Preparing Your Child for the New Baby: A Trimester by Trimester Guide

    As the firstborn child, your toddler or preschooler is king. It's perfectly normal for him to believe that he exists at the center of the universe and is entitled to all that his position has to offer – especially 100 percent of his parents' attention. You know that with the arrival of Baby No. 2, your "royal subject" is going to lose his throne - but your little one has no idea of what's in store. All the more reason for you to prepare him for the arrival of his new sib. The trick? Start introducing him to the idea trimester by trimester, mixing in plenty of humor and unconditional love.

    First Trimester
    • At some time before the end of the third month, tell your older child that a new sibling is on the way. Doing so will give him several months to adjust to your talking "baby" talk, including listening to others' comments about the "news," and will help him not to feel left out when the adults around him are discussing your pregnancy. Of course, if you tell your child before you tell other people, you'll have to be prepared for him to be the “reporter” of the news instead of you!

    • Make a calendar as a teaching tool for your child, geared to the time frame for the baby’s expected arrival. Together, cross out the days as they come and go in order to visually communicate to your child just how many days and nights will pass before the baby comes. Doing so will also help you and your child reflect on the good times you spend each day, further reinforcing the importance of his relationship with you now…and when your family grows.

    Second Trimester

    • As your child grows accustomed to lots of new baby discussion, describe what will happen when her sibling comes home, using positive but realistic terms. For example, if she loves to play house, she might imagine the new baby coming home ready to join her at a teddy-bear tea party. So talk about how you can all work together to help the baby grow to become a playmate.

    • If you have friends with young babies, invite them over - it can help your older child understand what an infant's helplessness and need for nurturing look and feel like.

    • If your situation allows and you haven't done it yet, think about moving your child out of the nursery and into a big bed" if your family’s situation allows. Use this time to select furniture and accessories that he'll like as he grows out of his baby tastes. Try to involve him in choosing his new accessories, bedding, or other room décor, such as paint colors.

    Third Trimester:

    • If your older child is going to move to a big bed or a new room, make the shift early enough so he has time to get used to the new arrangement before the new baby arrives. Give yourself some “insurance” time to start this process—just in case the new baby comes early—by making this transition in the seventh month.

    • Invite her to help prepare the nursery for the new baby while discussing what babies need, so she can begin understanding and empathizing with her sibling-to-be.

    • Help pave the way for your child's adjustment to the changes a new sibling brings to his world: Tell him how much your baby will need to sleep and why it's important to have quiet time while he does so. This will help set the ground rules you will need to manage the ups and downs of blending the big and little people in your household.

    • Point out the advantages of being a big sister, such as being able to talk and be understood and also to run and play - things that babies can't do.

    • Separate toys into baby and big-kid categories as a way to help prevent territorial wars between the siblings and to help reassure your older child that her toys will still belong to her after the new baby comes.

    • Begin encouraging more independent play. Toddlers and preschoolers are home-base people - they generally don't like to spend much time away from their primary caretakers, but you can help develop independent play habits. Set the timer for ten minutes and tell your child that if she can entertain herself until the ringer sounds, then she can have 30 minutes of playtime with you. Do this every day, or as often as you can - but make sure that independent play doesn't mean watching DVDs or TV alone.