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How to Prepare a One-Year-Old for a New Baby

When I first discovered I was pregnant with my second child, I immediately began to look into how I could prepare my first child for the new baby. I wanted to make the transition as easy as possible on my daughter, knowing it would ultimately make the entire transition easier on me! My daughter was only 9 months old when we discovered I was pregnant again, and while I knew she wouldn’t understand immediately, I started preparing her anyways.

If you’re about to bring a new baby home, this post is for you! It has everything you need to know on how to prepare your one-year-old (and up) for the arrival of a new baby – it is perfect for second-time moms!

Trying to explain to Charlotte that there was going to be a new baby that Mommy and Daddy will have to take care of felt a little… useless, at times. In those early days, we didn’t put too much pressure on ourselves to discuss the topic with her. She was only nine months after all.

It wasn’t until after Charlotte turned a year old that we started introducing the subject and implementing techniques to prepare her for the new baby.

Now, I fully expected for Charlotte to react with jealousy when meeting her younger sibling – she would get mad if another kid at her daycare (where I worked too!) even tried to get comfortable with me. But instead, she reacted with nothing but love. I can’t positively say it was because of these techniques or just her natural self, but I will definitely be using these for any future kids too!

1. Be All About Babies

I found the best way to bring up the topic of welcoming a new baby in the family was by being all about babies. If the first baby your toddler is ever introduced to is their younger sibling, changes are they will show signs of jealous due to just not knowing what the heck that thing is.

Instead, be all about them babies. Talk about babies. Look at pictures of babies – even pictures of your toddler as a baby! Bring them around babies if you can. Show videos of babies. Point out other babies while you are in public.

If you are able to bring your toddler around another baby: there’s no need to care for that baby yet. It may be your instinct so to get your toddler used to the image, but at this point, it will actually just create a threat to your toddler. Instead, introduce the baby to your toddler as a friend and playmate. Put the attention on your toddler bonding with that baby instead of you caring for the baby (and in extension, not your toddler).

2. Make Them Apart of Your Journey

Honestly, this was the most fun technique to do with Charlotte. I LOVED getting her involved in my pregnancy journey! Charlotte has always been a very vocal little girl – she developed her words quite early and has a love for communicating. Thanks to this, I was able to just talk to her about what was going on.

When my belly started to pop, I pointed it out to her. “Baby!” I would say, while patting my little bump. This was about the same time that she was learning all her body parts so she would often reply with, “belly”.

When Baby begun to kick and move (which was early, and literally didn’t stop until he was born), I would let Charlotte feel the kicks and even respond back with her own little, harmless pokes. Once, while rocking Charlotte to sleep, her baby brother got extra active and kicked up and down my stomach. Charlotte immediately sat up and said, “no, Baby!”.

My favourite thing to do with Charlotte was to include her in the monthly photos. There’s just something so adorable about your first baby being so close to your growing second baby!

3. Give Them Some Responsibilities for the New Baby

Charlotte is a shopper – just like her Mommy. Or is it, Charlotte is a shopper because of her Mommy… Anywho! Letting Charlotte accompany me in shopping trips for the new baby was a great way to let her take on some responsibilities. When she was roughly 15 months (2.5 months before my due date), we hit up a couple baby stores and I let her look at the little clothes. It took a bit, but eventually, and with some help, she picked out a sleeper for her little brother.

Buying a baby doll is another thing that I have heard really helps. In all honesty, we didn’t buy Charlotte a baby doll until 3-months after her brother was born! It wasn’t something we thought she would be interested in – until she started treating her toy ducks as babies. Now she has toy baby dolls and loves to love on them!

4. Encourage Independence

The first thing I did to help my daughter prepare for the new baby is encourage independent play. My daughter has always been ridiculously dependent. She would even stop eating if you walk out of the room for a moment. Her separation anxiety came in early and just … never left. Unfortunately, I think I kind of enabled it while she was younger instead of helping her cope with it.

When she reached a year old, though, I turned that around. I started to help her realize that she could do things alone through a lot of “patience play”. I would play with her for a couple minutes, walk away to do something while telling her “I will be right back”, and then coming back to immediately play again. At the beginning, she would follow me – worried I wouldn’t come back. Not too long after, though, she learned that I would come back and play again. Through this, I was able to make the “leaving” part longer and she would continue to play by herself.

