You survived the 1st trimester, your 2nd trimester was full of excitement… feeling the baby move for the first time, finding out the gender, seeing those beautiful defined features on your little one’s face.
But here comes the 3rd trimester and all sorts of new things begin hurting. All of the sudden you can’t lift your toddler, your pelvis feels like it’s separating, everything is sore, you’ve got acid reflux shooting up your throat constantly, and you’re SO exhausted!
On top of all that, there’s the anxiety of an impending labor and making sure you have everything ready for he new baby. Not to mention preparing your toddler for the changes that are ahead.
These last 3 months definitely will not be easy, but they don’t have to be terrible. Take some advice from a mom who has been there and survived (me!) to make your 3rd trimester with a toddler not only bearable, but a season to remember forever.
Talk About What’s Ahead
Your toddler’s life is about to change big time for good. Hopefully you’ve already discussed what it means that you’re pregnant and they know there is a baby growing in your belly. Now you need to start talking about what life will look like when the baby actually gets here!
Of course, each child is different. Depending on their level of understanding and what you are comfortable with, do your best to explain what will happen when you go into labor. There’s always a good chance that you will be at home with your toddler when it begins so they need to know a little bit so they aren’t afraid. Tell them who they will stay with while you’re at the hospital and that when you all come home again there will be a new baby to take care of.
Talk about what life will be like with a new baby. Explain that you will have to pay lots of attention to the baby, that there will be a lot of crying, and that it won’t last forever. You don’t want your toddler to be blindsided by the changes and discussing what’s to come will help a little.
Above all, make sure that your toddler knows how important their role is as a big brother or sister. They need to know that they are not being replaced! Talk about how family’s grow and how special siblings are. One of the best ways to do this is to show your toddler pictures of when they were a baby and when you were pregnant with them. Explain how they used to be the baby but they’ve grown up and changed into a big kid and the baby will do the same thing. Family’s grow and change and it’s all so good and exciting!
Another great way to help prepare your child is to get them excited about their new responsibilities. Toddlers love to feel useful and it can help displace some of those feelings of being replaced by the baby. Maybe they can throw diapers away, fetch blankets or wipes, or maybe even hold the bottle while baby eats. Try to think through a few things your toddler can do to help and get them excited so that they know how important they are in the whole process.
Schedule Quality Time
Maybe you already spend loads of special time with your toddler, but if you’re anything like me a lot of the day is spent getting necessary tasks done and ignoring them. You’ll find no judgement from me! I understand that we can’t spend every second with our child.
But it’s good to remember that this is the end of a special season. These are the last 3 months of your life that you will have alone with your 1st born being your baby. Even if you have several kids, this is the last season where things will be as they are.
Life changes, and changes are good, but do your best to treasure the time you do have with things as they are. Schedule a special date with each of your kids if you have multiple, and spend special snuggle time with your baby especially. You will miss these moments.
Practice Your New Routine
Now is the time to think through how your daily life will look once the baby comes home. While it’s best to not change too much of your toddler’s regular routine, a few changes are inevitable. Think through your day and write out what your routine may look like (check out the 4th trimester daily schedule for ideas).
If there are things that will have to change for your new baby, do what you can to slowly adjust to those changes now. If you change what you can now, your child will be far less likely to associate the new baby with those changes and resent the baby for it.
For example, if you won’t be able to push your toddler in the stroller, start taking walks without it now so they don’t associate the new baby with this change. If sleeping routines and spaces will need to change, start the transition now. If you know that a special time you have with your toddler will be disrupted by the newborn routine (bedtime routine, morning reading time, play time with mommy, walks, library trips, etc.) start to change or eliminate them now.
Having a new child to focus on will be enough to rock your toddler’s world. Do your best to adjust other things now so that there is less change for your little one to deal with when their new sibling shows up.
Nap With Your Toddler
Hopefully your toddler still takes a nap. If so, don’t take it out of the equation now! No kid is too old for a nap. However, if you recently eased out of naps, don’t be nervous to begin enforcing a quiet time.
In my blog post about surviving the 1st trimester with a toddler, I suggested taking a break from your toddler during nap/quiet time. This is still a good suggestion. We all need breaks and in order to love your child well in the midst of pregnancy exhaustion, you definitely will need a break from them each day.
But as the time nears for your little one to be born, one of the most precious times you will have with your toddler will be quiet times. Take the opportunities you are given to snuggle. If they will allow it, let them take naps in your bed so you can snuggle together. If that doesn’t work for you, have quiet book and snuggle time before nap. Treasure these special and quiet moments that you will never get back with your toddler.
Don’t Allow Mom Guilt
Make Freezer Meals
I prepared ahead of time with my first baby, and I’m glad I did because I had no idea what I was doing and was completely overwhelmed and exhausted. The second time around, you might feel very prepared as far as taking care of a newborn, but remember that you’ll be doing all of it with a needy and emotional toddler on top of it.
Stock up on essentials ahead of time (paper plates, toilet paper, paper towels, soap, toiletries), get lots of you and your child’s favorite snacks stocked in the pantry, and prepare freezer meals for an entire month. It may seem like a daunting task now, but you’ll be so thankful when you’re dealing with so much change that first month postpartum and you have just a few less things to worry about.
Utilize Screen Time
As you go through the 3rd trimester, you will have days that you feel like you can barely function. Even on good days, you will need a break from your noisy and active toddler. Don’t be ashamed to make use of screens to keep your sanity.
Do your best to encourage independent play when possible, but when you absolutely can’t handle the noise or constant questions anymore, take advantage of screens! If you’re worried about frying their brains, try to find educational shows. Some fabulous educational toddler shows that we love:
- Daniel Tiger
- Leapfrog movies
- Super Why
- Little Einsteins
- Story Bots
- Sesame Street
- Gecko’s Garage
- Dinosaur Train
- Little Baby Bum
- Word World
Ask for help
To me, this is one of the most obvious things, but in our culture we are really good at being overly independent to the demise of our sanity. If you can’t usually bring yourself to ask for help at any other time, allow yourself to make an excuse to do so now.
If you just need a day off, ask a family member to babysit. If you can’t handle housekeeping because of your sore and growing body, hire a housekeeper for the last few months. If you are struggling with your toddler’s behavior, ask your mom or an older mom friend for advice and encouragement.
Don’t be ashamed of asking for help where you need it. Your family needs to be taken care of, and you need to take care of yourself for your future child. There’s no shame in asking for your village to come around you and support you.
Best of luck, and just remember: you will get through this! Before you know it, you’ll be holding your precious little bundle in your arms and this season will be long forgotten in light of the joys that are to come.