I was incredibly worried about introducing our newborn to our toddler. Our eldest had been used to being the centre of our world for 21 months before our second was born. Here we were asking her to share mummy and daddy, to share the limelight and adulation from relatives because of our selfish need to have a second child.
This was a genuine feeling of guilt I had (I wrote about mummy guilt here). It sounds ridiculous to feel bad about it but I really worried I would be taking something away from my toddler and the thought that she would be upset broke my heart. In the end I rationalised that the benefits of having a sibling far outweigh any teething problems we might have along the way.
By having a second child we are (hopefully) giving her a friend for life. A partner in crime. Someone who will back her no matter what. Someone to gossip about boys with. These are all my hopes for their relationship in the future. I can’t wait to see them grow up together.
All my worries about toddler being distraught have been for nothing. Yes the baby takes away some attention but we manage to find a balance and my eldest does not get upset or jealous. We are starting to get the odd row over toys now Bubba Two is reaching and grabbing at everything that enters her line of sight but mostly it’s been plain sailing.
Because of my initial worries I decided to have a strategy (I do love a good plan!) on how to introduce toddler to the baby in a way that didn’t cause her any anxiety. I think it helps to talk to your toddler as much as possible before the big arrival. Doing things like showing her round the baby’s room helped as it meant we were gradually introducing her to the big change that was coming.
These are my tips to make it as smooth as possible:
1. Have a plan in place for who will care for your toddler when you go into labour.
Contractions are a bugger and you can’t really contain your reaction to them. I felt if toddler sees mummy in pain it would start her relationship with her sister on a negative note. We had my parents in standby for about a month before I finally had Bubba Two two weeks late. Thank goodness for grandparents!
2. Plan the first meeting place around what will be best for your toddler.
If you think they will be ok coming to the hospital, great. I felt the strange environment coupled with a new baby might be a bit overwhelming for my little girl. I was out of hospital the day after giving birth so we did the introductions at our house.
3. Don’t be worried about giving yourself time.
We waited another day at home before having my parents bring our toddler back home. It gave me a chance to get some sleep and recover a bit. Also it meant we could get baby settled in while our toddler was getting lots of attention from her grandparents.
4. Have a present for toddler wrapped and ready to give them when they meet the baby and say this is from your new brother/sister.
We got our eldest a little Peppa Pig toy and she was so thrilled it had come from her baby sister.
5. Talk to your toddler about their new sister.
It sounds obvious but explaining the baby sleeps a lot, only has milk from mummy’s boob and will make a lot of noise but it’s nothing to worry about helped our toddler feel at ease. There were no surprises.
6. Try to remember to make a fuss of your toddler whenever possible.
Delighted relatives will be making a huge song and dance about the new baby. Toddler is used to getting all that attention so I felt it was really important I tried to pay attention to her that extra bit more where I could. Remembering to praise her for building a big tower from her blocks or for stroking her sister’s head nicely. I also tried to do her bedtime whenever I could, though hubby stepped in a lot, to make give her extra reassurance.