Introducing Your New Baby to Your Toddler

– Written by JoAnna Inks 

mother with her sons - JoAnna Inks Sleep Solutions
Swaddled Baby

Introducing your new baby to your toddler can be scary!  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  First, congratulations! If you’ve clicked on this, there’s a good chance you’re expecting a little one or just had one. If you have a new baby and a toddler, double congrats for even reading this! 

Adding a new baby is so exciting, but I remember having mixed emotions about how my toddler would feel about his new sibling. I don’t remember him ever asking for a sibling since he was only two, so this was all a surprise to him!  

Navigating adding a newborn to your life when you have a toddler with care and consideration can ensure a smoother adjustment for everyone.   

Let’s look at some strategies for introducing your new baby to your toddler and some potential challenges you could face.

Embrace a Little Bit of Jealousy:

Your toddler may experience jealousy of the new baby, and having understanding and empathy for these emotions is essential. Toddler’s emotions are BIG, and any attempt to stifle or suppress them can often backfire. Try to validate and acknowledge their feelings. Ensure them that their importance within your family unit hasn’t diminished, and encourage open communication. Be sure you listen, really listen to your toddler’s concerns.

Set Clear Expectations:

Maintaining clear boundaries with toddlers is essential in all areas of their lives, whether sleep, eating, or introducing a new sibling. Clearly explain what is expected of them in their unique dynamic as an older sibling in a simple way that your toddler can understand. Try to make this a positive conversation that emphasizes the importance of their role in welcoming and caring for the new baby.  

Please encourage them to participate and get involved in age-appropriate help with the newborn. Can they get a diaper for the baby? Can they pick out a toy for the baby? Toddlers like the feeling of responsibility, and most enjoy “helping” their parents. Nurturing the older sibling relationship is essential.

Prepare for Regression:

It’s common for toddlers to have regression in many areas as they adjust to being an older sibling. Bedtime battles and nighttime wake-ups often start. Sometimes toddler’s sleep comes completely undone during this time! Potty training can be another place of regression. It’s super important to be patient and understanding, as hard as it may be!

Try to reinforce positive habits and reassure them when setbacks occur. If you’ve set clear expectations for your toddler, be sure you stick to them as an adult. It may be easy to slide back into old habits, such as letting your toddler sleep in a crib or suddenly use a diaper again. It’s crucial that consistency is maintained and growth is encouraged. Toddlers thrive on this! 

Also, remember that this isn’t the right time to switch your toddler to a “big kid” bed if they’ve never slept there or suddenly decided it’s time to potty train.  Wait for the storm to pass before you make any big changes for your toddler.

Uphold Boundaries:

Consistency, consistency, consistency is king with toddlers! Negotiating with our toddlers when they’re demanding can be tempting, but it’s a BAD idea. Yes, they’re going through change; it can be challenging, BUT what’s harder for them is when we’re inconsistent. Your toddler doesn’t need to be in charge of everything in their day. They may seem like they want to be, but they don’t! Simple age-appropriate choices throughout the day should suffice. Letting them decide when, how, and where they’re going to sleep is too much. Be firm and consistent, and uphold boundaries around behavior, sleep, and older sibling expectations. This will create a sense of stability and routine, making your toddler’s life and your life MUCH easier.

Create Special One-on-One Time:

Free time isn’t exactly something we have a lot of with a new baby and a toddler. But setting aside some individual time with your older child is super important. Set aside 10-15 minutes of your undivided attention each day, allowing them to choose the activity. Whatever makes them happy, reading a book together, taking a walk, playing a game, anything they choose. This activity reinforces their importance in your life, allows them to see that the baby hasn’t replaced them, and strengthens your bond with your toddler. 

I’m a big believer that this is the most important tip to prevent jealousy and resentment, so even though you’re feeling overwhelmed, do your best to prioritize this.

Having a newborn and a toddler is a special time in your life. It feels all-consuming and will never get easier, but it does. Newborns grow, toddlers grow, and this season will be past before you know it.  

This is unchartered waters not only for you but also for your toddler. This season will require more patience and understanding than you’ve ever had to muster up your entire life!  

You know there will be challenges, but by familiarizing yourself with them, setting clear boundaries, and nurturing a positive sibling relationship, you can create a family environment of love, support, and harmony within your growing family.

With consistency, patience, and some time, you can introduce your new baby to your toddler, and they can create a special bond that will last a lifetime.

Sleep well,

JoAnna

P.S. Wondering if you can sleep train your toddler? We can in a few short weeks. Toddlers are fast learners, and when you put together a clear, consistent plan that speaks to them – they learn to love going to bed at night, sleep through the night, and nap like champs. This is something I help families with every day!  Book a complimentary sleep evaluation here so I can learn more about your toddler’s specific sleep challenges, and I can share exactly how I can help your family get the rest they need. 

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