Becoming the Big Brother or Sister

The arrival of a new baby brother or sister can be traumatic for a toddler. Read on for tips on how to ease the transition.


toddler touching mother pregnant belly

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One momentous change that often occurs in the life of a 2-year-old is the arrival of a new baby brother or sister. If your toddler is the family's firstborn, the event can be especially traumatic. But parents can help make the occasion less threatening for a toddler, starting well before the birth:

  • Tell your child about the pregnancy as soon as you feel it's appropriate Some experts advocate waiting until at least a few months into the pregnancy, since kids this age, with their immature sense of time, have such difficulty waiting. But others believe that perceptive toddlers pick up on adult cues and sense that something's up anyway-which can make them fearful or anxious.
  • Help your toddler understand what's happening by showing her pictures of fetal development so she can envision the baby changing and growing inside Mommy's uterus. Allow her to feel the baby's kicks and squirms, and try to expose her to other infants as much as possible. Enlist your child's help in selecting a layette and baby toys for her new sibling. It's also a good idea to refer to the baby as "our baby" rather than "my baby."
  • Don't make major changes in your child's routine in the months surrounding the birth. Such transitions as potty training, weaning from the bottle, and starting preschool should be postponed, if possible, until several months after the baby's birth (if not accomplished at least a month or two before your due date).

Also, don't let the new baby displace your toddler from his crib right away. Borrow a crib from friends if you'll need a second one for only a few months, or keep the new baby in a bassinet or a cradle -- and preferably not in your toddler's room.

  • Relive your toddler's infancy. Look at his baby pictures together and talk about what he was like as an infant and how happy you were when he was born. Emphasize how grown-up he has become since then and how proud you are of his accomplishments, such as talking, using the toilet, and feeding himself.

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