Bringing baby home with a toddler in the house isn’t always easy, but there are ways to smooth the transition.
Toddlers are a bundle of energy – good and not-so-good moments, mixed with the most stubborn of you and your partners’ genes all muddled up into one tiny human. Add to this, the fact that you are pregnant again, and it can be a very emotionally exhausting time.
It’s not fun in early pregnancy. You are more tired than normal, usually feel quite nauseous and you still need endless energy for your toddler. It’s not all bad though, remember, nothing lasts forever. This too shall pass. Until then, here are some tips and tricks to help make the transition as smooth as possible.
Even if you have a very young child, that child will know that change is in the air. They might not be able to grasp the baby concept yet but they will notice your behaviour change. Try to keep your toddlers’ routine as close to normal as you can. That may involve more support from family and friends wherever possible, especially for things like swimming lessons or playgroup if you are just not feeling up to it.
Have an open communication at home and talk about the baby to prepare them for the changes that may be coming. Getting baby’s room ready and taking your little one to some of the scans and appointments will make them feel involved and start the bonding process too. There are some great books from the library about welcoming a new sibling, and you can even buy personalised books with a super big brother/sister medal at the end of the book, so they feel that they are working towards this new arrival too. Before bringing baby home, maybe buy your toddler a baby doll and practise all the routines, nappy changes/bath times/car seat rides etc – it’s a fun thing to do for them.
I heard a great story from a second time mum where the older siblings used to draw pictures of the baby and then pictures of mummy in labour, happy face to a very sad face and then, when the baby came out, mummy was very happy again! (It’s a great time to talk about the birds and the bees with your older children too).
Your child may initiate lots of new and kind ways to bond with your pregnant tummy. Embrace this, as they are working towards welcoming a new baby sister or brother too.
Bringing baby home has it’s own challenges straight away. Sometimes after the birth, when your older child comes to visit you in the hospital, they can completely ignore you. This might even feel like revenge for leaving them at home and rushing away undercover to have the new baby! Be reassured this is normal behaviour. They look to you for emotional comfort and stability and when you are not there, it can rock their world. Often it’s the first time you have ever been apart and that can make them a little scared. Give lots of positive reassurance and over time, you will be forgiven.
It’s a great idea to let family and friends treat your toddler to special things, like a trip to the zoo or an ice cream at the beach. You’ll need time to rest and recover before you go home, so allow those special treats if you are lucky enough to have that offer available.
At home for the first few weeks after bringing baby home, try and keep life as normal as possible. Daycare, bedtime, and all the normal things mean a lot to your toddler. These routines will still matter to them and your toddler will find it very calming and comforting that most things stay the same, even though the new little brother or sister has arrived.
Having a goody bag to do together whilst you are feeding is also a great idea. Pull it out when you’re feeding or tending to the new baby so that your toddler feels special too. Also get the baby doll out and let them copy you as you feed/bath/nappy change.
Remember to give your toddler lots of positive encouragement and praise – it’s easy to keep saying ‘shush the baby asleep’ or ‘be quiet/you’re being too rough, be gentle etc – but remember, it’s a big new world for your toddler too. Don’t worry if they’re acting out and stubborn behaviour escalates, that’s all normal. Just keep up with the consistent parenting you did before, (It’s hard I know!). Maybe another family member could step up to this challenge too.
One of the most beautiful things about having another baby is watching that warm and gentle side to your toddler come out, that you haven’t seen before. It’s such a special time, try and enjoy little moments. I know the day and night feels like an uphill battle, but nothing is forever….take lots of beautiful photos, as you’re so busy you may forget all of the tender moments. On that note, remember too, to take photos of you – a beautiful mummy. Take photos of yourself breastfeeding, get in those photos too, hand your phone over for someone else to take one of you and the kids. Keep going – you’re doing an awesome job!
If you would like to chat about your plans to bring baby home or would like some advice, please contact us to make an appointment with our midwife, Georgina.