For an only child, adjusting to a new baby can be difficult, especially when that child is a toddler. Since Ava has been born I’ve been asked a lot about how she is doing. This is usually quickly followed by an inquiry into how Keira is adjusting to no longer being the baby.
They assume she is reacting badly and feeling jealous or confused. The reality? She is adjusting well!
Keira loves babies, one of her first words was “Baybay” and she still proudly chants it over and over. She has baby dolls she loves to carry around and take care of. Still, I worried nearly every single day of my pregnancy about how she would react to Mommy and Daddy bringing home a real baby.
After nearly 2 years of being an only child and the centre of our Universe, it would have been no surprise had Keira reacted by acting out for attention or withdrawing when we brought home Ava. Thankfully I was proactive even prior to her arrival to talk to Keira nearly daily about the baby coming, still I knew that would not be enough.
Keira was all too happy to visit me in the hospital once Ava arrived and all smiles when she was able to hold the baby. This lasted for all of five minutes when she seemed to realize that she wasn’t the centre of attention and proceeded to ignore everything baby. I began to worry at this point but knew that bringing Ava home would be the true test.
Once home Keira was clearly not happy with the situation. She was visibly but quietly upset. Granted she also had not yet had a nap and it was mid-afternoon and it turns out that was a big part of her reaction. After nap time we let her hold Ava and give her kisses. When I went to swaddle Ava for her nap on the change table, Keira was right there happily and ‘helpfully’ handing me a couple of cloth bum wipes. My heart nearly burst with love when I saw how eager Keira was to accept her new little sister.
Since then she often talks about “baybay” and yells at me if I don’t immediately get up when Ava starts crying.
Most of this I can only put down to Keira’s sweet disposition. She is probably the happiest little girl I have ever met, and that isn’t just the mommy talking!
For those dealing with a rougher adjustment period there are things you can do to help your Toddler Adjust to a New Baby.
1) The Hospital Visit. When your Toddler comes to see you in the hospital, make it about seeing you and not so much about meeting the new baby. They want to see you, not the baby. Get them off to a good start by respecting that.
2) Coming Home. Have your Toddler come to the hospital when it is time to bring baby home. That way it will feel more like they are involved in bringing home the new baby rather than feeling intruded on.
3) Make time for your Toddler. This might seem obvious, but it is so important. Set aside some time just for your Toddler every day.
4) Routine. While life with a new baby can get hectic to say the least, it can help to try and stick to the usual routine with your toddler. For us that means cuddling together in the morning on the couch while she has her morning milk, bedtime bath and the usual routine that goes along with it. This can be very reassuring to your Toddler that they aren’t being replaced and are still very important to you.
5) Let them help you. Get your toddler to help you get things for the baby – diaper, wipes, bottle etc… and be sure to thank them for it.
6) Remember your Toddler is still a baby. Don’t set your expectations high, and try not to get frustrated if your toddler acts out. It isn’t fair to them for you to expect more than what they can handle developmentally. They may react by acting out or by being needy. This is completely normal, especially if your Toddler was an only child and used to being you end all and be all.
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How did your other children react when you had a new baby?
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