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Preparing your toddler for the new baby

There’s no right way to prepare your toddler, but here are a few things to consider

boy listens to mother's tummy

Expecting another baby? Congratulations! You might have mixed emotions — excitement at the thought of a new baby and worry about how you will manage two.

There are things that you can do to make life easier for the whole family. Here are a few ideas that have worked for other families.

When you find out you're pregnant

Some mothers tell their child soon after they discover they are pregnant. Some like to wait until they start showing or have an ultrasound photo to show. Others will wait until 3 months before baby’s due date to talk about it. Only you can decide which is better for your child and you.   

Toddlers generally won’t understand that a baby will mean changes in their life, but there will be lots of opportunities to talk about the baby growing inside you. Buying a doll may allow you and your toddler to do all the baby related activities.  

If your toddler is still breastfeeding, you don't need to stop. You may like to tell your doctor or midwife that you are still breastfeeding. If you decide to wean your toddler at this time, it is generally easier to do it slowly. Alternatively you may decide to keep breastfeeding for a time during your pregnancy. You can even tandem feed your toddler and baby if you choose to do so. Many mothers find tandem feeding helps the older sibling bond with the new baby.   

Getting ready for the new baby

The arrival of a new baby can mean changes to household spaces and routines which may affect your toddler. You may like to make changes well before your baby arrives. Or alternatively delay them until life settles down with the new baby.  

  • Will your toddler need to move out of their cot or the family bed? Are they ready for a 'big bed'? Do you need to buy a second cot? 

  • If you co-sleep, will you continue to do this after the baby is born? 

  • Will they be starting day care at about the same time your baby is born? Would it be better to do this earlier or delay it until later? 

  • Is your toddler ready to be toilet trained? Straight after the birth of a new baby may not be the best time for this. 

You also need to start thinking about the birth.  

  • Do you want your child to be present?  

  • If you are having baby at a hospital, what are their rules around siblings and visits? 

  • Who will you ask to look after your child? Will they care for them in your home or in theirs?   

  • If your child is still breastfed, will you need to have expressed milk or can they do with other food and drinks for the time you are in hospital? 

Introducing your toddler to the new baby

While there is no right way to introduce your new baby, there are a few things you might like to think about. 

  • Some people like to have a ritual to help their children welcome their new brother or sister into the world. A gift from the baby to the toddler can make that first meeting special.  

  • It can help for a mum returning from hospital to walk in without the baby so she can give the toddler a big hug. Some mums have reported the first few months are no problem. It is when baby becomes more mobile that jealousy can arrive. 

  • Bring home toddler and baby at the same time from the birthing place so your toddler can welcome baby into their home.  

Although some children do bond with the baby immediately, others are not interested or don't expect the baby to live with them.  

The first few weeks

Getting to know your newborn is exciting but tiring. Getting breastfeeding started is important but it takes a lot of time. With your first child there were fewer people to think about — just you, your partner and the baby. This time around is different. You have a toddler to take care of too. 

  • If your partner can take time off, this will given them the chance to spend extra time with your older child as well as the baby and further increase their bond.   

  • Other family members and friends can also play with and care for your toddler or may be able to look after your new baby while you spend time with your toddler.  

  • Most toddlers love to help. Ask them to bring you the things you need to change the baby. Let them help wash the baby in the bath and make sure they know how much you value this.   

Involving your toddler

Some of the following suggestions might work for you. 

  • Ask your toddler to introduce guests to their baby brother or sister. They may need encouragement to call the new baby by their name. 

  • Ask a few close relatives or friends to bring a small gift for your child also, so they don't feel left out.   

  • Spend as much one-on-one time with your toddler as you can. Just 15 minutes can make a huge difference.  

  • Have a few special toys or books that are only for you and your toddler. These don't need to be new activities. You could paint or draw or do something that your toddler enjoys.   

  • Going for a walk to the park, with your new baby in a sling or a pram, gives you time with your older child and can also boost your own energy level.  

Managing breastfeeds with a toddler

Mums often look forward to breastfeeding to give themselves a chance to sit down and rest.  This doesn’t always happen with a busy toddler in the house!  Feed times can be great breaks in busy days for all the family to enjoy. 

  • Set up a safe feeding space so your toddler can still be near you. Feeding in a room with a door that can be closed means they can still be active where you can see them.   

  • Set up a chair in a shady place in the garden where your toddler likes to play.  

  • Have prepared snacks and some water handy where you can both get them easily.  

  • Your toddler may be very interested in watching baby at the breast and may ask to be able to breastfeed again. 

  • Tandem feeding mums can feed both ‘babies’ at once. Or you can feed your toddler after baby has had a drink. You may find yourself feeding favourite toys too! 

Try to be consistent

As far as you can, keep daily or weekly routines. Many toddlers misbehave when a new baby arrives and having routines can help with this.   

This is a special time in the life of your young family. Relax. It will help you and your toddler adjust to all the changes that a new baby brings. 


© Australian Breastfeeding Association May 2022

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