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Preparing Your Child for Baby #2

Photo by: iStock

One day you’re the center of your parents’ universe; the next, you’ve sharing the stage with someone younger, cuter and needier. At least, that’s what the arrival of a second child can feel like to the firstborn. Preparing an older child for this transition takes a lot of time and sensitivity. We talked to child development experts and parents who have been through this process to get some tips on how to do it.

Build Your Baby Library
Reading books helps toddlers and preschoolers understand exactly what life might look like when a new baby arrives. Leighann Marquiss, a mom of four kids and certified life coach in Pittsburgh, PA, says that books — including I’m a Big Sister by Joanna Cole and Angelina’s Baby Sister by Katharine Holabird — helped prepare her 21-month-old firstborn for the arrival of a new baby. “I found it helpful to continue reading these books after the baby was born as well,” she says.

Alison Mitzner, a pediatrician and mom of two, echoes that advice. “I read books up until the day I left for the hospital,” she says. “It really helped my daughter understand what was happening.”

Love Up Your Firstborn
It’s common for little ones to feel afraid they’ll be forgotten or loved less when a new baby arrives. Help your child feel secure in your bond by arranging for lots of one-on-one time with both parents, providing extra snuggles and verbally reinforcing that you will always love them. “No matter how many kids I had when I added another baby, I was purposeful to say to my little kids that Mommy loved them so much,” says Leighann. She suggests getting specific about what makes them special. “Their kindness, their creativity, their passionate pursuit of their hobbies. Things that are tangible in their minds to who they are as a person.”

Involve Him in Baby Prep
If your firstborn can’t keep the role of baby, at least he can get excited for his new role as Mom’s helper. Let him help you pick out furnishings for the nursery, put baby clothes away and create pictures to hang near the baby’s crib. While you work, talk about what life will be like when the baby comes and how he’ll be involved in caring for the baby. Say things like, “I’ll have to change the baby’s diaper a lot, maybe sometimes when you and I are playing. But you can help me by bringing me a diaper and singing to the baby until I’m done.”

Exchange Gifts
A little light bribery can be very helpful in convincing your firstborn that a new baby is a good thing. Dr. Mitzner suggests having your child pick out a gift to give to the new baby, as well as stashing away a gift for the baby to “give” to your older child once she’s born. “Your child will feel so special and excited to give something to their new sibling — and excited to get something as well!” she says.

Kathryn Walsh is a freelance writer specializing in parenting and travel topics. Her work has appeared on,, and

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