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We found out we were expecting a new bundle when my first daughter was about 15 months old. In those next 9 months she had a lot of growth as an individual, but I did not expect her to understand or become totally prepared for what a new baby in HER life actually meant. During those 9 months, we subtly spend time trying to prepare our toddler for a new sibling.
Here are a few things we did before she arrived and upon her initial meeting to help acclimate our girls as siblings.
- Bought a baby doll and encouraged real baby scenarios – When we found out we were having a girl, I got her a You and Me brand girl doll with eyes that opened when sitting up and closed when laying down. It made sucking motions when drinking from the attached a bottle, burped, cried, cooed, said mama and laughed. Brielle was in love since the car ride home appropriately naming her “baby”. She continued to practice taking care of baby by using a burp cloth (as seen when practicing with Elizabeth’s beautifully handmade ones), feeding her, reading to her and pushing her in the toy shopping cart! I made sure to practice lots of real life situations so she’d understand that a baby may do these actions in real life and it wasn’t such a surprise.
- Read Big Sister books. She loves books as we’ve made reading part of our nighttime routine before bed. She always seems to have some favorites and wants at least one in bed at night so she can sit up and read it to her plush Elmo toy. I bought her a few big sister/new baby books that we mixed into the routine of her other favorites.
- Pointed out and interacted with babies we were around. There were babies at our music class, little ones she saw in other classrooms at school and ones always being walked at the mall or at the park with older siblings. Every baby was subject to a “hi baby” interaction with a little wave. Finally when we were around my newest nephew, she was able to touch and interact with one of these little beings, learning what “gentle” meant and how to cater to his immediate needs (which she always felt was a clean mouth and pacifier in).
- Let her be involved in the weekly photos. As you know, I’m really into before and after photos and love to see progression. I LOVE that I have a weekly documentation of my growing belly when pregnant with Brielle and have done my best to capture as many weekly photos during this pregnancy as we can. (ok so it was more like every other week as our weeks seemed so much more busy!) When we brought the camera out, she knew exactly where we planned to stand and was usually interested in being captured in this weekly milestone. My favorites are the ones where she’s interacting with my growing belly, which she always pointed to and say “baby!”
- Allowed her in the baby’s room and to see/touch the baby’s stuff. Like any nesting mom, I’ve been working to get the nursery and prepping baby materials to get ready for her arrival for months. We didn’t put this space off limits to Brielle but instead allowed her to come in and explore the nursery to see all the new items bring brought out of storage. (UPDATE: you can see the Under the Sea baby nursery here!)
At The Hospital
- Don’t have mom or dad hold the baby when the toddler arrives but instead of her resting in the hospital crib for that first glimpse.
- Use the phrase “your baby” telling the toddler the baby is theirs and claim ownership of their new sibling.
- Have a gift ready for baby to give to the big sibling so they feel welcomed.
Need some advice on surviving the first few weeks with a new baby and a toddler? I have some tips!