Before the Baby Arrives

  • Toddlers don’t have an understanding of time – for example, six months can be a long time to wait. Tell your child about what is happening later in the pregnancy when they can see what is happening – you can involve them in things like visiting the doctor and planning where the baby will sleep
  • Many toddlers will be fascinated to learn the baby is growing inside you. Many books contain pictures of the developing baby, which you can talk about together
  • Include your toddler in planning for the baby e.g. choosing baby clothes
  • Some toddlers enjoy having a doll as their “baby” and making the same sort of preparations as you do
  • About six weeks before the event, bring out baby clothes and other items, and allow your toddler to play with these so that they are not such novelties when the baby arrives
  • Don’t change your toddler from a cot to a bed too close to the birth
  • Don’t try to toilet train your toddler around the time of the birth
  • To avoid giving your child the impression that there will be an “instant playmate,” perhaps tell them stories of their babyhood, and show them photos of them sleeping, feeding etc. This will help in teaching your toddler about the gentle approach to little babies
  • If you have a partner who has not been very involved in your toddler’s care, now is the time to encourage this (particularly bathing, stories and settling them for the night), particularly as it can foster a really good relationship

When Mother is in Hospital

  • Ensure your toddler has as much contact with their mother as possible. Even if they cry when they have to leave, it is better for them to know where mother is, and to see her. It also helps to make your toddler feel special during visits and for the mother not to be holding or nursing the baby
  • Many toddlers like having a postcard from their mother arrive in the post. They may also get comfort from minding something for their mother, such as the car keys, while she is away
  • By restricting daytime visitors to your toddler and partner, your child will not have to compete for attention. A supply of activities for your toddler (books, puzzles and so on) will help make the experience an enjoyable one
  • Let your toddler have a photo of their mother to keep
  • A present from the baby to big brother or sister may help. Your toddler may also like to choose a gift for the baby

    When the New Baby Comes Home

  • Your toddler may go back to younger behaviour for a while. Letting them do this, without getting cross, will help them feel better more quickly. You could also show them the advantages of being bigger and older

  • Show your toddler you understand their feelings e.g. “I know you feel cross when I am feeding the baby and you want to play. I wish I could play with you too.”

  • Arrange special activities for your toddler when you are feeding the baby (e.g. a doll they can feed, a favourite video or telling them a story). A “Busy Basket,” full of things like small packets of sultanas, puzzles, books, thick crayons and so on that are constantly changed will provide continual interest in the activity

    Using a baby sling may be helpful if the baby needs lots of cuddling or to be kept upright during feeds, and gives you two hands free for other things, and also makes outings easier, using a stroller for your toddler and a sling for the baby

    Read stories about new babies that show that show the older child feeling both happy and sad about the new baby

    Teach your toddler to touch the baby gently, but always be there to make sure the baby is safe. Guide their hands to stroke the baby’s arms and legs and let the baby grasp their finger. Comments like “The baby likes you stroking her” and “She likes looking at you” make them feel good about showing love to the baby. If they want to look at the baby and cuddle, let them both lie side by side on the bed

    • Visitors should be encouraged to at first ignore the baby and make a big fuss of the older children. Asking the older child if they can see the new baby may help overcome feelings of possessiveness
    • Let your toddler know that aggressive behaviour is not allowed. If they hit the baby, remove them from the situation with words such as “You’re feeling very cross, but we don’t hit.” Don’t let your child hit you either. You need to teach them that hitting is not the way to show angry feelings
    • It is important to keep the child’s environment as stable and predictable as possible, as it is within this familiar framework that your child feels safe
    • Make a special time for your toddler every day, no matter how small. It may be helpful to accept any offers to mind your baby
    • Make sure that your toddler knows they are loved

    Adapted from Parenting 0-5 Years: Caring for Babies and Toddlers, published by the New South Wales Department of Community Services ( Your Toddler and the New Baby, published by the Australian Breastfeeding Association, (02) 8853 4999

