In my last few weeks of pregnancy with Rio, I remember being an emotional mess. How would my heart (and energy) expand with both a toddler and a baby at home? How would Nori handle the changes? My first baby was still a baby to me. She was growing so much each day, and I was afraid of missing out and not being able to give her my whole self as her little world was getting shaken up.
So many mamas talk about their toddler becoming the most tender, loving big sibling once baby is born, while for others the transition takes time. I’m thankful for everyone who shared advice in this post before we welcomed baby Rio. Of course we still have our “moments” and daily dose of toy grabbing, and we just survived a less obviously related but still very correlated toddler sleep regression. But I genuinely think that being cognizant of the concepts shared helped ease our transition, so I wanted to pass some tips along!
1. Meet the New Baby Together
Most of the tips in today’s post simply relate to trying to see and hear things from your child’s perspective. The impact of this one will depend on the age of your kid, but some of you suggested being with your toddler first and then “meeting” the baby together, instead of both parents coming home with a shiny new baby in arms.
If your toddler is visiting you at the birthing hospital, this may mean having baby lie in the bassinet when your older kid enters the room so they get to connect with you first. When we came home from the hospital, I went upstairs first to greet Nori and then we came downstairs together to meet baby, who was in his car seat. If your toddler doesn’t want to hold the baby, respect that and just give them time!
2. Special Toys & Books during Nursing Sessions
Since breastfeeding requires a lot of attention to and physical closeness with the new baby, it’s common for the older child to seek extra attention during that time. Nori would clamor for me to hold her literally as soon as she saw me get ready to breastfeed Rio, and made a few wistful comments about wanting to nurse too.
Several of you suggested setting aside a bin of special toys for the toddler that only comes out during nursing sessions, so they have a positive association with that time. We did a bin of books that she doesn’t see very often, and I’d ask her to pick a few out during Rio’s nursing sessions and sit next to us on the couch to read.
3. Don’t “Blame” the Baby
Don’t verbalize that baby is the reason why you can’t do certain things with your toddler in the moment. This was such a simple yet important tip for us to reframe the narrative on a situation that happens many times each day!
Instead of saying to your older child, “I can’t do XYZ with you right now because I’m holding / feeding/ doing something with the baby,” tell your toddler that you hear them, you need a few minutes, and ask them to talk more about whatever it is they wanted to do with you once you’re available.
We also noticed that visiting family members would often interject and say things like “No, Mommy can’t pick you up because she has baby brother now! You’re a big girl now!” so we’d just gently talk to them how to phrase things differently.
4. Vocalize Prioritizing your Toddler
Conversely, once in a while let your toddler hear you say out loud that you’re prioritizing them. For example, I’ll say “Rio, I see you have a wet diaper and need to be changed, but let me help your sister first” and then put him down in the bouncer seat or mat to tend to the older kid. Afterwards, I then make sure to vocalize to the baby within earshot of her, “Thank you for waiting patiently while I helped your sister!”
Lots of you also advised that if both kids are crying or need your attention at the same time, tend to the older one first (barring any urgent matters, of course) because he or she may remember being ignored regularly due to the baby, while the baby likely won’t care.
5. Sibling Gifts & Visitors
I think most parents have heard of having big bro or sis pick out a gift in advance for baby so that they can feel involved, and also have the baby come home from the hospital with a “gift” for their older sibling. Nori picked out a little giraffe pacifier for little brother, and he “gave” her a big giraffe when they first met!
Some of you also suggested that if family or friends are visiting, encourage them in advance to greet the older child as well instead of immediately fawning over the new baby.
6. Let your Toddler Feel Involved and Helpful on a Daily Basis
Helping bring you a fresh diaper, retrieving a burp bib or pacifier, etc. We store some of these baby supplies within reach of Nori so that she can feel involved with little brother’s everyday care taking. And if they refuse to help out in the beginning, don’t push it or force it, and just give it some time!
7. Read About the Change In Advance
I’ve probably read all the top “big sibling” books that pop up on Amazon, and the below two were both Nori and my favorites for a 2-3 year old. Note my reviews are based mostly on the illustrations and general themes – I read to Nori in Chinese, so I translate and embellish the writing using my own words.
- I’m a Big Sister (also I’m a Big Brother) by Joanna Cole
This sweet book explains life with a new baby while emphasizing that the big sibling is also special and loved. It explains that babies cry in order to tell us something (diaper change, hungry, etc), that babies have limitations (can’t eat real food, talk, walk or play together right away), and to ask parents for permission before picking up the baby!
- My New Baby by Rachel Fuller
Loved that this book actually showed baby being breastfed regularly (which Nori was very curious about) so that I could explain it to her ahead of time and show old photos of her nursing as a baby. I also like that this is a durable board book, and illustrations also show baby being carried in a baby carrier, carseat, getting presents, and crying and sleeping (sums up newborn life!).
8. Dedicated, Consistent One-on-One Time
Be deliberate in carving out daily one-on-one time with your kid(s) with no cell phones, no distractions – even if it’s just 10 minutes each day. Of all these tips, I feel this one definitely makes the biggest impact on a day-to-day basis as well as in the long run.
Parents have also pointed out how important it is to continue doing this with each child as they grow. While ideally I’d love to do special mom and daughter outings, these days my consistent one-on-one time is just doing Nori’s bath and bedtime routine every night. We talk about our day and plans for the next day, and I can tell how much she treasures and relies on that time together.