Hi y'all! If I could give you each a hug through this screen I would, because uniting with other warrior mamas is my jam. Seriously. You fight tooth and nail for your kiddos, and even during one of the most trepidatious times in lots of your lives-pregnancy-you still can’t help but think of your (often) testy toddler’s feelings before your own, and worry about how they’ll adapt once baby arrives. How selfless of you. You, my friend, are one heck of a mom.
First things first, my name is Amber, and I blog over at JoleighBlonde, where I chronicle life as a Cajun mama in a small Southern Louisiana town. My favorite thing to talk about however, is motherhood, my current mission in life, and most of yours as well. I have a 2.5 year old, Hattie, and a 2 month old, Todd Anthony. They are the apples of my husband and I’s eyes, and even on days when we want to pull every tiny strand of hair out of our heads, we find beauty in the madness, and I hope that you all can too. Maybe this will help...
I can bet you that the majority of second time moms react/will react the same way that I did to news of another pregnancy. Gasps of excitement turn into actual sobs that begin to radiate through your body as you remember your firstborn, and their rocky toddler emotions. Your heart breaks realizing that they won’t be your sole priority anymore. You wonder how they will adjust to sharing the limelight with another tiny human that will require vast amounts of your attention, and you also wonder if your heart is possibly big enough to completely love another baby. Girlfriend, we’ve all been there, and today I’m here to give you a few tips to help make that transition as seamless as possible!
1. Put any transitions that need to happen into play at least 2 months before the new baby’s arrival. Toddlers DO NOT like change. They are still forming their independence and security in the world, and change really throws them off of their game. If you are like us, and keep your nursery in the same room, your toddler will have to be moved into another. You want to do this as soon as possible to ensure that your toddler doesn’t feel as if they were kicked out of their comfortable domain so that their new sibling can move in. Instead, paint the transition into a new room as a celebration of their growth, and enunciate the fact that,“You are such a big boy/girl, you deserve a big boy/girl room!” Involve them in the decorating and moving process as much as possible, and help them to acclimate to the change slowly. This might mean snuggling with them in the new big bed the first few evenings as they find solace in the new shadows and sounds of the room, but make sure that they are finding their comfort zone in their new space in a healthy manner! You can read all about Hattie’s new big girl room here!
So proud of her new room!
2. Set up the baby gear a few weeks before arrival so that your toddler can become acquainted with how things will be situated in the house once baby arrives, and they aren’t having to deal with a slew of new toys that they can’t sit in/lay in PLUS a brand new baby. Can you see how overwhelming that could be? “Don’t touch the baby’s head sweetheart, you have to be soft. Oh, don’t sit in that Mamaroo baby, you’re too heavy”. Toddlers are curious little souls, so of course they’ll want to explore the ins and outs of all of this neat baby gear! Don’t make them do so, however, while they’re still reeling from the shock of having another baby in the house. Break up the “newness” into manageable segments for their sweet little minds, and let them practice with the gear. Hattie spent a vast amount of time in the nursery the month before our baby arrived putting her dolls in the swing and bouncer, covering them with blankets, reading to them, turning the music on/off, activating the mechanics in each piece, and getting comfortable with their appearance in the house. This will be helpful too when your hands are full of chicken and you need someone to set that swing going again!
(practice makes perfect, and a teddy bear should always be in a 5 point harness infant seat!)
3. Toddlers love visual aids, and I wanted Hattie to be able to “show off” her new baby in a way that would make her feel proud, so I purchased this album for her to play with about a month and a half before my due date. I added photos of her with various family members and close friends to the pages and we looked through it multiple times a day. She would bring it to church, and community events to show to anyone who was willing to give her attention for 5 seconds. I also purchased this album, and printed photos of her and the baby once he was born, this way when she went places with her grandparents in that first week, and even places with us the following weeks, she was able to express her big sister pride in a way that she was already familiar with: sharing her photo album. She has showed her album to a multitude of people, including but not limited to: church parishioners, the man that changes the oil in my car, and the sweet lady checking us out at the grocery store. The beaming look on her face makes the aggravation of putting pictures in those thick plastic protectors worth it! The boy version of the photo album can be purchased here.
(showing her “new baby” to a family friend at the local high school’s basketball game)
4. Find a book or a movie that you like that details all about being an older sibling/ what to expect during the pregnancy and first few days home, and even tells them how they can help out, and read it to them or let them watch it often. Toddlers love to be able to relate to other children or characters. The thrill of seeing another child expecting a new baby as well can actually take away some of the anxiety they may be feeling. I bought this book during my pregnancy, and Hattie absolutely loved it! The narrative was a continuous string of open ended questions that we were able to answer in our own way for a nice personal touch. It touched on everything from how the baby would wear the toddler’s outgrown clothes, to what to expect at the doctor visits. The book has a coordinating title for when the baby has actually made its arrival, which is also a great read! Hattie took the title of that second book VERY seriously though. Todd Anthony is two months old, and she still calls him her “new baby”. This book was wrapped as Hattie’s gift from the baby, which was exciting and a comfort to her. She thought the baby knew how much she loved the pregnancy book. That thoughtful baby….
