Congratulations, you're pregnant! Again. A second or third (or fourth) pregnancy brings about a whole new set of concerns, like: How do you prepare your kids for a new baby? One thing is for sure, you don't want to bring their new sibling home from the hospital and yell, "Surprise!"
That said, "there's nothing you can do that can completely prepare your toddler for baby," says Dr. Tanya Altmann, M.D., and author of Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents' Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers. "But there are things you can do to make the experience as fun and positive as possible."
Here's what she suggests.
1. Wait until as far along in your pregnancy as possible before sharing the news. "You want to make sure the baby is okay," says Dr. Altmann. "And a child, whether he's 18 months or 3 years old, can't comprehend the concept of '4 months away.'" Wait until the beginning of your third trimester, or until you start showing. Share the news sooner if you can no longer lift up your toddler -- she'll be wondering why.
2. Keep the baby announcement short and sweet. There's no need to get into a long-winded speech on pregnancy and babies. If friends of your older toddler recently became big siblings, be sure to point that out. "Say things like, 'Look, Sally just became a big sister! That must be so much fun!'" says Dr. Altmann. For younger toddlers, start getting them familiar with babies. "An 18-month-old is probably just learning what the word 'baby' is," she explains. "Show them photos and pictures of babies in books to get them familiar with them." If you've got a toddler (2 or older), get them interested in babies you see at the grocery store or on the playground.
3. Get your "Big Kid" excited about being a sibling. "Say things like, 'You’re a big girl, so you can do X. Babies can't do that yet. They're too little,'" suggests Dr. Altmann. "Or, 'You're going to be such a great big brother!'" Your toddler will be excited about being a "big boy or girl."
4. Let your child help you get the house ready for the baby. The more involved they are in the process, the more exciting it will be for them. "Point to a place on the couch and say, 'You're going to feed the baby right here,'" suggests Dr. Altmann. "You can even get them a baby doll to 'practice' on." And remember, kids are visual, so show them what's happening. "Point to the crib and say, 'Look, the baby is going to sleep here.'"
5. Once the new baby arrives, make sure your toddler knows he is just as important and loved as he always was. Be sure to make one-on-one time with your kids when you can, and let them know that the baby isn't replacing them. "If the newborn is mildly fussing while you're spending time with your toddler, it's okay to tell the baby, 'Mommy is spending time with Katie now,'" says Dr. Altmann. This way, your toddler will know the baby doesn't always come first.
Do you have any tips for getting your toddler ready for a baby?
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