Preparing for a second baby is a bit different to the first time around. Instead of planning baby showers, you’re wondering how having a newborn sibling will affect your older child – but still SUPER excited at the same time.
You’re pregnant, exhausted and frazzled but still running around after your toddler….A toddler who has no idea what’s going on so you need to think of some ways to get THEM ready for this baby, and fast!
And you might also be wondering how anyone who’s pregnant with a toddler finds the time for this prep stuff anyway. Want to prepare your little one for a new baby without losing your mind? Read on.
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Preparing for a second baby with a toddler
You’re probably already wondering how you’ll get everything done before your second baby arrives so let’s keep things simple. I would definitely NOT do everything because if you’re anything like me, tired pregnant mom is cranky mom.
Think about when to tell them your news
So let’s start with The Big News. You’re pregnant with your second child but should you tell your toddler they’re going to be a big brother or sister right away or wait a while? It’s a pretty huge secret to keep from someone who lives in your house so you probably don’t want to wait too long – and you’ll want to get them all excited for baby along with you.
But, as the parent of a toddler, you know that as soon as you tell your child that a new baby is coming to live with them, you’ll start hearing, “Is the baby coming today?” every single day. Possibly multiple times. You might start to wish you’d kept it to yourself a little longer but don’t despair or hide in the laundry, talk about the new baby. (Yes, those conversations could be a bit repetitive.)
Read baby books
The idea of a whole new person growing inside their mommy could be too hard for a toddler to make sense of without help but luckily there are books for that. Finding an age appropriate baby book like this one or this one can get you started explaining the changes that are happening to you and your family.
Picture books are great for getting little kids talking so illustrations of a mom’s pregnant belly or life as a big brother or sister could help start a conversation with a young child in a familiar way. Just be prepared that if they like the book you might have to read it every night for literally months.
Prepare for a second baby by meeting other tiny babies
In your toddler’s head, a new playmate is coming to live with them so the reality of a newborn could be a little bit disappointing. And you might be horrified by their ideas of what they will do with the new baby when they come home.
So you need to talk to them about what life with a new baby will be like. But even better is SHOWING them. To help your toddler understand what life with a newborn baby will be like, give them a little dose of reality.
Take them along to meet young babies on playdates or invite friends with newborns to visit. Your little one will see first hand the type of care a baby needs – like lots of holding and nursing. It’ll also help them to understand that their new sibling won’t be able to bounce on the sofa with them just yet.
Look at photos of your toddler as a baby
Kids love looking at photos of themselves – and videos are even better. Scroll back to when this child was a baby and show them what they were like – lying on a playmat with a baby gym or swaddled or asleep on dad’s shoulder. You might regret it a little if they want to watch the same video 15 times back-to-back, but at least you can use it as a chance to bring up baby facts they need to know.
It can also be fun to recreate old photos (where that’s safe and practical) – this is my little guy trying out his old crib as we prepared for his baby sister.
Play ‘maybe the baby’
Over dinner or in the car – or whenever, really – play ‘maybe the baby’ – a game in which everyone takes turns to make suggestions about the baby / life with baby.
It’s a very simple game. Start by saying, “Maybe the baby will have brown hair.” Next, someone else might say, “Maybe the baby will need lots of cuddles,” and then you encourage your little one to come in with their own idea about the baby. “Maybe the baby will be tiny.”
With older children you can play it as a memory game, where you have to repeat everyone else’s suggestions before adding your own, like this,
“Maybe the baby will have brown hair and need lots of cuddles and be tiny.”
With toddlers (who are old enough to understand so probably 2+), don’t bother with the memory part. Instead, you can use this game to introduce ideas that you want your child to know (that babies need a lot of holding) and to correct any misconceptions they may have (e.g. “Maybe the baby will want to ride my scooter / sleep in the dog’s bed.”)
Involve them in the pregnancy announcement
Somewhere along the way, pregnancy announcements became a big deal and having a second baby is just as important as the first. Whether you’re going all out or putting a low key post on Facebook, find a way involve your kids in letting the world know the family is expanding.
Maybe you could let your child hold the scan photo or get them a ‘big brother’ or ‘big sister’ t-shirt. This is not exactly ground breaking advice, but there’s a reason why those shirts are so popular. They’re super cute (which parents love) and little kids love to wear them. Have you ever met a child wearing one of those tops who didn’t proudly tell you what it meant? Is it because it puts the focus on them becoming something new (a big brother or sister) instead of on the baby? Probably, but whatever, they do love them – you can tell by their faces.
And when you meet people who don’t know your news yet, why not let your little one tell them? If there’s more than one, they can take turns.
Take them to your scan appointment
Having a second baby is a big deal and you’re excited – and what’s more exciting than your ultrasounds? Well, apart from actually giving birth to the second baby, of course. If you think they are old enough, take your child along to an ultrasound scan. They will see how excited you are and you can talk about what you can see and hear to help make the new baby more ‘real’ for them.
‘Do you see that? That’s the baby’s head / arm etc’
‘Listen to that sound – that’s baby’s heart beating.’ Then, later on you can see if they can hear your heartbeat or find their own pulse.
Let them feel your moving bump
Later on in your pregnancy, when baby is moving around all over the place, and it looks like there’s an alien in there, let your children try to feel the kicks.
Have them feel your belly move and talk about what’s going on in there. On those days when baby is having a party inside you it will make them giggle but you can also have fun with guessing games. Which bit of mommy’s belly is going to move next? Is that a foot or a hand? What do you think it’s like in there?
If your child enjoys this, it can become a special time of day snuggled up together chatting about the new baby and wondering.
Have them in your bump photos
If you’re taking daily or weekly photos of your growing baby bump, have your child or children in some of them too. 9 months is a long time in a toddler’s life so it’ll be fun to see how much they grow along with the bump. Plus, they bring the cute factor, something I definitely lacked while pregnant.
Compile a list of baby names
No way was anyone but me (ok, and dad) going to be naming any of my babies!
I carried those kids and I sure was going to name them – but it’s fun to make a list of ideas. Young children will probably list the names of their friends but you can make suggestions too and add everything to the list. Perhaps one of their ideas could be a middle name so they have some genuine input – assuming there’s a name you like, of course.
Create a baby box
Find (and decorate together if you wish) a special box for the baby and use it to hold items that your older child no longer needs and wants to give to their sibling. These could be favourite clothes that don’t fit now they’re bigger or toys that they don’t play with any longer.
When you’re clearing out the toys or clothes (for the 100th time!), ask them whether they see anything that should go in the box. Over time, you’ll probably find they begin to bring you things that they want to put in the box for baby without being asked.
Help them create a gift for the baby – toddler crafting
If the idea of crafts doesn’t fill you with dread, help your toddler create a sign for the nursery door. You can include the baby’s name – if you already know the sex and have a name picked. If you don’t, they can still make a sign that says ‘Baby’ to let everyone know that’s the baby’s room.
If your toddler is two or under, it will really be you making it and them sticking random stuff here and there (hopefully not on the wall.)
They might also like to create drawings and paintings for the new baby – even if they are just doodles and don’t look like anything. Choose favourites to frame for the nursery walls.
And if the idea of doing crafts with your toddler brings you out in a cold sweat, just skip the arty stuff altogether and go right on to the next tip…
Snuggles & cuddles
Even if you’re not a crafter, the most important way to prepare your older child is to give them lots of love and affection. Turn on a kids movie (or episode if movies are too long) and let them snuggle into your bump – you probably need a rest anyway. Affection is the best way to show them that, baby or no baby, you love them and that won’t change.
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