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How I Prepared My Toddler For A New Baby

Bringing home a new baby from the hospital can be hard on a toddler. They might be cute and cuddly with the new baby for the first day or so home (because Mom and Dad love this tiny human so much), but a few days later, they realize that baby’s not going back to the hospital and is here to stay; and all of a sudden, your little angel turns into a full-blown gremlin.

Why does this happen? Let me try to explain. Another mom once told me to imagine my husband bringing home a new woman and starts talking about how beautiful and perfect she is, and gives her a surplus of “attention”. You can bet your bottom dollar I’d also start gremlin-ing (I think I just invented a new word)!

Big sister with new baby

Your poor toddler isn’t old enough to understand that a new baby is a precious and fragile gift who needs lots of attention and will become a new playmate and best friend in years to come. Your toddler feels like they’ve been replaced, and they act out as a way to get attention. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

If you can’t possibly imagine the thought of your toddler feeling left out, then allow me to share some of my personal experience with you, which has helped my family avoid most of the monstrosity (haha, get it?) associated with bringing home our second bundle of joy.

family with new baby and big brother

1) Prepare Your Toddler

My son, Tristan, was 3 years old when his sister Scarlet was born. While I was pregnant, I equipped him well by saying things like, “You’re going to be a big brother soon. Baby Scarlet is excited to meet you!” and “Mommy and Daddy and Tristan are going to share the baby.” By allowing him to feel like he was involved in the pregnancy itself, I feel like it really helped to prepare him for the new baby’s arrival.

We also took Tristan to a “Sibling Prep 101” class a few weeks before Scarlet was born, it was offered at the hospital we delivered at. This was a 2-hour class that gave children a tour of the hospital, showed them where mothers would deliver their babies, how to hold infants properly, and taught basic safety techniques. It was a wonderful class that gave him stickers and a certificate of completion afterward, and I highly recommend it. Check with your local hospital to see if there are any sibling preparation classes available.

2) Give Your Toddler “Special Jobs”

After Scarlet came home with us, Tristan was very excited to play with her. After finding that he couldn’t exactly give her a ball to throw or chase after him, he was a little disappointed. We gave him “big brother jobs” like taking her diapers to the trash, holding her bottle, finding her binkie when it was lost, and even 8 months later, he’s the “baby protector”; making sure the blanket doesn’t cover the baby’s face, all of his small toys are put away, and he knows to call us when she has something small in her mouth. He knows and understands that Mommy’s job is to hold and feed the baby when she cries, Daddy’s job is to change her diapers and rock her to sleep, and now Tristan has his own set of jobs to help care for baby Scarlet. He felt a great sense of responsibility as her big brother, having specific jobs to do, and he has matured a lot in the process.

 

3) Use your Toddler’s Name When Comforting Baby

One thing I learned “on the job” while my husband was at work and it was just me and Tristan at home, was that whenever Scarlet was crying, I didn’t want to be the sole comforter for her. I wanted Tristan to feel like he was helping also. So instead of saying, “Mommy’s here,” or “Mommy’s coming,” I said things like “Mommy and Tristan are here,” and “Don’t worry, Tristan and Mommy are coming to get you.” Tristan automatically would rush in to help comfort his baby sister and sing cute little songs to cheer her up. It was the cutest thing to see my toddler helping with his heart of gold, and the attention he got from helping out gave him a sense of pride and purpose.

4) Give Your Toddler Special Attention

We’re not perfect – there were a few days in the beginning that Tristan did act out, but it was never directed at his sister. It was always toward me or my husband. Because he was aware of his responsibilities as a big brother, he was kind to his sister. His sleep schedule was thrown off a bit when we first came home, because of the baby’s constant cries at night, so it affected his mood. I realized that I needed to have some “Tristan Time,” where I’d spend 30 minutes to an hour with him specifically, whether that be playing together with his toys his way, going on a Mommy and Tristan date, or handing the baby to my husband and giving Tristan extra cuddles, or “deep deep snuggles”, as he calls them.

I also reached out to family, friends, and neighbors who had kids his age who had offered to help, and they were willing to take him to the park, have him spend the night at their houses, or come to our house and play with him so he could get some extra attention.

