If you’re navigating having a second baby with a toddler (like under two years old), it may be hard to understand precisely WHAT THE FUCK you’re supposed to say and do with them to help them through this adjustment.
Often they don’t even speak more than 3-4 word sentences sand clearly don’t understand what you mean when you ask them not to throw the food off the high chair (oh, and they’re LIKELY STILL IN A HIGH CHAIR - i.e., are still babies themselves!).
How do you even handle life with a toddler and a newborn? How do you deal with having a second baby?
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What to Say to Your Toddler About the Newborn Baby That’s Coming
I’m going to ask you to become fucking curious right now.
Curious about your toddler.
Curious about his little brain.
Curious about how to help him make the most significant transition of his life that he likely will possess no to very little memory of in the short years to come.
My babies are 21 months apart, so I was blessed to have two babies under two, and preparing my toddler for a new baby was… challenging.
He understood that I had a baby in my belly (and would often lift his shirt and tell me he had a baby in his belly too! Sigh with cuteness).
But there are so many nuances to preparing your toddler for a newborn baby.
Also, because I’m all about choosing the fucks that are important when it comes to what to say to your toddler, I’m giving you some product ideas such as books and tv shows.
Experts have traveled this path long before you, and it’s time you were properly introduced.
Best Books to Prepare your Toddler for a Newborn
Lucky for you, we live in a time when there are plenty of books that you can read to your toddler to help them prepare for the new baby.
Because this was new territory for me (and for everyone I knew at the time - I was one of the first of my mom friends to become pregnant with their second) I turned to children’s books to help my toddler understand the subtlety and learn from the stories.
Here are a few books we read to our boys that were adorable:
I know I know…there’s a lot here about being a big brother (write and perhaps, also read what you know I guess?)
Here’s some cute ones for the future big sis:
And or course Daniel Tiger:
Use Daniel Tiger to Help Prepare Your Toddler for a Newborn Baby
If you’re not already sharing the genius of Daniel Tiger to your child yet a) good for you! And b) now might be the time.
Daniel Tiger has two episodes where Daniel experiences the frustration and curiosity and timeline of welcoming a new sibling to his family.
Practical Practice for Your Toddler
Practice holding hands and walking to and from the mailbox or when you’re at the park.
Encourage as much autonomy and independence as you can with your toddler.
He’s not going to be able to cling to you whenever he wants to now.
When you help him gain the confidence and the tools to go it (semi) alone you end up helping both of you.
Make sure you’ve invested in a really good stroller and have tried a few options for baby wraps and babywearing gear.
You can read more about some of the gear you might need to nail it with two under two (or two babies close in age) on this post here.
Get Your Mind Right Around Feeding Your Baby
I fall firmly in the fed is best category when it comes to feeding your baby.
You can read a lot more HERE about my experience with breastfeeding (spoiler alert: it wasn’t awesome).
If you’re basically a cow which has no issues with milk production, latch, or any of the above girl, keep doing what you’re doing.
But you’re gonna need to get your mind right about what to do with your toddler during those long feeding sessions.
(Remember how you could scroll through Facebook, or shit, even read a sleep book while feeding on your Kindle or phone?)
Tips for Breastfeeding Moms
If you’re still nursing your toddler, you’re going to need to figure out some tandem nursing schedule.
If you’re going to be nursing your newborn check out this post from Sheena at Laptops and Naptimes about what to do with your toddler when you’re breastfeeding.
Many breastfeeding moms make a special toy bin or dedicated area of toys that their toddler can play with ONLY when momma is feeding the baby.
If this is the route for you, be sure to set clear boundaries and expectations and that include not playing with the toys whenever they want to.
This will help keep it interesting (and exciting!)
Consider switching out the toys or introducing new ones, or some of the above books on being a big brother or sister over time. (I’d say every week or so - I know it’s a lot of work but what’s worse? Switching out some books, or fighting your toddler during every single feeding who is now crying because he wants you.
Alternatively, if you want to navigate the level up of breastfeeding - bring your baby wrap or sling to a local lactation consultant or breastfeeding support group.
Have them show you tips and positions to help you feed baby on the go.
This is legit rock star status so if you’re in this camp already FUCK YES BITCH!
Tips for Formula Feeding or Combo Feeding Moms
If you’re formula feeding or combo feeding, obbbbbbbviously your shit is going to be easier.
Harder at first because you must still hold the baby until their neck is strong enough so consider the same toy bin situation I mentioned above when baby number 2 is still a newborn.
My toddler loved helping to feed his baby brother, and would often help me prep the bottles, get the formula out. All of it.
This became a sweet routine too and let him know what was coming (i.e., mommy needs like ten minutes or so of uninterrupted time).
Because I formula fed, the feedings were often much shorter than breastfeeding sessions can be, which does make it easier.
If my husband was home, this also allowed us to switch off on who fed the baby.
Once the little man got old enough to hold his own bottle, he could sit at the table with us at dinner and legit feed himself.
Introduce Your Toddler to Other Babies
If your toddler is in daycare, ask if he can be a “helper” in the baby room.