I also encouraged independence by teaching my daughter to “use words, not whines”. However, this one was mainly possibly only due to how much my daughter loves to talk. Her vocabulary has always been quite advanced so expecting words wasn’t out of her abilities. If your child isn’t quite as in love with talking – you can encourage sign language or some type of action for them to tell you what they need!

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By encouraging your child to be independent, you’re avoiding that “shock” they may have received when expected to do something alone after the baby arrived. Your first is used to all your attention, but by slowly weaning it back, they will learn that they don’t need all the attention. They will also learn not to expect it.

Now, I am not saying you should ignore your child and never help them. Please don’t do that. But if your child knows how to get their own sippy cup from the fridge, let them. If they know how to take a book out of their bookshelf, there’s no need to help. Basically, let your kid do what they know how to do. Sometimes they will want help, and that’s ok, as long as you know they don’t need it.

5. Add The “New Baby” Into The Routine

Something that was really important to me from the moment we discovered I was pregnant to the moment we welcomed our new baby was keeping things as routine as possible. I mention this a lot but kids love routine. They don’t just love it – they thrive off of it.

Because of that, I wanted to stick to our normal routine but also slowly introduce the new baby into it and the new changes that were going to come. This meant that at bedtime, we would point out where our daughter sleeps and then point out where the new baby will sleep. We would show our daughter what her PJs were and then show her what the PJs were for the new baby.

It was actually through these steps that we got our first sign that Charlotte was understanding what was going on. After weeks of pointing out baby things and talking about baby, she started to initiate the topic herself! She would grab one of the baby sleepers and say, “baby’s PJs” or grab one of the teddy bears for him and say, “baby’s bear”. It was mostly just her repeating what she had heard, but the fact that the concept was not foreign to her would have helped a lot. That’s where a toddler’s jealousy tends to come from after all.

6. Get Toddler Used to Any Possible Caregivers

When the new baby arrives, chances are you are going to want to send your toddler away for a couple hours or two to get some rest. However, sending your child to someone who your child is unfamiliar to will only create a scared and misbehaving child.

Instead, take this opportunity to get your toddler used to any possible caregivers they will be seeing after your baby arrives. That could be a grandmother or father, an auntie or uncle, maybe even a best friend! The big important factor is: make sure your toddler will still nap while in their care. It will save you a massive bedtime headache.

7. Teach Quiet Play Now

Unfortunately for me, this is something I didn’t even consider until AFTER I gave birth to my son. Instead, I had to teach my daughter how to quietly play while my newborn was already here. I had to teach her how to whisper and get her to like it.

It’s also a good idea to teach words such as “too loud”, “too rough”, and “be gentle”. You can accompany these with hand motions or actions too, to make it easier on your toddler. For “gentle”, we taught my toddler to stroke a cheek. Thankfully, my daughter got “gentle” before her brother’s arrival, and has mastered “careful”.

8. Keep Transitions and Weaning to a Minimum

This was one of the most frequent pieces of advice I saw when looking into how to prepare a child for a baby. Let me say – it’s popular for a reason! The two months before your baby arrives and the two months after are already stressful and exhausting enough. There is absolutely no reason to make them harder on yourself and your child.

For that reason – don’t change anything. Don’t wean your toddler from their soother. Don’t transition them to a big kid bed. Really, don’t begin to potty train. Just don’t change anything. Not right now. This isn’t the time. It’s okay if your toddler has to take a bottle before bed still. It’s okay if they need extra rocking in order to fall asleep. They are about to go through the biggest change in their life – there is no need to make it harder.

I get it though, sometimes life happens and you have to transition your toddler to a big kid bed in order to use the crib for the new baby. If that’s the case, offer your child every single little piece of patience that you can muster. They are probably scared and confused, and while you’re stressed too, they need you to offer comfort and unconditional love.

Preparing to welcome a new baby with a toddler at home can be scary, but preparing your toddler for the transition will make the entire journey so much easier. Teaching your child to be open and welcoming to babies will have them loving their little sibling in no time!

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