Finding out you are pregnant when you already have a young family is a really exciting time. Your new baby is going to arrive into a family with a sibling or siblings ready to accept them and to form lifelong relationships. It’s a little daunting too. Your toddler isn’t famed for being patient and gentle (whose is!?). Add to that, they are currently the ‘baby’ of the family and you might start to feel apprehensive about how your toddler is going to adapt to having a new baby around. The good news is you can start to set the scene now while you’re pregnant.
As a busy newborn and baby photographer in Salisbury, I meet so many parents and young families in the course of my work and over the years they’ve shared a ton of tips with me. With their help, here are my top tips on helping your toddler adjust to life with a new baby on the scene!
1. Read a book together.
There are loads of fabulous children’s books you can read together while you are still pregnant that will help prepare your toddler for the arrival of your new baby. Here are a few that I think are particularly good:
What’s in Your Tummy Mummy by Sam Lloyd
by Giles Andreae
Waiting for Baby by Rachel Fuller
2. Don’t make the baby a mystery.
Talk about the baby inside your tummy and explain what’s happening in a way they understand. Make sure they understand their baby brother or sister is on the way but also don’t overdo it – you want to give them a sense of privilege about being an older sibling, without it being all you talk about.
3. Encourage Involvement
Let your toddler choose clothes for the new baby and get involved in preparing the nursery or cot. This is a good time to explain why baby will be sleeping in your room and how babies can’t talk so they cry when they want milk. Setting the scene, especially with a toddler who still likes to climb into your bed will help prepare them for the different sleeping arrangements that might be happening.
4. Avoid blaming your bump
If your toddler is used to being carried around, that’s something that will have to change while you’re pregnant – but avoid letting your toddler know your pregnancy is the reason you can’t carry them. You don’t want to build up resentment. Instead, encourage them to walk more themselves and give lots of praise for them doing so.
5. Build pride
When your baby arrives there are lots of ways you can help foster a feeling of pride in your toddler. Phrases like ‘You’re so good at helping baby, I can see how happy she is when you help out’ and ‘look how baby smiles at you, she only does that when you’re around’ can really help to make toddlers feel needed at this time.
6. Prepare your friends and family
It’s very difficult for toddlers when everyone wants to meet the new baby. Try and prep your close family and friends to make a fuss of your toddler first when they visit. When families bring their newborns for a photography session I’ll always make a fuss of the sibling first, without looking at baby. I’ll then ask the toddler if they can introduce me to their new baby brother or sister!
7. Give your child a special toy
Your new baby is going to need a lot of time and attention and there’s no denying that this is noticeable to your toddler. Some siblings will take a little step backwards when baby arrives and decide they need help with things like going to the toilet where they didn’t before. Giving your toddler a toy that needs care – like a baby doll or a puppy stuffed toy can really help distract them. When you’re feeding baby, they can also have feeding time with their toy – this way they feel involved and have fun too.
There’s no denying that the bond that siblings have is amazing. I love capturing growing families and I have some special techniques to make sure that I create beautiful sibling portraits for you to treasure. You can have a look at my gallery of family and sibling portraits here.