    Entertaining Toddlers: Recommended Activities

    The Australian Breastfeeding Association book Fun and Games provides a comprehensive range of practical, fun activities that cater for every occasion, and is suitable for children between the ages of 2 and 6. It is available through your local Australian Breastfeeding Association group or by mail order from Mothers Direct. Many of these activities may also be used while you are breastfeeding the baby. Below are some suggestions:

    2½ – 4 years:

    • Other children to play with (best of all!), although ensure there are enough toys to share and that items special to your child are put away if they don’t like to share them
    • Things to sort: coloured non-spring clothes pegs and a round tine to slip them on, plastic zoo animals, coloured plastic bottle tops, dominoes, large buttons etc.
    • Put away your child’s favourite toys and bring them out one at a time, especially on rainy days

    4 – 6 years:

    • Guessing games: “I spy,” “Something coloured,” “I’m thinking of an animal that has…” etc.
    • Be on the lookout for local toy libraries to join

    Papier-mâché work: make paste from ½ cup of flour, adding enough cold water to make a creamy consistency, then heat and boil for a few minutes, stirring all the time. A balloon coated with about six layers of paper covered in this paste and left to dry can be decorated as a head or animal using scraps of material, wool, wood shavings, buttons etc.


    Mention the ABA brochure on siblings and entertaining siblings while breastfeeding. Has some good tips on how to manage a new baby arriving

    The “ideal” age for spacing between siblings (3 or 4 years) but at least 2 years old if at all possible (as by then the child has words/language to express themselves)

    ?3 years best (years as a gap).

    Very important to re-establish relationship with husband before next one. It may be lost in 5-6 years time after all the kids have arrived. Sex for pleasure, not procreation should be there before you try again

    Important to develop a relationship with baby (the emotional side of it)

    The mother needs to go through loss of baby, grieving the intimacy – if you have another at 12 months it’s much too soon and the letting go will not be done with the first one.

    The primary narcissism of every child – discuss (if I am so good why would they want another!)

    The role of the father – Mo’s need to let them go to the father. Child needs experience of a different way – there is no perfect way! Fa and baby work out their own way of relating.

    Attachment/Bonding great (1:1 has to move to change/family – Mo can abuse her power to keep a1:1 relationship) à has to go to Family Unit – being a family, concept of a group is very important for the babies development.

    Don’t do what is convenience, do what works best for baby

    Jealousy + anger are normal and need to be acknowledged and be allowed to be seen and talked about with the older sibling.

    Feeding (both)

    • Baby needs to be protected – its space from toddler (on the breast or in mums arms) need to be able to trust that you did give the older child enough and now they can wait.
    • As Toddler separates there is Loving & hating – and when you come through you get to resilience which is a good lesson for the toddler to have had about life
    • Surviving relationship through weaning – often there is the fear of the loss of intimacy – when in fact this is often then replaced with a good chatting relationship but a child can chatt better at 3 then at 2!
    • Independence culture! Gets pushed too much before the child is ready to separate. ? fear of dependency?

    Parents need to take responsibility for having another baby – not the child (eg do you want a brother?), you enjoyed having them so you want to have another one, you have lots of love to give.

    • Help toddler manage their aggressive feelings
    • Parents need to bear the consequence of their action – normalise having a baby! (not the toddler’s baby – mummy and daddy decided).
    • Enjoy your toddler! (Not put them into day care) terrific 2’s
    • Toddler – enjoyment of the world (not a rejection (?) of mother) + enjoy their differentiation, allowing them to separate out and enjoy this process
    • Mothers who can’t say no to toddlers need boundaries – development of capacity to say no! (this is very important)
    • Some mothers get something from dependence of a baby – (perversion of motherhood concept it can be an abuse of you power as a mother – Estella Weldon, ‘Mother Madonna Whore’


    ABA brochure – Your Toddler and the New Baby.

    Available for $5 from Australian Breastfeeding Association. (03) 9885 0855