You are about to give birth and suddenly, you are going through extreme toddler separation anxiety. Yup, it happens.
You may not have noticed the signs. Your toddler suddenly wants more hugs. He’s frustrated that he can’t get as close to you as he once could, thanks to his growing sibling. And suddenly, he has these feelings that he doesn’t understand.
Will his world ever be the same? Will he ever be able to hug his mom closely again? And why doesn’t he understand what is happening?
This is exactly what happened around the time of my second child’s birth. My oldest was suddenly super clingy. He had always been independent and never really wanted our help with much when it came to sleeping in his bed or eating.
But now, he never wanted to let me go. And that was exhausting when you’re 9 months pregnant.
Understand That Your Toddler’s Anxiety is Real
While your energy level is low and exhaustion high at the end of pregnancy, you may be very tempted to tell your child to get over it and just sleep in his bed – as he has always done.
But that’s not the way to handle it.
You have to remember that his world is changing. While you understand that you are having a baby, he doesn’t know how that works. He just knows that his mommy’s belly is getting in the way of the hugs he used to have.
He can probably also sense excitement, exhaustion, planning, stress, and everything else that may come with childbirth. We can’t explain that to him to ease his stress.
It’s therefore important that you see your toddler separation anxiety as very real.
For him, it’s serious business. It will keep him up at night and he needs you to comfort him.
Comfort Your Toddler But Stay Firm On Routines
While you need to take your toddler separation anxiety seriously, you should not start breaking the routines you’ve already set in place. Sure, he may choose to make a fuss around bedtime or bathtime because he knows you’ll soon leave his side so he can sleep.
I admit I am guilty of breaking these routines. He would often end up in our bed at night, just so we could get some sleep. Dinner would often be delayed because he was so clingy.
I needed to comfort him but stay firm on our routines. Our bedtime routine was solid and it had been for his whole life. He often found comfort in it. The last thing I should have been doing was changing it up and teaching him that the only way he could get through this stint of toddler separation anxiety was to sleep in our bed.
After a few weeks, we started to return to the old routine and it didn’t take long for him to understand that things would not change. When his brother was born, he was firmly back in his bed and it was as if everything just made sense now.
Oh, so this is why mommy’s tummy was so big! Now I have a cute brother and I can hug mommy again! Yay!
In our toddler section, you’ll find more help and resources to stay on track with your toddler and their routines.
Talk To Your Toddler and Keep Him Informed About What Is Going On
One of the best things you can do is talk to your child to understand his fears. This is also the time to assure him that everything he’s feeling is valid and that he’s okay! It’s important to keep him informed of what is about to happen.
While he may have heard about the baby, he may not understand his role in it all. This is the time to get him excited about his role in everything, including the fact that he will be a big brother and can help give the bottle and change the diaper.
Make him understand that his fears are valid but try to get him excited about the changes.
You go through a lot when you are pregnant and about to give birth, so don’t blame yourself if you don’t have the energy to deal with everything your toddler may throw at you during this time.
You can only do so much and that’s totally okay.
One thing you could do is meet him where he is at. Maybe he doesn’t understand the whole baby thing – or maybe he doesn’t care because he has heard about it for weeks or months.
My son didn’t care one bit about becoming a big brother. We did everything we could to not talk about the baby in front of him. Even though his baby brother hadn’t arrived yet, he was over it. And he was experiencing toddler separation anxiety because he couldn’t make sense of it all.
Once his brother arrived and we brought the baby home, we let him ease into the relationship. He was so excited about the baby, but when grandparents came over to visit, we tried to encourage them to focus on him as his own entity, and not “where is your brother” or “what is that” and pointing at the baby.
Having a baby break helped his anxiety. He eventually eased into a loving relationship, where he became the overprotective brother.
You can also explore books, such as “Breathe Like a Bear: 30 Mindful Moments for Kids to Feel Calm and Focused Anytime, Anywhere” by Kira Willey to help him get through those tough moments with anxiety.
Personally, the breathing exercises helped us a lot and we continue to say “deep breath” and “breathe” when he gets uncomfortable or has a classic toddler meltdown.