Bringing home a new baby can and should be a beautiful experience for your entire family. It certainly helps to have a prepared family, and protective super siblings who feel a sense of responsibility to care for their new baby. What are some things you’ve done to prepare your toddler for a new baby? Please share your comments below!

young siblings sitting together

About the Author:

10 Items You Don’t Actually Need In Your Hospital Delivery Bag (and 3 Essentials)

woman carrying suitcases

The baby is coming and your bags are packed – but did you overpack? Read on to find out what’s essential and what can wait!

There are thousands of blogs and articles out there that sell you on items you absolutely need in your hospital delivery bag. Expert mommies around the world have had different experiences with their births and they all swear they know what’s best. Here I am being one of those moms haha. As an expecting mother in full-blown nesting mode, you want to be as prepared as possible, to avoid any undue stress, right? What that could lead to is extra stress, spending extra money on things that aren’t necessary, and having extra weight to lug around in your hospital bag while you’re in labor, which can be a pain in the neck, literally.

I’m no expert, but I’ve given birth twice, once a C-section and once a vaginal birth, and each time I’ve been amazed at what I actually used and what was a waste of time, space, and money. I have many friends and family members who have also solicited their opinions on what I should bring with me to the hospital. I know it comes from the heart and they have the best intentions, but I also fell into the trap of listening to everyone’s opinions, resulting in having too much “stuff”. So I made a list of the things that no matter how many people convince you, you really don’t need at the hospital, either because the hospital provides it or you could leave it at home until you return. Here we go:

  1. A Birthing Gown – These are beautiful and comfortable and soft, but after the whole “birthing” process, and all the bodily fluids leaking afterward, its best to just use the gown provided by the hospital and have the nurses change it out as needed. That way you don’t have to worry about stains and keeping it in a wet bag somewhere for the rest of your hospital stay. That could stink (literally haha). Chances are the hospital will not wash the clothing you brought, so save your money on this one. If you have a soft bathrobe you like, I’d recommend bringing this instead, as you can put it on over the hospital gown and wear it for a few days, and it makes nursing a breeze!
  2. Diapers and Wipes – The hospital has an unlimited supply of diapers and wipes. And they constantly restock your shelves with them. Most hospitals even send you home with extras. Every day the nurse would restock our supplies, and we’d take a bag of diapers and put it in our bag and the night nurse would return in the evening and put more diapers in our cabinets and we’d take a bag of those too. Either way, you’re paying for it so take whatever you can.
  3. Multiple Baby Outfits – This one is tough. We brought so many baby outfits with us and realized that the only one we really needed was the going-home outfit. If you choose to take hospital pictures with the professional photographer the hospital provides (which can also be super pricey), then sure, maybe an extra outfit for that, but your baby and you are uncomfortable and in pain from the birthing process and trying to figure out your new “normal”, and changing baby outfits constantly, especially while trying to be careful with baby’s umbilical cord, can be a pain. Just keep it simple, mama! The hospital provides basic white onesies and baby blankets/swaddles. Use theirs!
  4. Baby Grooming Kit – The hospital provides all grooming supplies you can imagine. Nail filers, hair brushes, baby lotion and shampoo, washcloths, etc. As excited as you may be to use the new grooming kit you received at your baby shower, save space in your hospital bag and leave these at home.
  5. Lidocaine Spray and Witch Hazel Pads – This is one of those unspoken necessities that most moms argue are needed for vaginal births, which I don’t disagree with. My problem was that I made the mistake of ordering extras online to have at home in case the hospital didn’t provide it, but they had lots available in my room and even sent me home with a few. Your insurance is paying for them, so use what you can at the hospital and ask to take a few extras home with you. I do recommend making your own popsicle maxi pads (Google it if you’re not sure what they are) and having them readily available when you return home from the hospital. These things were amazing and are much more comfortable than the monstrous thunder-pads and ice packs they give you!
  6. Special Undies – Trust me, as comfortable as your own undies are, you won’t want to wear them after giving birth, let alone keep them. It’s easier to just use the mesh panties the hospital provides, and toss them after each use. They will give you plenty of spares that you can take home for the first few days until the bleeding lightens up. Even after having a C section, I found the mesh undies perfectly capable of doing their job.
  7. Toiletries – Before you get angry with me, hear me out – hospitals are prepared for every mother to come in with only the shoes on their feet. They will provide you with soap, toothpaste, a toothbrush, shampoo and conditioner, a blow dryer, and towels. Maybe even deodorant. Pack as light as you can, trust me on this, they have just about everything you need.
  8. Belly Binder – If you’re one of those moms who are already considering ways to slim your stomach as soon as the baby is out, that’s likely a problem. I’m not talking about a mom who just had a C-section (although the hospital does provide belly binders for those dear mommies), but moms who purchase their own binders and bring them to the hospital and start using them the moment baby is out. Give yourself a little break, ya? Leave this at home, use that time instead to enjoy your baby and being pampered by hospital staff 24-7 for a few days! And if you’re not convinced and are REALLY wanting a belly band, just ask any nurse, they’ll get you one to take home with you. Just sayin’.
  9. Nursing Pads – I brought a ton of these to the hospital thinking I’d need them. Little did I know that with each delivery, my milk didn’t even come in until about 3-4 days after giving birth, which was after I returned home. I’m 99% sure the hospital provides their own just in case one does need them, so next time I’m going to save the space and leave these at home.
  10. Snacks – Plan on being hangry. Food sounds SO good when you’ve been in labor for 6, 12, 18+ hours. Unfortunately, most hospitals only allow you to eat clear liquids during labor, such as jello, popsicles, juice or flavored ice. Nothing whatsoever during a C-section. Boo hoo. Chances are, you’ll most likely live. And once the baby is out, feel free to nosh on whatever exquisite cuisine the hospital provides, or maybe even ask an excited family member in the waiting room to fetch you some takeout as admission to seeing your bundle of joy!

