During my second pregnancy I was quite nervous anticipating how our toddler Rosalie would react to meeting our newborn baby and how she would adjust to the new dynamic of our family with a little brother in the mix.
In the lead up to childbirth I took a refresher NCT course with a group of second time mums to be and we discussed a few ideas that we felt might help with this difficult transition.
There were some specific practical tools that we used to introduce Rosalie to her baby brother and also to help with the day to day, but there were also some key points for Tim and I to remember too.
Here are few of the important points to remember and some tools to use as you introduce your toddler to your new baby.
How to handle the introduction
When we introduced Rosalie to Gabriel, Tim and I had just returned home from the hospital with the baby. Rosalie had been with her grandparents and they brought her home after we’d been home for about thirty minutes.
I was feeding Gabe when they arrived so I put him down in his Moses basket for a moment and when Rosalie came through the door both her mummy and daddy were there to greet her with big hugs and kisses.
We asked her if she’d like to meet her new baby brother, she smiled and nodded so we walked her over to the Moses basket and we showed her Gabe. She was absolutely delighted to meet him. Next Tim picked Gabe up and we all sat down on the sofa together as a family so that Rosalie could see him closely and she gave him a little stroke on the tummy.
We felt it was really important for Rosalie to have our full attention when we first saw her after having the baby. I didn’t want Rosalie to walk in and see me holding the baby before we had a chance to greet her and tell her about her little brother.
I also bought a present for Rosalie from Gabriel which she was really pleased with.
Maintain a routine
Routine is so important for a toddler’s development and more so than ever during a time of change.
Keeping Rosalie’s day and night routine the same and fitting Gabe in around the family has been absolutely key to maintaining Rosalie’s happiness and wellbeing.
We have dinner altogether, usually with one of us holding Gabe and then I tend to have a bath with Rosalie whilst Tim holds the baby. Then we go into Rosalie’s nursery for story time as a family and Tim and I take it in turns to read a few of Rosalie’s favourite stories. Usually Gabe feeds whilst we have story time. Finally we dim the lights even further and talk about our day with Rosalie. Tim then tucks Rosalie into bed and we head downstairs with Gabriel who continues to feed to most of the evening.
How to handle challenging behaviour
Remember that your little one may not be happy about your new arrival and that’s ok. They are only small after all and it takes time for them to adjust so be patient and be prepared for your toddler to get upset or frustrated at times.
Rosalie seemed to adjust pretty quickly to having our new baby Gabriel around and she generally gets on with life as usual, but at times if she’s tired – or sometimes for no apparent reason – she does find it upsetting when Tim holds the baby.
In this instance we try to comfort her but let her know that both mummy and daddy have to hold the baby at times and we also encourage her to take an interest in Gabe or hold him with us.
If your little one is upset or angry and they are able to talk, you can encourage them to express their feelings and that can certainly help them to work through their emotions.
How to support them to adjust to having a sibling
I have noticed that Rosalie is often working things through in her mind, which we’re allowing time for. For instance, we always ask Rosalie if she wants to kiss baby Gabe when it’s time for bed and we do our normal bedtime story routine. Gabe is usually feeding and we have a routine where we all say goodnight to each other as a family and have a cuddle and a kiss.
For a while, Rosalie didn’t want to kiss Gabe so we would always say that it’s absolutely fine not to. Recently she’s been undecided; first she might nod, then say no and then eventually smile and decide to give him a kiss on the head, which is very sweet.
We’re trying to give her the space she needs to process her feelings about having a new sibling and to allow her to develop a relationship with her brother in her own time.
It’s worth mentioning that whilst we do encourage Rosalie to take an interest in Gabe and invite her to say goodnight to him or to give him kiss as the rest of the family does, we would never pressure her to do anything that she doesn’t want to do.
Encourage them to take an interest in the baby
Often toddlers do take an interest in other babies and their own siblings. We found that Rosalie likes to talk about Gabe and how he’s feeling or what he’s doing at the time. She says ‘oh, Gabe cry!’, ‘Gabe eat milk’ or ‘Gabe is cute’.
She has also been fascinated with breastfeeding and nappy changing, and she enjoys helping, particularly with changing Gabe’s nappy, which is lovely. Rosalie also likes to have her nappy changed after or before Gabe gets his nappy changed. Rosalie’s not potty trained yet but showing an interest in it so we’re following her lead but nappies are still in use at present.
How to maintain a balance so your toddler doesn’t feel left out
In the early days, Tim and I found it so helpful when our parents popped over to take Rosalie out for a couple of hours as a treat; to the beach or the playground.
We also liked to go out for family walks as much as possible after Gabe finished feeding because Rosalie loves the outdoors. We put Gabe in the Ergobaby 360 sling or the pram and we’d go for walk around the fields near our house.
Luckily, lots of our friends and family were very aware and came prepared with presents for Rosalie as well as Gabe and we would also involve her in opening Gabe’s gifts too, so she never felt like she was being left out at all.
When Tim went back to work it was a big adjustment for me, having two little ones to take care of. I actually found that sorting out Rosalie first has been even more important than ever.
The Ergobaby 360 sling is a lifesaver when preparing Rosalie’s breakfast or lunch and if Gabe needs to feed I’ll encourage Rosalie to pick out a few of her favourite books – as she loves to read – so we can have a snuggle on the sofa and read a story whilst Gabe breastfeeds.
I also like to take Rosalie out as much as I can, to a play group or the park. Again, Gabe can have a lovely sleep in the sling and Rosalie and I can play together.
Those are the key tips that my husband and I found so helpful when we introduced Gabriel to Rosalie and with the day to day routine.
Gabe is still only five weeks old so every day presents a new challenge but maintaining Rosalie’s routine and being patient and mindful about Rosalie’s feelings all the way has been absolutely crucial so far. Things seem to be going really well.