Apr 032014

sistersPlus other good reasons to never let your toddler alone with your newborn, not even for 3 minutes…

When I close off the period of maternity care, I always have a conversation with the parents about safety in and around the house. Besides the obvious topics of the approachability of electrical equipment, hot beverages and cleaning products, if a couple already has an older child I also discuss the safety perils of brotherly and sisterly love.

At first the parents usually think that I am overly concerned about the behavior of their toddler. Sometimes they even see it as a sign of distrust, so they get a bit upset with me; they think I am telling them that their eldest is mean, jealous and not to be trusted around their baby at all.

That is not what I mean of course. I am all in favor of letting a toddler participate in the care of their baby brother or sister, and a newborn can never get enough hugs and kisses if you ask me.

Most toddlers are generally sweet and even a bit protective to the new baby in the house.

But they are also enthusiastic, energetic, a lot stronger than they know, and cannot see the consequences of their actions yet.  Besides, they have occasional fits of jealousy for this new and attention-craving ‘invader’ in their home…

I have collected a series of anecdotes in the past 12 years, to clarify to the offended mom and dad why I tell them to never let their toddler and their baby alone in the same room together unsupervised.

What can happen if you leave your toddler alone with your newborn:

  • The baby starts crying and your toddler throws his favorite toy in the crib to comfort his sister. Think about a metal police car, a hard plastic doll, a Playmobil pirate ship or a xylophone. These objects didn’t sprout from my imagination, this is feedback I got from parents in the past years!  “You were right, he threw his doll towards his brother’s face when he started crying, telling his brother that he could play with it…”
  • The baby wakes up hungry, making small smacking noises, while your toddler is enjoying her favorite snack. She lovingly decides to share it with her baby brother. When you re-enter the room 3 minutes later, you are informed that the baby has got chocolate, cake, raisins, or even a mouthful of crackers…
  • Your toddler decides to take matters in her own hands when her brother wakes up crying. She lifts your precious baby out of the crib all by herself, to carry him to mommy for a feeding. Unfortunately she lifts your poor baby by the head… Fortunately this specific story has a happy ending, but it could have turned out really bad! (Imagine the sheer panic this mother experienced when she saw her eldest walking in with her baby boy lifted at his head…)
  • Your 3 year old son decides to join your baby daughter in the playpen where she lies on her back, looking at her mobile. He climbs on a chair, and falls over the railing, on top of your baby girl.

I have more stories to share, but I think you get the picture; just don’t risk it. In all above situations the intention of the toddler involved was heartwarming and caring, but the effect of their behavior had the potential for real danger to their siblings.

Don’t place a responsibility beyond his or her age on your toddler.

The risk of dangerous situations is just too high. Meanwhile, please involve your toddler in taking care of his baby sister; let him help with nappy changes, with preparing the bath, let him bring dirty laundry to the bathroom etcetera.  They love to help. It makes the transition to the new family dynamics easier.

Tell him what he can do on his own and what he can’t do. Lifting the baby up all by himself is a big NO for example. But he can have his sister in his arms when he has a cushion on his lap and mom or dad sits next to him. Supervised care is great.

Being home alone with a newborn and a toddler asks for careful planning.

  • Take a shower when your toddler takes a nap.
  • When you have to go to the toilet, make sure your baby is in a different room than your 3 year old. Or, as lot of parents do, take your eldest with you to the bathroom…
  • Consider baby fences on strategic places, to give yourself more possibilities to divide your home in different areas.
  • Arrange play dates, to  break free from constant supervision on your own; while the kids have a good time, you can chat with another grown up!

Do you have a great tip for other parents?

Please share it in the comment box below! We can all benefit from them.

A Baby Gate/ Fence in front of stairs or to secure a room is always a good idea if you ask me! So are door stoppers and locks for drawers with potentially dangerous kitchenware.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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