My daycare did this without my knowing about it, and we both loved it.
My toddler was able to go with the teachers and help “play” with the babies.
He learned to practice a gentle touch and was surrounded by so many babies he naturally became quite comfortable at the idea of them. It was easy for him to get a lot of practice in how to behave around them.
The teachers always kept a watchful eye with him, especially since he was so much bigger.
If your child isn’t yet in school, you can plan to attend playdates, story time, or activities where there may be other babies.
Point them out to your toddler and talk about how, soon, your family will have a baby like that.
Talk about how you have to be gentle around babies.
They don’t talk, and they don’t walk, they often don’t even move very much.
Narrate what you see with these babies and allow them to tell you more about what they see.
Remind them that babies sleep a lot, so when that happens, you have to be QUIET. SHHHH. (Etc.)
If you see a baby crying, point it out and say something like “oh that baby is crying because she needs her mommy to feed her or change her diaper, or maybe just give her some extra snuggles like we give you.”
Look. Don’t go running up to random babies you see on the street and have your toddler interact with them. Keep a safe distance. Not all parents are going to be cool with a curious toddler.
But if you notice a parent who notices you talking about the toddler I think it’s totally fine to ask if it’s okay for your toddler to meet the baby - explain that you’re having another baby soon and you’re working on what that looks like for your toddler.
Some rules you should set with your toddler before you do this:
No Face touching - only touch their feet or don’t touch them at all.
Use a quiet, gentle voice. We tell our toddler that babies have smaller ears so loud noises can hurt them.
Also, getting a cute baby doll (such as this one) for your toddler to practice with can go a long way.
You can also use whatever doll you choose in the future for your toddler to “feed” the baby, or for your toddler to “change” baby while you’re doing the same for their newborn sibling.
If you’re not a breastfeeding mom, or if your combo feeding or formula feeding exclusively, you can still use that breast feeding boppy to help support your baby (and free your hands for your toddler).
The boy’s Montessori school often does this when they have multiple babies who need to eat, but with only three teachers in the room, they can’t all hold all of them.
They position the baby with its head elevated on the Boppy on the floor.
This Boppy is slightly more supported for younger newborn babies.
For my son’s daycare professionals , they used this to help feed one baby, but have the use of their full body to rock another baby, or build legos with a toddler (in your case).
If the baby can hold the bottle already by themselves, this helps support a slightly elevated position for drinking the milk and also preventing ear infections.
Let your Toddler Help Decorate and Make Space for the Baby
Have your toddler help (in small ways) with decorating the baby’s room. Hanging up any soft or non breakable items.
Show him the clothes, the blankets, and have him help you put them away in your newborn’s dresser.
Have your toddler help designate a play area for baby - either through a pack n play, some baby gates, or an area with a blanket.
We used this 4 Moms' pack n play more for the play part than for sleeping, and it was so big that it was perfect for my youngest to move around and play with his toys, and still watch his big brother.
Often they’d meet up at the mesh “walls” and entertain each other for hours.
Plan for an Exchange of Sibling Gifts
Hit the dollar store or the $3 bin at Target and stock up on some random little gifts for your toddler.
These little gifts are especially helpful in the early early days of having your newborn.
People will likely bring things for the baby, (but often forget to bring something for the older sibling). Either way, if a friend or family member stops by, break out the new toys/gifts. I even went so far as to wrap them in gift bags to make a big show of it.
This helped entertain the toddler while the guest got to get their newborn smells in.
Give a Buffer Window of Four to Six Months for Any Other Major Changes
Don’t plan to potty train your toddler while you’re also about a month away from having a baby.
Don’t plan to put your toddler in a big boy bed two months after a baby sibling is born.
Give yourself a buffer window of about four to six months (if you can) on either side of baby’s due date
This is hands down the most significant life change your toddler will have ever experienced, and if you can delay any other significant changes or adjustments to their life you’ll be better off.
Here’s another hot tip that I cannot recommend more:
DO NOT MOVE YOUR TODDLER INTO A BIG BOY BED YET.
Look. I get it.
You likely spent a fuck ton of money on a crib, and you want to get the most out of it.
Move your toddler into a big boy bed if you must. But I can PROMISE you this with 99 % certainty.
You run the risk of added stress and drama at bed time and wake ups in the morning.
Children under two and a half have a tough time controlling their impulses and staying in bed is a challenging thing to teach them at that age.
We didn’t transition our boys into toddler beds until they were three years old, and were demonstrating several specific signs. We even potty trained while they were still in cribs and they slept through the night without any bullshit*
I’m sorry for being harsh on this front. I find that a lot of new moms rush this process more often than not and then regret it and unfortunately cannot go back.
When in doubt, don’t do it.
I have a friend who transitioned her one year old to a big boy bed about a month before their new baby was born.
She didn’t know it yet but she was basically fucked for the first full year of her newborn’s life.
If you’re cool with spending the night on the floor in your toddler’s room for about three - ten months after your newborn is born, then go ahead and make this transition.
