Once the excitement of pregnancy with your second baby wears off and reality sets in with the baby’s birth, you may find yourself understandably anxious to help your toddler adjust to their growing family.

It’s helpful to remember that no matter how “prepared” they are, toddlers can be expected to have some anxiety about the changing family dynamics. When a new sibling arrives home some toddlers are excited; others ignore the new baby, mom, or dad; and some even appear oblivious.

Your toddler is suddenly hearing “just a minute” more than usual: “Just a minute—I have to feed/change/calm the baby.” Parents can reassure their toddler by “talking” to the baby for the benefit of the toddler: “Just a minute Baby, it’s Big Sister’s turn to read with Mommy.” This can help your toddler see that everyone has to do some waiting, and this helps to level the playing field rather than singling out Big Sister.

Here are a few more strategies suggested by moms and dads in our 2nd Time Parents Drop-In Groups and classes to help ease the transition from a family of three to a family of four:

  1. Try to keep your toddler’s routine as much the same as possible. For example, if your toddler went to daycare/preschool before the new baby, continue the same schedule, even while mom and dad are home on parental leave. This will give you precious bonding time with the new baby while protecting your toddler from seeing you holding your newborn “all the time.”
  2. If you know some of your toddler’s routine will change when the baby comes, try to ease into those changes as soon as possible during your pregnancy. Examples are changing morning or evening routines to include more dad-time, spending more time with grandparents, playdates, and childcare.
  3. Schedule some “special time with Mommy” (call it whatever you like i.e. “Mom and Emma time”) every day and let your toddler choose what you do together. It can be a short time, even 15 — 20 minutes playing in her room, or longer, such as a trip to the park. Let your toddler know when you will be having your “special time” that day (i.e. when baby takes his nap or after toddler’s nap or when Dad gets home).
  4. Have a “busy bag” with special toys and books that is only taken out when Mom is “busy” with baby (for instance, feeding) and put away once Mom is free.
  5. Enlist toddler’s “help” with baby by having her “go get the diaper,” “read” or sing to baby during feeding and diaper changes.
  6. Baby’s crying upsets many older siblings. Remind your toddler that crying is baby’s way of telling us that (s)he needs something.

Cherie Zappas Tannenbaum, NP, IBCLC, is a Family Nurse Practitioner, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and Coordinator of Babies & Beyond at Parents Place. Join Cherie’s popular Baby Groups including 2nd and 3rd Time Moms! Learn strategies for managing changing family dynamics, sibling issues like cooperation and sharing, developmental milestones for babies and toddlers, and finding time for yourself. We will cover feeding and sleep issues, ideas for meaningful home activities, and managing the needs of everyone in the family during the pandemic. Questions? Contact Cherie at 650-688-3053 or [email protected].