Well-Being//

What Exactly Happens When You Introduce a New Baby to Your Toddler

Pediatrician Nikolas Papaevgelou, MD FAAP on how to make the transition seamless.

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You are the proud parent of your second precious child. You are feeling confident and know exactly what to do with this tiny newborn. Breastfeeding is smoother, changing of diapers, a breeze, and just holding this tiny baby feels natural. This time around it’s almost a stress free experience. Almost. Your eldest child at home may have another thing to say about it. There are some challenges that may come up, especially if your first child is in the toddler stage. But there are some things you can do to make the transition a bit more manageable. 

PREPARE FOR THE ARRIVAL

A few months before the delivery, the groundwork should be laid. I recommend parents start reading books to their toddler about being the big sibling. Read it with excitement and praise your toddler about how much fun it will be to be the big sibling. Just the repetition alone will cause an exciting atmosphere in the house. I also sometimes recommend having a baby doll for your toddler to play big sibling — pretend to change its diaper and act as if it is the new baby coming into the house.

AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR TOWARD THE BABY

This behavior is very common. But being jealous can lead to aggressive behavior. If aggression happens, always try to calmly intervene using as little physical boundary to prevent the aggressive behavior and simply coach your toddler to make a better choice of this frustration. For example, try to stop your toddler from hitting the baby with just a slight touch of his arm and redirect that anger in giving you a strong high-five. You could also sing a calming song like slowly and melodically counting to four.  

JEALOUSY TOWARD THE BABY

Most, if not all children, will be jealous of their baby sibling at some point. They were used to getting your undivided attention. It’s not easy to share your kingdom at any age, especially if your kingdom was just given to someone else. I always try to tell parents not to forget about their older child no matter how in love with their newborn they are. You may gasp at that statement, but it’s easy to get caught up in the needs of a newborn. There’s several ways to keep both children happy. If the mother is breastfeeding, try to have the other parent involved in playing with your toddler. As soon as the mother finishes the feed, let the other parent take over with the newborn and show your toddler that you are both making time for him. You can also try to incorporate your toddler with the feedings and explain to him what you’re doing. Their curiosity to learn will turn the jealousy into a lesson. 

Try to incorporate your toddler in helping take care of the baby.  Carrying the diapers when you go out or even let them help with the diaper changes. The more you involve them, the faster the transition of being a helpful older sibling will become. 

INCREASE IN TEMPER TANTRUMS

Your once easy going child may start to have more frequent tantrums. They are now vying for your attention and not sure how to communicate their feelings. When a tantrum is bubbling, try redirection. Find an activity or song they love to distract them from the current scenario. If that does not calm them down, you can also let them get out their anger, but make sure they are safe doing it. 

Distract. Redirect. Calm. Distract them by offering a safer, better toy they like or, my personal favorite, start singing a silly song he might enjoy. Toddlers thrive on attention. By staying calm through the tantrum you don’t raise suspicion — so eventually they will not react in that manner because you didn’t either.

ACTING LIKE A BABY

Your toddler might  regress and want a bottle or even throw a baby temper tantrum when you’re out. You can try and play “baby” by rocking him and singing lullabies when the baby is sleeping and make a game out of it. When you’re out of the house, keep reminding your toddler he’s a big boy/girl and you’ll need their help to take care of the baby. Again this will show you need them for help which will make them very proud.

SHARING

This is going to happen to every child — at home, at school.  Everything in the house was theirs, so why do they have to give that up now?  Try encouraging your child to interact with the toy together. This can be a key tool in learning to share in the future at school and other social situations. If your toddler is trying to take a toy away from the baby, try and introduce one of their own toys and make a game of playing with both. It’s generally about attention.

You love both of your children equally — but your first child may need a little comforting, especially at first. Set up some special one-on-one time together and remind them that you are a family and now there is even more love to share. 

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