Pregnancy Week 32: Preparing a toddler for big-siblinghood

It’s another eeeeeaaaarly morning in the TLMB household, and a “late again” post from yours truly. Let’s skip the excuses and move along to the good stuff.

Week 32 pregnancy stats

Baby is… FOUR POUNDS (or just under) and again, around 17 inches. The size of a half-gallon of milk, a large jicama, or a napa cabbage. I like the half-gallon of milk reference because it sounds the heaviest, and this baby feels like a half-ton of sentient bricks rolling around in my uterus.

Aside from enormous, I’m feeling about as good as can be expected this far along. I had a weird dizzy spell the other evening that seems to be pretty common (and was not accompanied by any worrisome headache or swelling, before anyone asks.) Squatting, reaching, rolling over and shoe-tying require a lot more grunting than usual, I still have a perpetually stuffy nose, and apparently I snore now. The nesting instinct is still both fierce and usually abandoned to more pressing priorities, such as laundering The Toddler’s clothes so he has underwear to wear, or swapping out the frozen water for the goats and chickens (Oh, hey winter! Forgot you were a thing.)

Anyway, since I haven’t been able to keep up with my schedule of posting more than once a week, I thought I’d give you a twofer and share a short list of ways we’ve been preparing The Toddler (who will turn two a week before our due date) for the arrival of his little brother or sister.

Pregnancy week 32

Preparing Toddler for the New Baby

  1. Including the baby in conversations. The Toddler is talking up a storm these days. Sometimes I will ask him to tell the baby what we did that day, or show the baby a picture he drew, etc. Basically trying to regularly remind him there’s a person in there in a low-key way on a regular basis, and not just, “Please don’t step on my belly, you’re going to squish the baby.” I think this casual, inclusive approach has served me well so far, as The Toddler will often pull up my shirt to “see baby” and will hold up his toys to my belly, press his face against it, or just chat for a minute. It’s very heart-melty.
  2. Lots of books. We’re library rats, and every time I see a book with a sibling relationship in it, I try to grab it (all library browsing is done at top speed while The Toddler ransacks the children’s room). They aren’t all about new babies, and while I haven’t shied away from books about the mechanics of it all, he’s not really interested. The one we’re currently reading over and over again is Gemma and Gus, one of the “Gossie & Friends” series by Olivier Dunrea. We also read The Baby is Here! (Daniel Tiger) two million times.
  3. Exposure therapy. Probably a mislabel since he absolutely does not have a baby phobia, but I have lucked out in having several friends with new babies and have also recently joined the local chapter of a MOMS club. So every chance I get, I introduce The Toddler to a new baby. During these greetings, with the baby’s mom’s permission, I try to let The Toddler gently touch a foot or hand while describing how the baby interacts with the world–lots of sleeping, not a lot of moving around, no playing yet, and only eating milk. I know the reality of sharing his parents is not going to sink in full force until he’s doing it, but I’m hoping these repeated introductions to babies will give him a little perspective on how his little sibling will need a lot of help at first and instill whatever degree of empathy he’s capable of at this stage.
  4. Baby dolls. Baby dolls are for all kids, not just girls, of course. The Toddler has three (I recently bought him a very small, soft-bodied baby to go along with the bigger, hard-plastic ones he got from his grandmas). He likes to push them around in a stroller, or wear the smallest baby in a toy backpack on his back (like I carry him in his carrier sometimes still), pretend to feed them, etc. He even has started demanding that I change their diapers, and he steps up on a little stool at the changing table to pick out a diaper to put on them.
  5. Encouraging a spirit of helpfulness. The Toddler is becoming more independent as he approaches two, and wanting to do lots of things himself. Of course, this leads to a lot of power struggles, but whenever possible I try to harness this independence for good, and ask him to help me with easy chores (stacking up toilet paper rolls in the bathroom closet, handing me clean spoons out of the dishwasher, feeding the pets.) I always say, “Thanks, helper!” and can see he takes a lot of pride in these little chores, so hopefully this will carry through when I’m trapped under a nursing baby and really need him to bring me something.
  6. Introducing a part-time daycare routine. My freelancing work has picked up lately, and will stay busy through my due date, which has pushed me to do something I’ve been intending but putting off: enrolling The Toddler in a part-time daycare a couple days a week. We had a visit on Thursday last week, and his first morning will be tomorrow. While I’m not super thrilled at the inevitable myriad of colds he’ll bring home with him, I am thrilled he’ll be getting more running-around time, developmental enrichment and exposure to children his age. I’ve been really trying the past few months to provide this for him, but my energy is low, and I know it will only be harder to do in the first few months after baby arrives. So as long as we can afford it, we’ll keep up this routine.
  7. We got a TV. I’m not as proud of this item on my list as the others, but I’ve conceded it’s a necessity. Up until now, we haven’t had a TV in our living room. When pregnancy fatigue steamrolled me a few months ago, I caved and started letting The Toddler watch Daniel Tiger on my laptop. As is customary, I feel immense guilt about this. However, while an episode or two of age-appropriate TV isn’t going to kill him, climbing onto our trash can (something he did earlier this week) while I’m nursing a baby might. And a laptop isn’t exactly toddler-proof, so we bought a TV this week. I will use it judiciously keep him entertained and safe when I’m occupied with the baby (or, in the meantime, while I’m dizzily chugging water or clambering to make dinner.)

Still to come:

  • Preparing for first introduction. When The Toddler comes to visit us after the baby is born, our plan is to have the baby in a bassinet and first shower The Toddler in affection and attention before we introduce the baby to him. We’re also planning on picking out a small present “from the baby” to give him. These are pretty standard recommendations for helping The Toddler not to feel too displaced.
  • Busy bags for breastfeeding time. I’m planning on breastfeeding again, and can’t really wrap my head around how I’m going to keep The Toddler busy during marathon nursing sessions (and don’t want the aforementioned TV to be the only tool in my toolbox). I got a great recommendation from a MOMS club friend who has four kids, including a new baby: Make up a few boxes/bags of special toys that only come out during nursing time, and must be put away when it’s over. This keeps them exciting and novel and helps keep the big sibling happily occupied, at least in theory. I’m not sure yet what will go in these bags–The Toddler still always wants help/my active participation when he’s coloring or playing with Playdough, etc.–so if anyone has any ideas, please let me know!
Pregnancy Week 32: Preparing a toddler for big-siblinghood

2 thoughts on “Pregnancy Week 32: Preparing a toddler for big-siblinghood

  1. I have a handful of friends who already had a 2nd after we had our firsts. They are nursing again. From the sounds of it you basically just hold or wear your baby and nurse as you do other things around the house or with your toddler. Like there isn’t really time to stop leisurely sit around and “just nurse” unless it’s after the toddler goes to bed.

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