather than nabbing it for herself - helpful if baby number 2 has a dummy too.

We've also potty trained which mainly just means we won't have two sets of nappy changes numerous times a day (yay), but also helps place her in that older sister caring role. Plus she can potty train the second one!

Deborah Pryn writes for various magazines and blogs at Riverside Hypnobirthing. You can watch some videos of hypnobirths here: Birth videos and read birth stories here

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