How to Prepare a Young Toddler for a New Baby

I'm attempting to explain the biggest change of his life to a tiny human who only says "Dada" and makes firetruck noises. 

If you're pregnant or thinking of expanding your family and your children will be close in age, you may - like me -  have searched the internet for tips on preparing a young toddler for a new baby. I've discovered since finding out we're pregnant with our second child that there is great information available ...for preparing a two, three, or four-year old to welcome a new sibling. But how do you prepare a child under two years old (and maybe even closer to one!) to become a big sibling?

With so few resources available to guide expectant parents with close spacing of their kids, I put on my Occupational Therapist hat and made up my own plan for getting my very young toddler ready for a new baby. I'm sharing with you in hopes that it might help you or someone else you know who's embarking on the adventure of having two kids under two. 

How to prepare a young toddler for a new baby - 25 tips for kids close in age.

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Planning for Outings With Toddler and Baby

Practice walking to and from the car holding hands on outings

As much as possible, establish a hands-off routine for getting toddler in and out the door

Get a double stroller that fits your lifestyle and is developmentally best for baby (we love our Baby Jogger City Select Double with Bassinet Attachment {affiliates})

Find a babywearing sling or carrier that works for you (I love our Baby K'tan wrap and Boba 4G carrier and will be trying a Moby wrap this time {affiliates})

Preparing for Breastfeeding

Pretend to breastfeed a baby doll and make yourself unavailable during this time

If considering tandem nursing, read Adventures in Tandem Nursing by Hilary Flower {affiliate}

If planning on tandem nursing, establish boundaries and well in advance of baby's arrival (i.e. naps and bedtime only, no kicking or wiggling, no nursings on outings)

Put together a special box of toys for your toddler to play with only when baby is nursing

Talk to a local or online breastfeeding support group for tips on nursing a baby in a sling or baby carrier

Understanding Babies

Greet little babies that you encounter - let your toddler look, wave, blow kisses, say hi - THEN remind them that they will have a baby just like that soon

Talk about what babies do - "baby is sleeping - ssshhh....let's whisper" or "baby is crying but it's okay because her mommy is going to give her a cuddle and make her feel better."

With parents' approval and CLOSE supervision, help your child touch other babies' feet or arms or show them toys

Establish a "no touching faces" rule 

Play with a baby doll A LOT - use a real newborn diaper and bottle to let your toddler practice helping

Add a step stool near the foot of your diaper changing station and let your toddler watch/help as you change baby doll's diaper daily

Seek out opportunities for you and your partner to hold infants in front of your child (volunteering with the babies at our church nursery was an easy way for us since our son is still in the baby room there)

Consider purchasing a topponcino - a supportive cushion commonly used in Montessori caregiving that cradles your baby and supports the head when being held (a reader recommended this to me and we recently purchased ours from Baby Burrows and started practicing using it with a baby doll)

Making Space For Baby

Plan for spaces in several key areas of your home for baby to be safe from your curious (and rambunctious in our case) toddler. This does NOT have to include Baby Holding Devices! We'll be using a Pack 'n Play {affiliate} and the bassinet attachment from our stroller as safe spots to allow baby a variety of positions and freedom of movement as well as a firm, flat surface for safe sleep

Consider toddler noise when you plan for where baby will nap and sleep. Consider baby noise when you plan for where baby will have nighttime feedings and diaper changes.

General Preparations

Encourage your toddler's independence throughout daily life

Teach your toddler to eat independently (as independently as possible)

Practice having your child "wait" or "first ___, then___" on a daily basis

When your little one requests to be picked up, sometimes explain that you can't right now

Get your toddler used to other caregivers, time separated from Mommy, your partner helping with nighttime wakeups, etc. 

If you haven't already, take a night (or a few) away; you don't want the first night of separation to be the night you're away from home delivering your new baby

Make transitions early - moving to a toddler bed or new room, changing which parent puts toddler to bed, weaning / night-weaning and other major changes should be made weeks or months before baby comes, 

Play games that incorporate "gentle" and "rough,"  "quiet" and "loud," "right now" and "wait a minute" - you can use these words in play as simple as rolling a ball or pushing your child on the swing

Initiate any new childcare assistance weeks ahead of baby's arrival. Practice with a new sitter, daycare, or family members coming over to help before baby comes. 

While I haven't navigated the actual moment of introducing new siblings yet, this post from Pick Any Two has three great tips for things to do at the hospital to help your child adjust to a new baby that we plan on following!

What are you doing to help prepare your little one for a new baby? How close in age will your kiddos be? Share in the comments below !

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