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Your toddler's new sibling

With a little planning, you can help your child adjust to life with a new sibling and the start of a lifelong relationship.

And then there were two.

The birth of a new baby is a big reason to celebrate. But your older child might not see it that way at first.

Little ones, especially those ages 2 to 3 years, may not want to share mom and dad. They may feel threatened by the new family member, notes the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). However, there are steps you can take to help your child get ready for a new baby.

Sharing the news

You'll want to give some thought to how and when to tell your child a baby is coming. You don't have to share the news as soon as you find out.

But don't wait too long. You don't want your child to hear the news from someone else.

If your child asks about mommy's growing tummy, seize the moment. Explain that a baby is growing inside. At the latest, plan to tell your child by the time you start getting ready for the baby—for example, when you start getting the nursery set up, advises the AAP.

Making plans for brother or sister

How you ready a child for a new baby will depend in part on his or her age. Books can help. For younger kids, try sharing books about kids or animals who become big brothers or sisters.

No matter how old your child is, he or she will need some reassurance. When you talk about the changes to come, be clear that your love for him or her will stay the same after the new baby is born.

It's also a good idea to help your toddler feel like he or she is a part of the process. Start before baby brother or sister is born, advises the AAP. This can help head off feelings of jealousy.

The AAP offers these suggestions:

  • Take your child shopping with you to help pick out clothes and other baby things. If you plan to use some of your child's baby items, let him or her play with them a while before you get them ready for the baby.
  • Let your child feel the baby kick.
  • Spend time looking at your toddler's newborn pictures together.

Also, you don't want to overwhelm your child while he or she adjusts to the news and birth of a new baby. So try to finish up major changes in your toddler's life, such as toilet training. If needed, postpone these changes until after the baby is born.

When baby arrives

In the moments when your children finally meet, it might be helpful if you can give your toddler as much attention as possible. For this reason, you might want to place your baby in a crib or have someone else hold the newborn, notes the AAP.

Here are some more tips from the AAP for when baby comes home:

  • Invite your toddler to cuddle near you while you feed the baby.
  • Let your toddler help you care for baby brother or sister when possible and appropriate. Some tasks, such as handing you a fresh diaper, may be just right for your little one.
  • If it seems like your toddler regresses, try not to overreact. For example, some kids return to baby talk or potty accidents. This may be an older child's way of reclaiming attention. Give out lots of praise when your child acts in age-appropriate ways.

Finally, spend some time alone with your older child. Read or play together. Find ways to chat every day. Your child needs to know that he or she is loved as much as before.

Reviewed 12/23/2022

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