5. If possible, allow them to tag along to at least one doctor’s visit-preferably one where an ultrasound is scheduled. Some of you may have to take your toddler to all visits, and some may take them to none. It’s always good at least once for them to see baby on the screen, and hear baby’s heartbeat. Let them hold and keep an ultrasound photo as well, if your doctor happens to print them out for you. They will cherish that little black and white blob, at least until naptime, but it allows them to feel connected to that baby in a deeper way.
(Doctor’s appointments can be such fun family experiences, so many new things to learn and teach!)
6. Do the whole, ‘gift to the baby and gift from the baby’ deal. Your toddler may be nervous and skeptical when meeting the tiny baby for the first time, but the gift giving and receiving will break the ice, and allow your toddler to still feel remembered and loved. Like I said before, we let the baby “give” Hattie the My New Baby book, while Hattie gave the baby an adorable Little Hip Squeaks romper. I wanted her gift to the baby to be an article of clothing of some sort because she was able to see him wearing her gift time and time again, which she exuberantly points out every. single. time. The “big bro” and “big sis” shirts are always a good idea as well! Making sure you have at least one thing for them to “match” with is a cute idea too. Think about how much kiddos love those matching friendship bracelets! It gives them a sense of belonging with one another. I kept it simple and just made sure a few of their Honest diaper prints matched, and Hattie adored putting their diapers side by side to compare the sizing before changes. She even commented that “Todd Anfony wants to be like hims sister.”
7. Place some easy to grab items within your toddlers reach-at least in the beginning, so that they can help you care for the new baby in a way that will help that emotional bond form. If your toddler feels as if their sibling needs them, and they were able to help them, that protective instinct will begin to take hold in their little minds. I placed the basket of diapers low enough on the changing table shelf for Hattie to grab me one when need be. It’s not only emotional helpful to your children, it also gives you an extra set of hands, when that blowout is so bad you just want to cry!
(on the plus side, if she gets a little wild hair and decides to ransack the diaper basket since it’s within reach, it won’t be such a terrible cleanup job on my end.)
8. Take the time and energy to focus on the simplest, cheapest tip. Give your toddler some extra TLC every single day. You may only have 30 seconds to spare-or you have a couple of hours, but whatever the case may be, investing in your child is beneficial in so many ways. Find a sitter, and go on a lunch date with just your toddler, or even picnic in the bathroom if you have to! When baby is napping, take the time to have a little one on one time with your toddler. It doesn't matter how long it is, or where it happens, just stick to your guns and make sure you're not depriving your toddler of your warm, safe arms and reassuring kisses. Compliment them when they do something positive as a big brother/sister, and be gentle with them when they make mistakes-because they will! Squeeze them a little tighter, and smooch them a little softer and pray that they do the same to their “new baby!”
(having “girl time” while brother naps)
(letting her help bake is way more fun than fussing over dirty floors. Brooms and mops are miracle workers guys…)
I hope that my tips gave you a little insight that you didn’t have before! I don’t think there’s anything life changing in there, just some simple steps that take the toddler’s emotional and physical developmental stages into mind. Make sure that you aren’t harboring any unrealistic expectations-or any expectations at all really. Your child may jump on the sibling train, or they might take a while to warm up to the idea. Whatever the case may be, just allow them to adjust on their own accord and at their own pace, all you can do is gently try to give them the security and prompting that they need.
You know how at times you feel like your love for your toddler is just bounding and growing and spilling over from your heart? It doesn't just feel like it, it is. Your love overflows and begins to fill and encompass your new baby until that one is filled the brim as well, then your love rhythmically overflows into the next child. You are all such fantastic mamas. You wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t. Your babies-no matter how many you may raise, will always be grateful for the adoration you showed them. Now go and enjoy those babies and stop worrying about how to be a good mom to two kiddos, because you already are. You’re reading this, aren’t you? That means you care, and it also means that when that moment arrives and you hold your toddler and your baby both in your tired arms you’ll be completely and utterly aware, that you’ve got the whole world in there. You’ve got THEIR whole world in there. Protect it, and cultivate that sibling love, for it is profound and meaningful, and is the foundation that defines their interactions and interpersonal relationships for the remainder of their lives.
These are the days, y'all!
To read more about the day Hattie met her baby brother, click here.
Thank you so much for reading, and best of luck in whatever adventures you may be planning! Or not planning!! You can read more about my take on motherhood and all things yummy at JoleighBlonde, or follow along on Instagram or Facebook.
With a heart so full!