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Toddlers and newborns: 10 tips plus the best books for new siblings

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

Coping with a toddler and newborn plus a book list of new sibling books for toddlers.

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I still remember sitting in my midwife's office, pregnant with my second child and feeling a complete sense of overwhelm through the nausea. She saw the doubt that shows up for us chronic over-thinkers and shared the advice my heart needed to hear.

You are giving your daughter the greatest gift..a sibling.

Those words stuck with me. But it probably took until my son was a young toddler for me to really feel what she meant. Over the years, witnessing the connection my two kids have with each other has been one of the unexpected, heart-exploding joys of motherhood for me.

But like any siblings, along with the highs, come the lows, especially for parents of toddlers and newborns.

parenting tips and the best books for new siblings
Sharing tips and the best books for introducing a new sibling

And when kids are under age 4, and you're coping with a toddler and a newborn, the lows bring a different sort of challenge.

  • You may see a regression in toddlers after the new baby sibling brings big changes to the family.

  • You may see your toddler starting to act like a baby, because your toddler sees how much intimate, doting attention the baby receives.

  • You can see your toddler blame the baby for you being too busy to help or play. Then comes your toddler acting out after the new baby's arrival, or the house being taken down by persistent toddler tantrums.

And let's be clear, life is all about play for toddlers.

And you can't really *play* with an infant.

So it's not surprising some toddlers will have a tough transition with their new baby sibling.

What can you do to set up for the new sibling transition, and avoid potty training regressions in toddlers?

Read on for tips, resources, as well as my ultimate list of best books for new siblings!

First let's look at my picks for the best books for new siblings.

I've found that books help me as a mom talk through the hard stuff with my kids. So many children's books help give you an easy framework to talk about a big topic (like a new baby sibling!). Picture books can be so supportive in sparking little chats with toddlers. Here are 13 of the best books for new siblings.

1. Maple

This sweet board book brings us through a journey of a girl named Maple, after a tree gets planted in her honor, and how that tree and the girl grow. And in time, so did her family.

One of my all-time favorite new sibling books to share with toddlers, this picture book resonated with me on so many levels (in part because I was a shorter kid growing up!), but mainly because the toddler's introduction to meeting the new baby sibling is just so sweet, as are the watercolor illustrations in this book. I also love the way this sibling book shares the ideas of small and big.

With a good amount of humor and vibrant illustrations to amuse everyone, this book shares how Elmore Green adapts to a new small person who comes along and changes everything in his life.

This book acts as a guide for big brothers or big sisters, sharing how the new baby sibling will develop and learn to crawl, walk, and laugh in their first years of life. The book is a handy tool for helping toddlers learn about how babies change in their first 18 months, including ideas for how the toddler can help with the new baby. Fun facts make this book a fun read-aloud (did you know that babies are born with more bones than grownups?!).

This sweet book focuses on a little girl who becomes a big sister and shares positive messaging of her taking on that new role and in time, taking on the big world of adventures together with her little brother.

If you're looking to answer big questions from your toddler and want an entrance to talking about where babies come from, this lift-the-flap board book shares simple connections (egg and sperm come together) along with facts about where animal babies come from (like a bird showing off in mating.) Other topics follow through the book in the same way (when babies are born for a mother as well as for a baby elephant.)

The classic cartoon bears share the story of how Small Bear meets his new baby sibling in this picture book. And the book brings in other another big milestone that often happens when a new baby sibling arrives — moving to a big bed.

This classic book may not be for everyone if you worry about your child copycatting the character, but for us, it was a sweet funny book about Frances the big sister running away (to under the dining table) where she is missed greatly and learns a family is when everybody is together.

This beautifully illustrated children's book is one of our favorites as a family. The boy hears all the many things kids can hear about the question of where babies come from. At the end, he learns that everything he had heard had some truth to it (except the stork!). The book includes a guide for helping parents answer other questions, like what about twins. (I discovered this book thanks to this post on how to tell your child that you're pregnant.)

This flip-me-over book shares the perspective of the little brother and the big sister, so you can see situations from both

sides. It's big on sass and humor and then a little surprise (new baby sibling) shakes up their world.

11. Soon

A short simple story that follows a mouse family who soon will be welcoming a baby. Not a lot of words in this book (perfect for younger toddlers) and fun alliteration make this a welcome read-aloud book about new siblings.

For families expanding to include three kids, this book celebrates the middle child who's right in between.

Okay, so you've had some chats and read some books with your toddler to prep for the new baby sibling.

Now what?

Here are tips to help set up for a smoother new sibling transition for a toddler and newborn:

Food is the best gift with a new baby at home.
Food is the best gift with a new baby at home.
  • Request food to nourish your family in those early postpartum weeks. When friends and family ask how they can help, food is a huge help for the whole family. Seriously, a delivery of food is the best gift to help when you're coping with a toddler and a newborn (along with healing yourself!).

What you (and your toddler) need to feel your best is nourishing meals. And in that transition after the baby arrives, it's tough to find the energy or time to cook. For more on nutrients and supplements to support your postpartum body, I found this guide of postpartum recovery tips to be helpful.

babywearing to help have hands to do things
Here I am babywearing and getting a nourishing meal!
  • Babywearing was hands-down my most helpful skill for parenting a toddler and newborn. I could simultaneously calm my baby while attending to my toddler with free hands. That said, I was not a natural with babywearing, so I'm happy I stuck with it and reached out for support. In time, I could use slings, fabric wraps, and buckle carriers depending on the activity and age of my baby for what felt most comfortable and safe.

