We were so focused on the first meet of our newborn and toddler that we overlooked researching the time leading up to it. If you know toddlers, you know, in order to get them to do anything you have to plant a seed and give it time to grow. Luckily, we were doing this all along since it’s a pretty important step and shouldn’t be overlooked! Our now 2 and 3 year old are each other’s best friends. Part of it is their personalities I don’t doubt, but preparation before the new baby arrives goes a long way. Please know, not every family is the same and you need to adjust for your child’s personality. Hopefully, our family’s experience can be used as a guide or to get ideas to help you smooth the transition from a family of 3 to 4.
During Pregnancy – Get Ready to Talk – A Lot!
It might not seem like it, but your soon to be “big” sister/brother is taking in a lot more than you realize. Setting the groundwork leading up to when they first meet is a big part of the process. We started preparing Reece several months before the new baby arrived. We started talking about the baby in mama’s belly at about 10 weeks. Some people wait until after the 12 week mark so their toddler doesn’t spill the beans. Reece wasn’t the most chatty so we weren’t concerned. Once friends and family know, start talking on the regular! When we talked to Reece about the baby, we always referred to her as “his baby” so he felt as though he was a part of what we happening.
We also read several books to reinforce the idea of a new baby. I was on bedrest for a lot of my second pregnancy so I also took advantage of my son’s love for Daniel Tiger. We watched The Baby is Here episode about 200 times from my 28th week on.
Before, after, and during watching Daniel Tiger we would talk about the baby and “kiss” her. Then we would talk about how excited we were to meet her in the coming days. Don’t forget that! It’s one thing to talk about the baby in the belly, it’s another to make sure you drill it into your toddler’s head that this baby will be coming home to stay in the near future. Again, even if it doesn’t feel like they are getting it, that idea seed is growing.
The Big Day, for your toddler, not L&D day
We decided to have the new siblings meet in the hospital since it’s a neutral location. We had my two brothers and sister watch Reece during Kat’s labor and delivery. Yes, it took three adults to watch one 22 month old. When they all came to see us at the hospital there was a lot of talk about how tired they were. Ha! We left a daily Reece schedule on the fridge. We let them know it’s flexible. They don’t have kids and had no idea how much food at each meal, when naps/bedtime happen, and other small things that as a parent you just know. We wanted to try to keep home life as normal as possible.
After we had rested a little from the delivery we told my siblings any time they wanted to stop by we were ready. They texted us when they had parked and we rolled our new baby, Kat, into the bathroom. Yes, it sounds crazy, but we wanted to give Reece the time he needed for a mini reunion and some solo time. We made sure not to put any pressure on Reece. If he wanted to say hello he could, if not, that was fine as well. We did take a few pictures but didn’t make them do force posed pictures together. We simply followed Reece’s lead.
Reece and Kat’s Meet Cute
When Reece arrived we said our hello’s and checked in with him. Then we rolled Kat in and let him look at her. Dad picked her up and we introduced big brother to little sister then we had them exchange gifts. Little sister was given a Sophie and big brother got a truck. We let them observe each other and talked about how it was so exciting she would be coming home to stay with us soon.
Reece enjoyed pointing out all of Kat’s features, eyes, ears, head, nose. He accidentally scratched Kat’s face kissing her and she cried out. Since Reece is a very empathetic toddler he cried for about 10 minutes, which was 9 minutes and 50 seconds longer than Kat. We decided Reece was at his limit and said goodbye to Kat. Off she rolled, into bathroom again. We had a few minutes of solo time with our toddler then said our goodbyes, letting him know we would see him the following day.
The visit short. I didn’t time it, but probably less than a half an hour. Crying fit and all. I never held the baby during the visit, but Reece did get to climb into bed with me for a cuddle.
Toddlers are not always the most delicate. Add to that, they might not be thrilled to meet their new sibling. Feelings of jealousy, confusion, sadness are all normal. Be prepared for things to not go smoothly. There might be hitting or crying involved. Don’t be afraid of their first introduction, but keep it in your mind that it might not be love at first sight. Sometimes it’s not love at first sight between parents and babies (completely normal also). We shouldn’t expect instant love from our new big brother/sister.
Freaking out over a toddler hitting our being to rough with the newborn is most likely only going to scare your child. Try to remain as calm as possible, even when you are on the verge of melting into a puddle.
Think back to when you became a first time mom/dad. This is very similar for your toddler. Your oldest will need YOU to help navigate this new transition. As second/third/etc. time parents you need to help set the tone and nurture their relationship.
Even if things are tough at first, down the road the new baby will be more child and less blob and they will be able to play together. Big siblings can be younger siblings best teachers and role models! If it’s awesome from the start, great! If it’s rocky, hang in there! It gets better, it just takes some time.