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Anticipating a new arrival is an incredibly exciting time – except, that is, for any existing siblings. What you see as a brand new bundle of joy, they see as the little pink wriggling thing keeping everyone awake at night and taking all the attention away from numero uno.
If you’ve got a bun in the oven and a little loaf who’s none too happy about it, here are some things you can do to make this big change a positive one.
You might be tempted to break the happy news as soon as you find out a baby is coming but it can be a good idea to wait for a while, especially as far as toddlers are concerned. Firstly, as with telling anyone, you’ll want to make sure everything’s okay with the pregnancy. Secondly, giving a toddler nearly a year to wait until they meet their new sibling will inevitably lead to boredom and irritation rather than excitement. Instead, wait until you’re at least halfway through your pregnancy when you’ve got a definite baby bump to show your little one and only a few months left for them to wait.
Now is also a good time to talk through this big change with your toddler. Treat them like a grown up and discuss what it will be like when the new baby comes (the good, the bad, and the crying!). Ask them what they think it will be like and what they are worried about. If it’s helpful, sit down together and read books that have been written especially for toddlers expecting a new brother or sister. That way they’ll know exactly what to expect instead of feeling anxious and uncertain.
Try to involve them in decision making, too. Let them have an input in decorating the new baby’s room and picking out nursery furniture. Treat them to some new, fun bedding too so they don’t think the baby is the only one getting nice new things!
Right after the birth, make sure to dedicate time to your toddler alone rather than introducing them to the new baby straight away. If they feel special and missed, they’re less likely to have a negative impression of the baby from the outset.
Once you get home, keep your toddler involved in all things babycare. Teach them how to hold the baby and let them help with changing and picking out outfits. This way they’ll feel grown up and important rather than pushed out by the new arrival.
Most importantly, make sure you still set aside time just for you and big brother or sister. It can be tempting to devote all your time to a new baby but your first child deserves just as much one-on-one time with you so let your partner or family members pick up the slack sometimes so you and your eldest can enjoy quality time together.
Lastly: if in doubt, bribe! The new baby is going to be showered with gifts or clothes, toys, books, and everything in between and you don’t want your toddler getting jealous. Treat them to a new toy every time baby gets one and you should have the perfect recipe for a harmonious family – at least until they get old enough to fight!