If it’s too late and you’ve already made the transition (and are starting to freak out about it) run and buy all of the wine.
I do not know how to help you at this point if you’ve transitioned your baby into a big boy bed (and by big boy bed I mean just not a crib - freedom to come and go out of his bed whenever he wants).
If even THEN, you have a toddler who goes to bed with no fuss, stays in their room, and doesn’t throw 50306947 temper tantrums or finds 326507 reasons to come out of their room wanting to hang out with you then you have given birth to a bonafide unicorn.
Never speak of this to any of your friends because you will legit fuck them up for life.
Now, if you have already transitioned your 1 or 2-year old to a big boy bed here are some tips to get you through this shit show.
Ikea has some charming cribs that are legit $100. This is what we bought for both boys (and we got them direct from Ikea for about $130). If you’re not close to an Ikea you can find similar ones on Amazon Prime that are also super cute and on the cheap.
They slept in their cute little cribs that transitioned to toddler beds until they were four years old.
Y’all. $200 for four years of sleep is a STEAL in baby sleep land.
(This is probably another post but for now...if you spent a fuck ton of money on a crib and you need to transition your baby to a toddler bed I salute you and wish you all of the luck and also here’s an article was written by a mom who actually did this and survived (she’s braver than me).
In other words, don’t create more work for yourself.
You’ve got so much on your plate right now, lady.
Introducing Your Baby to their New Sibling
There’s no hard and fast rule about where you choose to introduce your new baby to their older sibling BUT if there’s one hard and fast tip I can provide it’s this:
Allow your toddler to meet the baby on their own time.
Don’t hold your baby an introduce big brother to them.
This is rather traumatic in my experience.
I believe my first memory was of my mother walking in the door holding my baby brother, and I remember feeling very upset about this. I was only 18 months old. Say what you will about when children can retain memories but there it is.
Instead, plan to have big sibling meet the baby when it’s sleeping in a bassinet, car seat, or crib.
Coordinate with a partner or family member to bring the toddler to the hospital when the baby might be asleep for a while.
We did this.
The baby was quietly sleeping in the bassinet, and my oldest was able to come and say hi to me and give me snuggles and hugs, and then I transitioned to asking him at some point, would you like to meet your baby brother?
I’ve heard that you can do it both ways: Introduce the baby to your toddler, or introduce your toddler to your baby. You’ll know which way is “best” based on your toddler’s personality (i.e. if they’re very strong willed , you might want to introduce the baby to the toddler.)
This is the resulting picture of that first moment (and god damn I treasure this picture more than almost any other photo I’ve ever had taken since becoming a mom).
Jack then received two new gifts from his baby brother - a book, and a stuffed toy doggie.
Have Gifts for Your Babies Ready
We provided a book and a stuffed animal (which grew into becoming our oldest favorite lovie toy that he played and slept with for close to two years after).
If you an older toddler, you can go shopping with him to get something for their new baby brother too.
The baby doesn’t really care about any of this but it will mean the world to your toddler and instantly create a positive dynamic between the two.
Get Ready for Bath Time With Two Babies
For weeks until I returned to work my husband practiced the juggling act of how he would bathe my three month old and our two year old.
I worked later than him and because of this, he had to do everything: daycare pick up, feed them dinner, and bath and bedtime routines.
You’ll need to strategize this based on the scheduling of your kids and when they go to bed.
My toddler was going to sleep around 7 PM at that time, but the baby was still taking a bit of quick nap before his real bed time.
So my husband fed the toddler dinner while baby slept in a rocker.
Got the toddler bathed, and to bed and that was about when baby would wake up. Chris would then bathe him, get him another bottle and feed him for a hot sec before putting him to bed.
This routine lasted all of about a month before the baby dropped his fourth nap/pre bed-nap time.
Then it was a matter of picking both of them up early enough. My husband then changed the routine to be giving the baby a bath in the sink while the toddler ate dinner. The toddler would then get to watch a show or read books quietly in his room until the baby was asleep (and thankfully, our second baby was kind of a rock star - we just put him in his bed and let him go to sleep.
For more awesome tips I suggest checking out Sarah at Busy Blooming Joy and her baby sleep tips on this one:
After the baby was asleep, my husband would bathe and read stories to my toddler and then get him to bed.
Sadly, all of this happened long before I even would set foot in my car to head home .
Working moms have the hardest (and sometimes loneliest) job in the world.
Your New Normal With a Toddler and a Newborn Is Going to Be Pretty Amazing
Soon, as they get a bit older, your kids are going to play together and become the best of friends, and you might get to enjoy dinner or a moment with your partner that doesn’t involve spit up, or arguments over eating vegetables.
Having kids close in age is amazing because now, they have a built-in support system with each other.
Every morning when my boys wake up, they ask if the other is awake yet, excited to say hi and start playing with them.
In the end I’m grateful that I was able to have them so close in age. They experience everything so quickly that it’s easier to remember what we did with one (for the most part).
How are you feeling, momma? Ready to join the big show as a family of four? Hopefully these tips can help your toddler get ready to be a sibling.