A Second Baby

A Second Baby

Having a second baby brings about many changes in the family that will effect everyone including your other child. Toddlers around two years find it a particularly stressful time because they have not yet built up a sense of security. The new baby arrives and because the parents are spending more time with the baby, feeding etc and less time with the toddler, the toddler can feel left out and unloved. There are many things a parent can do to help their toddler feel secure and reduce the attention seeking behaviour resulting from the arrival of a new baby.

Preparation before the baby arrives

  • It is a good idea to prepare your toddler for the arrival of the new baby. This is best done later in the pregnancy because toddlers have no understanding of time and do not understand how long it is to wait a week for something to happen.
  • Involve your toddler nearer the end of your pregnancy by including her/him in visits to the doctor and in plans for the arrival of the new baby. For example choosing a piece of equipment or an outfit for the baby, this should be offered as a limited choice of perhaps two buggies or two outfits you would be happy with. Some children like to prepare for the baby by copying what is happening in their play with their dolls. This gives you an opportunity to make positive noticing comments while they are playing – noticing comments describe what the child is doing and has been found to have a very positive effect on children’s confidence and self esteem.
  • Avoid moving your toddler from a cot to a bed too close to the birth. If you do decide to make the move to a bed it is best done three to four months before the birth therefore making it a special event in your toddler’s life and not attached to the birth of the baby.
  • Many parents become anxious to have their toddler toilet trained before the birth but unless your toddler is showing readiness for toilet training it is not a good idea to start at this time.
  • Most hospital births today do not involve a long stay in hospital. However if for some reason you need to spend longer in hospital it is important that your toddler sees you frequently and is made special at the visits to the hospital. Reminders of mummy at home can also be helpful e.g. looking at photographs of mummy and cards sent by mummy everyday can be read out to your toddler. The cards can be written beforehand and put with the post each morning for your toddler to collect.

When the baby comes home

Be prepared for some changes in your toddler’s behaviour. Even the best prepared toddler will need time to adjust to the arrival of the new baby and the changes that has brought to family life.
The reality that the baby is not going back to the hospital and is here to stay will be hard to understand and the following behaviours are common:

  • Your toddler may want to be breast fed or want a bottle, want you to help him with tasks that he could previously perform himself e.g. putting on his coat or feeding himself. Remaining calm during these times, helping your toddler with tasks when appropriate, noticing and praising achievements will help him/her to feel better more quickly.
  • Misbehaviour and tantrums especially when you are feeding the baby can be coped with by naming your child’s feelings. Saying something like “I love playing with you and I can see that you feel upset now because I am feeding the baby and can’t play with you but if you could bring me your book we could read it together”. Keeping some special activities for your toddler while you are feeding the baby and allowing them to help by handing you a clean nappy can also work well.
  • Hitting the new baby is also a common behaviour. It is best to show your toddler how to touch the baby gently. If your toddler hits the baby, remove the baby from the situation, get down to eye level with your toddler and explain that hitting is not allowed, acknowledge the angry feelings by saying something like “I can see that you are angry but we do not hit”
  • Stories about new babies can also be helpful in explaining feelings experienced by toddlers about new babies

Try to have some time with your toddler alone every day and if possible get someone to look after the baby sometimes so that you can have that special time with your toddler. Notice the good behaviour and remember to give lots of hugs, kisses and approving smiles during the day.

Frances Byatt-Smith RN RHV BA Psychology


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