That means I was free of the bulky stroller with stairs so we could be more mobile while living in NYC with a toddler and a newborn. I was able to help my toddler to the potty and nurse my newborn at the same time, thanks to my magical carriers. Babywearing expert Adriane Stare was part of my village back then as she had a shop a short walk from my old apartment in Brooklyn. Now she works as a babywearing doula with parents in person and virtually if you're looking for babywearing support.

  • Don't blame the baby for why you can't do something.

It's a common negative feedback loop that can happen. If your toddler is asking you to play or asking for help and your response leans into, "First I need to change the baby" or "I need to feed the baby" then basically the toddler hears that their new baby sibling is the reason why you can't attend to their needs. That can definitely add to behavior with a toddler acting out after a new baby.

Start with YES (it just may not be yes right that second in responding to your toddler.) It helps to set a timer for some situations to give your toddler an ending point to all the waiting, and to keep you on track.

Give your toddler jobs to help with.
Give your toddler jobs to be part of the process.
  • Give the toddler jobs. And this isn't just a tip for toddlers, it's a strategy that works for school-age children as well. The more crappy behavior you're seeing, the more likely giving your child something productive to do can be the ticket to a more peaceful flow in your home.

Because keep in mind, behavior is always communicating something, a need.

Connect in the daily life, and give your child the feeling of control by putting them in charge of a task.

Not to say a toddler's help is going to be the same as you doing the task, of course.

But by bringing them in, you're not needing to look for ways to distract your toddler.

You're just doing the job together.

That goes for jobs related to the baby. You can have your toddler choose a part that they want to do (run and get the wipes!) and then that can be something they shine at doing. It's not too early to start getting your toddler involved in helping out with the laundry and other tasks around the house.

Find more peace with your toddler and newborn by taking note of what's working and what's not.
Keep track of what's working and what's not working
  • Look at patterns that aren't working. The easiest way to figure out a pattern is to write down what you're seeing and observing in your child. After looking back at your log for a few days, the answer is often so clear.

You may then see that, wow, everyday at 6pm your child falls apart into a meltdown. Then you can think about what's happening around the trouble spot (i.e., you're going to feed the baby at that time) and what you can do differently to shift a pattern that's not working for your family.

Getting outside helps your toddler in so many ways.
Getting outside in nature helps in so many ways.
  • Connection can look a lot of different ways. The crowded harvest festival with your entire town is not where you typically find true connection with a toddler. Nope, the magic tends to happen in the small moments.

Walking out in the rain and letting your toddler explore the mud is one simple way to fill that connection and sensory bucket right outside your door. Jamie digs in with advice on challenging behaviors in toddlers and how to help toddlers feel more a part of the family in this podcast. Outdoor play can go a long way to help a toddler acting out after the new baby arrives.

For more ideas on getting outdoors, which helps so much with that bonky toddler energy, check out Sensory Garden and Play. The Instagram feed for that forest school shares so many simple ways to get out, explore, connect, along with big play ideas for your toddler.

It doesn't take long, either. Just a 20-minute together time can fill up your toddler's connection bucket so they're not so clingy.

A transitional object helps with connection with your toddler.
a transitional object can help with separation anxiety
  • Transitional objects, filled up with your mama love, help so much in times of transition, especially if your toddler is dealing with separation anxiety of being apart from you.

Often, the toddler's childcare shifts after the new baby sibling, whether your toddler starts preschool or daycare or you're getting support with other caregivers. You want your toddler to feel connected to you even when you're apart. Check out this podcast where Jamie shares how to set up transitional objects to ease a transition for your toddler.

  • The crib to bed transition is a big milestone that can help when you have a toddler and newborn.Especially when you're seeing challenging behaviors from your toddler.

Maybe your toddler is suddenly acting like a baby.

Maybe your child has stopped initiating peeing in the potty.

the crib to bed transition helps with building autonomy for your toddler
when to do the crib to bed transition

What's important to realize is a crib is designed for an infant. So if you have your toddler in the same sleep setup as your newborn, while the newborn is getting a completely different kind of attention with feeding, diaper changes, etc, then it's easy to see how sibling jealousy can come up. You also want to building autonomy for your toddler and this is one big way to do so. Jamie talks about the connection between the crib-to-bed transition and building autonomy in a child in this podcast.

watch patterns and weather special treats lead to wonky behavior
watch when you're seeing bonky toddler behavior

Keep in mind too much sugar can affect the poop, too.

  • Sleep is a nutrient for everyone in the family. For your toddler, they may see their new baby sibling getting to have extra evening time with you the parents, and suddenly bedtime becomes a struggle and your toddler starts losing sleep. If you're seeing bedtime stall tactics from your toddler, then you know you want to shift the pattern, fast.

With a newborn, parenting with endless nights of interrupted sleep is a given (but now you also have a toddler to care for, which makes sleep-deprivation extra hard). Preserve your circadian rhythm and sleep as best you can. I've found Dr. Paria's tips for supporting your circadian rhythm to be so helpful (Jamie has interviewed her in the past for support on wellness for women, as she's a naturopathic doctor.) I've been practicing the early morning sunshine tip and have to say it's already helped my circadian rhythm and energy.

Now that I'm out of the toddler and newborn phase of being a mama to two kids, I can share that the sibling relationship — along with the challenges — shift with time. I'd check out Jamie's parenting podcast for more strategies for the ever-changing challenges of parenting.

I find it so helpful so I don't get stuck over-thinking the next transition.

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