And here are 3 items you DO need, that would be beneficial to have.

1. Your Own Pillow – Hospital pillows are fluffy and are great for having between your legs during labor but you definitely will notice a difference from the moment you first attempt to sleep. It’s bad enough that your lady bits are burning, you have a tiny human crying for reasons you’re unsure of, and a nurse constantly barges into your room and presses firmly on your abdomen causing pain you thought you were through with – trust me on this, bring your own pillow for a better night’s rest. Those few hours you can sleep will be heavenly. In case you have a love-hate relationship with your current pillow, might I make a suggestion – have you heard of the My Pillow? Also, PLEASE NOTE: Be sure to bring COLORED pillowcases, As tempting as it is to bring a white pillowcase, it could get confused with the hospital’s pillows, and you could accidentally forget to take it home with you.


2. A Nursing Pillow – I thought using hospital pillows to prop the baby up would be sufficient, but I wish I had brought my own nursing pillow so the lactation specialist could show me how to properly position the baby on it for comfortable nursing. Instead, I went home with sore arms and a sore back from slouching in order to accommodate a baby who sank into the pillow each time I tried to nurse. I prefer the My Brest Friend pillow, works great as a positioner, has a slight indent to keep baby’s head propped up, and promotes good posture.3. Go-aheads and Slippers – This one is for the clean conscious mommies out there who realize how dirty the hospital floors and bathrooms actually are. It may appear clean and shiny, but don’t be deceived. Chances are, a dozen moms have leaked onto that same floor and who knows when the last time it was mopped thoroughly. Please do yourself a favor and never be barefoot in any hospital, no matter where you are. Hospital floors are also freezing cold, so cozy socks with non-slip soles are heavenly. Wear slippers if you plan on walking around while in labor or after birthing. You won’t stay in your bed all day – the nurses are most likely going to have you walk up and down the halls to promote faster healing. A pair of slippers will help your feet stay comfortable for this. Go-aheads, or flip flops, are great for using while showering. I’ve been to hospitals where I had my own bathroom and one where I had to share a bathroom with 6 other women. I did NOT want my feet touching the same shower floor that other people were leaking onto. Call it OCD or whatever, but we all have enough problems to worry about in our lives, so pack up the lightest, cheapest pair of “chanclas” you own and you’ll be grateful you did!

I hope this helps. There are so many wonderful things to have at the hospital with you, but at the end of that day, it’s all just “stuff.” The most important things to have with you are your birthing partner, your loved ones surrounding you, and of course, that little bundle of joy in your arms that’s yours to keep forever. Congratulations, mama!