Adding a second child to your family is a magical, fun and exciting time for you and your partner. After the uncertainty that accompanies your first child, the knowledge that you’ve “done it all before” can be a welcome relief! However, it can also be. For previously “only” children, the prospect of a new brother or sister out to steal toys and attention can be scary and confusing. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to ease the transition for everyone and welcome a new baby into your home with as much grace as you can muster while juggling a demanding toddler and a sniffling newborn.
When Baby #2 first arrives, there is likely to be excitement all around. Your toddler will relish in the attention of being a big brother or sister and enjoy feeling important. However, as soon as they realize that they are no longer the center of mommy’s universe, chaos may ensue. But by using the aid of dolls before and after your babies arrival, you are able to teach your first born about sibling relationships, taking care of babies and the equality and love between family members.
Begin your first-born’s “newborn education” months before the baby is born by buying him or her a baby doll and teaching her how to love and care for the baby properly. Show her how to hold baby and support his head, how to caress gently and how to hug with care. Talk about the things babies like (like soft sounds) and don’t like (like sudden movements and yelling).
In addition to exploring baby-friendly affection, teach her about all of the actions that go into caring for a baby, like feeding, diaper changing, bathing and burping. Spend quality time together caring for the doll, and explain that when your new baby comes he will require all of the same care and attention. Emphasize your excitement that you will get to care for your babies together, and talk about helping each other. Don’t forget to mention to your oldest that while babies might seem like needy little attention-hogs, all of that love and care is necessary so that the baby grows up to be just as awesome as she already is!
To double down on the work you’ve been doing with your child’s doll, encourage your child to explore caring for two dolls at once, since soon there will be two children in your family. You can use sibling dolls that are sold in sets, any two dolls your child already has or stuffed animals if that is what your child selects to encompass her “family.”
If your child is old enough, role play different scenarios involving both dolls, like that it is dinner and both babies want to eat or it is bed time and both want to hear different stories. Guide your child in finding a solution that makes both of their “children” happy, and ask them how they think each of their babies feels. Help your child realize that just because a baby is fed first or put to bed second it does not mean they are loved any less! Both children are special, important and loved, just as they and their future sibling will be, but sometimes they have different needs.
By the time your new infant arrives, your child should be used to the idea of baby care and siblings. With their basic understanding of family structure and division of attention they will be more prepared when they start to experience the same situations in your household. Still, don’t be surprised the first time your toddler wails when a trip to the park is delayed because the baby is napping. Gently remind them of their experiences caring for two dolls at once, and explain again that even though people have different needs at different times, every member of the family is heard, important and loved. Prove to your child that sometimes their needs come first by letting them make decisions when you can or not immediately sprinting from your toddler’s side when the baby cries.
As you care for your new baby, your toddlers doll can be used to instill a sense of purpose in your family routine. You can care for your babies together by sitting quietly side-by-side and feeding them, putting them down for naps at the same time and having snuggle sessions together on the couch.
Bringing a new member into the family can and will be a challenging transition for everyone, and it is important to remember that there will be starts and stops, changes, days of awe and wonder and nights of endless tears and dirty diapers. But by discussing and practicing themes of infant care, turn taking and sibling love you can ease the transition for the entire family and make your first born just as excited to love their new sibling as they are to cradle their baby doll to sleep.
Miranda Imperi contributed this article on behalf of Mooshka dolls, soft dolls for toddlers that are available as sibling sets.