Everyone advised us to prepare the toddler for the arrival of the baby by telling him there’s a baby in mummy’s tummy. He even goes for gynae visits with us. He always kisses mummy’s tummy before he sleeps. We also prepared presents for them to “give” to each other on their first meeting. We followed all these advices. But no matter what you do, you simply cannot prepare a toddler for the actual thing. I hope my experience and the things that my hubby and I did to introduce and help our toddler accept the baby would help your family too. Whatever it is, it is a lifetime process of ensuring all the kids you have feel that they are loved and do not need to vie with each other for your attention.
The first day when baby was born (the toddler was just shy of his 2nd birthday) and daddy went to fetch the toddler from childcare, it was the worst. When he came into the hospital room, I can’t imagine what was going through his little head. Why was mummy lying there on the foreign bed? Who is that baby in the transparent box? Why were all the relatives so excitedly and loudly calling him korkor? He didn’t stay long and left crying all the way home. So much for exchanging presents on their first meeting. That night, the daddy messaged all relatives and friends to let them know of our situation. We welcome visits whether at the hospital or at home. However when they come, they have to say hi to our #1 first, (as they usually do) and call him by name, not “korkor”. This is important because he is so used to being the centre of attention and it has been that way for his entire life!
The next day, instead of bring him to childcare, they both came to the hospital to spend the day there. He played with the toy that baby “bought” for him. And this picture is his first interaction with her. He was just curious and wanted to see the tiny little baby. It probably helped as well that I was mobile and walked around and played with him and even carried him. Later that day, when friends and family dropped by, we really appreciated that they did what we suggested and it really helped our boy cope with the new addition in the family! This starts us on the journey of helping him get adjusted to the new member of the family! When we got home, he will go and peep at her whilst she is in the play pen. He will also want to take a look at her before he sleeps. A relationship is building, but we do not want to rush things at all. Up to now, he has never made any contact with her at all. We didn’t want to force it though we would really love to have a picture of him carrying his little sister. In the initial days, baby pooped a lot and it became a habit for him to watch me change the soiled diapers. He will peer over the changing table and watch me change. Sometimes he will remind me to “put cream” on baby. I latched on his interest and got him to help out. Although the diapers were just next to me, i will ask him to pass me a diaper which he will gladly do so. He appeared that he likes to help and wanted to be part of the things I do with the baby. So when I feed baby, I will get him to bring me the towel, or after I change baby, I will get his help to put her PJs/clothes into the laundry basket. This helps a lot because he gets praised everytime he does a task for me :) It took 3 weeks for him to make his first self-initiated contact with her. He will point to her head or her nose and then to his own head or nose. He is very intrigued probably by her small size and we are happy with every contact he made with her. It led to patting her when she is crying, or telling her to wait when she is crying. All these are “milestones” that we are really happy about and we praise him for all the little moves he makes. Most of these happened when baby was about 4-6 weeks old.
Some other things I did was to try to include him when I was nursing. That way, he didn’t feel that when I nursed, I didn’t have time for him. I will sit on the sofa and nurse, and get him to choose a book and cuddle next to me while I read to him. In this way, he felt I was spending time with him and was not rejecting him.
He used to be quite independent at walking when we were outside. Now he wants to be carried more often. Yes, we carried him though he is 15kg. Anything to make him feel that we do not love him less. Investing in good carriers help a lot. My favourites are my Tulas to be used on him as they help to distribute the weight very well. However, he prefers the slings. I use the ring slings more as they are better weight distributors compared to the baba sling (the free sg50 one) which makes my neck/shoulder ache after a while. I carry him when we go out for our 1-on-1 times. It could be to a nearby playground, or just a bus ride to our dinner venue or to the grandparent’s house. We create time to spend outside alone. He likes to take the bus. So sometimes when we go out for family dinners, the daddy will drive the baby while I take bus with the toddler to meet at the dinner venue. When we run out of ideas, we sign up for events like the Rise and Shine Carnival so i will bring him out to play while the daddy stays home to babysit. And coming soon is the Cold Storage kids run which I am so looking forward to! At home, whenever he is home, I will try not to carry the baby at all unless I’m feeding. I will leave the carrying and changing of diapers to the daddy. Sometimes when the baby is crying, I will ask him if I can carry the baby. Sometimes he will say yes. Sometimes not. When his answer is no, the daddy will carry. Of course I will not ask him if I do not have a choice! One night while drinking milk, he requested for baby (he doesn’t refer to her as meimei) to lie down next to him. We were surprised but of course we obliged! We realised he likes her to be around him more and more. All these while I will attempt to ask if he wants to carry her so I can take the photo that I so often see on my friends’ social media pages with their older ones holding the babies. But he always said no and we respected his choice. After 2 months, he still doesn’t want to refer to her as his meimei. But he will call her “baby Enen”. And when we ask where’s meimei, he will point to her. Another surprise for us came one morning when I was busy doing some household chores and baby was crying. he went to grab a used bottle of hers and wanted to feed her! We stopped him but I think we did it too harshly and frantically as he was about to stuff the used bottle into her mouth. We made up by filling a new bottle with some milk and allowed him to feed his sister which he so enjoyed doing! After 2 months, I finally got the photo I wanted. Of him holding his little sister :) I asked him one night if he would like to carry meimei and I was surprised that his answer is yes, and so we allowed him to! He is such a loving brother and we are so proud of how he has adjusted this past 2 months! Baby is now 11 weeks old. The toddler is still adjusting and we as parents are still trying to make time for him whenever we can. He is learning to accept but yet sometimes would throw tantrums that are really terrible. It is not an instant thing and we know it is a lifelong process. There are many other changes we have made like sleeping arrangments, bath arrangements, etc. We are really glad at his progress and we can’t wait for the little baby to grow up more so they would be able to play together. My advice to friends though, its to have the next baby before 18 months or after 2.5 years. Not that the struggle will not be there, but it could be easier. Do comment if you do have any more tips that me or other parents can try out. Once again, we hope that by sharing our experience with you, you would have more ideas on how to cope with a toddler and a newborn :)