IMPORTANT: You know your toddler best, and not every single suggestion is likely to fit your situation. For example, there is a limit to how much an 18-month-old can understand by visiting the hospital before the birth.
If you are planning a hospital birth, visit the hospital with your child before your due date. If you are having a planned Cesarean section (C-Section), go
the day before the birth. You don't have to go inside - use your judgement. Driving around the hospital grounds may well be sufficient.
Discuss with your partner/other caregiver how you want the first toddler and newborn meeting to go. It should not be just down to you to reassure your toddler, especially as you will have just given birth.
Agree beforehand that you will confirm the visit with your partner etc, rather than just go ahead, regardless of your physical and emotional state.
If you end up having a difficult labour, ask yourself if it is better to let my child see me at rock bottom, or delay seeing them until the next day?
It doesn't matter if it doesn't go well. Your toddler will have a lot to deal with, especially if visiting you in hospital (possibly a big distraction in itself). They will probably not know how they feel about the new arrival/toy/intruder.
What should give you hope is that the key characteristic of Toddlerhood is change. Your eldest will probably change their mind about the newborn a million times. Nothing is set in stone.
Be prepared to find the experience emotional yourself. You will be exhausted. You will be hormonal. You will probably be totally besotted with your new baby. Realizing that it could be as hard for you as for your toddler is no admission of failure - so often it's the feelings that take us by surprise that are the most powerful. Knowing this might happen could help you keep things together during visiting hours.
Do you want anyone else there? Funny uncle Mike might save your toddler and newborn from falling out(!) by taking the eldest to see the ambulances outside - or you may just want the first meeting to be as distraction-free as possible (for you as well as your toddler)
Make your toddler the star of the first visit. If possible put the baby down - but even if you are feeding, you can still focus solely on your child. Make your first words 'Hello! I've missed you! What have you been doing with (grandma etc)', rather than force the new arrival on them straightaway.
Introduce the baby using the present you bought for the toddler, making sure it came from the baby.
If your toddler is not interested in the baby, don't push it. You will have plenty of time when you are back on your feet to encourage brotherly/sisterly bonding. If they want to ignore the newborn - fine.
If they want to leave after 5 minutes - fine also. It is vital not to push your toddler and newborn together in this way.
Tell your toddler that you will come home soon. Children of this age don't really have a grasp of what 'soon' is but this sort of talk might just persuade your child that you haven't in fact moved into the hospital permanently. Alert your partner/other caregivers to this possibility, so they can talk further about it, and make some more cakes(!) for 'Mummy and the baby coming home.'
When you purchase from this link, you are actually purchasing from Amazon.com, and you can have peace of mind that your order will be processed by Amazon’s secure order server.