Helping Toddlers Adjust to a New Baby Sibling

Our baby girl was laying on a blanket with her delightfully chubby legs kicking the air.  When she started fussing, I jumped up to get her a toy, but my toddler plopped down onto the blanket next her.  What she said next was everything to me:

“Her is ok. Her gots me.”

Helping toddlers adjust to a new baby sibling

Having a new baby in the house is an adjustment, to say the least. Loving your babies more than you could ever imagine gets even sweeter, when you see them love each other. Helping toddlers adjust to a new sibling isn’t hard if you are intentional about it. As a stay-at-home mama to twins, I helped two toddlers adjust to a new baby. I’ve rounded up the best tips I received and used for building a foundation of love between siblings. If your baby is still on the way, check out these tips, too!

Our Baby

When talking to your tot, it’s never the baby. It’s always our baby. When it’s our baby, we are all invested in taking care of him or her. During those early weeks, anytime the baby looked in their general direction, I was probably saying, “Aww…our baby loves you!”

“Just a minute, baby!”

When the new baby starts fussing, but you are doing something for the older sibling, make sure to call out, “Just a minute, baby! I’m helping your big brother right now!”  Even if it’s only 30 seconds, the big brother just got a strong message that he’s still important and not the only one being asked to wait.

Be Real

I was downright scared when I was about to be left alone five days a week with my two-year-old twins and three-week-old-baby. After bedtime stories and prayers, I talked to my girls in their darkened room. I told them I would do my best to take care of all of them, but was nervous and a little scared. There would be no daddy or grandma at home to help us starting tomorrow. It was just us. My sweet little one put her tiny hands on both my cheeks and said, “How I can help, mama?” We talked about how we could be a team because little babies are a lot of work, but she wouldn’t always be that way. Even though they were still toddlers, they both seemed to grow up so much that day after being trusted with what was on my heart.

What are YOU going to do?

A VERY common conversation in our household in the new baby months was, “I’m going to go feed our baby and get her all settled into her nap. What are you going to do?”  If they didn’t seem to know, I’d give them two to three choices.  One choice was usually something like Lego Duplos, a puzzle, or a busy bag. However, one choice was always coming with me.  They could do anything they wanted in the baby’s room with me, as long as they were as quiet as a mouse.

Don’t Become Forbidden Fruit.

My husband got after the kids one day for trying to get to me while nursing, which just made them more determined to get in and get my attention.  I had to quickly let him in on our deal during the day. One child would sometimes would sit quietly by the window and look at a book or play with a toy. If they made a sound, I’d give them an, “On no!” look. They’d smile and be quiet because it was our game. They knew I trusted them to be quiet and I made sure to compliment them on their mouse or ninja-like quiet skills afterward. When the game wasn’t fun anymore, they would choose to do something else while I nursed and put her to bed. Allowing them to be present with me took the mystery out of it.

Encourage the Sibling Relationship

Look for anything and everything to encourage when it comes to the sibling relationship.  It’s easy to encourage a sibling who is gently holding or singing to a new baby, but those things may not come until you encourage the more mundane.  Highlight everything positive you can! Even if the big sister only walked by the baby sleeping in the swing.  Say, “You were so quiet by our baby sleeping. He needs lots of sleep to grow. Thank you for helping take care of him.” The more you encourage what you want to see, the more you will see it. Be sure to let your toddler overhear you bragging about the great things they are doing as a big brother or sister to others, too. When it comes to sibling relationships, here is an amazing info graphic you’ll want to save for later.

Let Your Toddler Help

Even very young toddlers can run to bring you diapers and wipes. They can help you wipe, stick the tabs, or throw a diaper in the pail. In fact, my twins used to fight over who got to put the dirty diapers in the pail! By helping you pat baby’s back for burps, feeding the baby with a bottle, or choosing a toy or book for the baby, big brothers or sisters can be big helpers. Very often, their help will slow you down, but encourage it every single time. You are building the foundation for a positive sibling relationship right now. That’s way more important than a quick and efficient diaper change!

Our New Baby: Helping Toddlers Adjust

In the haze of sleep deprivation, dealing with the constant mess, toddler tantrums, and the unpredictable schedules babies keep, remember that what matters most right now is starting the sibling relationship out right. We are raising people, not just babies and toddlers. When you think about it, they’ll be adults for the majority of their lives. In the end, we hope to be outlived by our children. Start building the sibling relationship now because when they no longer have us, they will have each other.

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