Bringing home a new member of the family is a joyous, exciting time. But if your household already includes a toddler—especially a toddler who until now has been an only child—you may find yourself wondering how your little one will take to their new sibling. We’ve gathered some tips for how to prepare your toddler for a new baby, how to introduce your little ones, and how to keep both of them happy and healthy after you bring your newborn home.
Preparing Your Toddler for a New Baby
Though your toddler may have a vague understanding of what it means to have a sibling, preparing them for the new addition to the household is key for a smooth transition. Here are some tried-and-true tips for preparing your toddler for their forthcoming sibling :1,2
Talk, talk, talk! Whether or not your little one has lots and lots of questions about Mom’s growing belly or the changes happening around the house, talking to them about what’s going on is key. Ask them, “What do you think is happening?” and have a conversation—you may find that your toddler has a better grasp of the changes happening in the family than you thought.
Introduce the concept of siblings. Helping your toddler understand what it is to be a brother or sister is important. Point out siblings they know amongst family and friends, reference sibling relationships in their favorite shows or movies, and read stories that include sibling pairs. Focus on the importance of the big sibling to help them begin to feel comfortable with and special in their forthcoming role.
Start building friendships now. While you interact with your growing baby bump, let your toddler join in. Have them feel your belly when baby kicks, let them sing and talk to your bump, and share ultrasound photos and recordings so they can watch their younger sibling grow.
Make other big changes before the big day. A new household member often comes with changes to the household’s physical landscape. In the case of the forthcoming baby, this may include a new roommate for your toddler or your little one’s bed becoming the baby’s when they transition to a toddler bed. Make any of these changes to your toddler’s environment long before the baby comes so they can get used to them—there’s no need to add the stress of additional changes on top of bringing home a newborn.
Meeting & Caring for the New Baby
After months of preparing for the new member of the family, the adventure begins in earnest when your new baby arrives—and so does the task of introducing your toddler to the new baby. The work that’s already been done getting your toddler ready for the new baby has built a solid foundation for your family’s smooth transition; here are some additional tips for helping the new big brother or sister ease into their brand-new role:1, 2
Make it memorable. Allow meeting the baby to be a fun-filled, memorable event for your toddler. Whomever is bringing them to the hospital should be encouraged to take them to a fun park or special meal before or after. When your toddler arrives, ensure that you can hug and hold them right away—hand baby off to a family member or place them in a bassinet. Purposefully and directly introduce your toddler to their new sibling and encourage safe, gentle physical contact like kisses and assisted holding.
Forge bonds with gift giving. This tried-and-true approach has endured for generations: Wrap a special gift for your toddler and present it to them as “from the baby.” Depending on your toddler’s age, they may or may not believe that the gift really came from their brand-new sibling, but they’ll appreciate the gift all the same—they’ll feel seen, appreciated, and loved. Who doesn’t enjoy getting gifts? You can also encourage enthusiasm for caretaking by giving a baby doll or baby animal stuffed toy—you may find they’ll mimic Mom and Dad’s baby care duties.
Include your toddler as much as possible. From new-baby photoshoots to day-to-day chores and caretaking, find opportunities to keep your toddler involved. Little tasks like handing Mom or Dad diapers or wipes, picking out baby’s clothes, and more age-appropriate chores can help your toddler feel engaged with the new routines of the household, rather than left out.
Ultimately, your little ones have a lifetime to get to know each other. After you’ve done all you know how to prepare your toddler for the new baby, let them go at their own pace. If they need to observe from a distance, that’s fine. Keep providing opportunities for them to bond with baby and it will happen naturally.