I’ve been asking myself lately, is it normal for my toddler to play up and regress during my pregnancy? Is this really a thing? I’m sure there are some other pregnant and exhausted mamas out there, wondering the same…
I remember very clearly when I was pregnant with Paxton, Harper went through a little “thing” before he was born. She was only 18 months but she definitely sensed the change. It may have been an early onset of “the terrible twos”, but I do remember the lady who ran the kiddie gym we went to saying to me that she sees it often. Toddlers will often play up for their mums during their pregnancy because they sense the change and are a bit worried about what will happen for them when the baby arrives. Her advice to me at the time was just to comfort Harper and help make her feel loved and secure.
I am now 33 weeks pregnant with baby #3 and Paxton who is 2.5, is definitely going through this “thing” now too. I don’t really know what to call it, maybe it’s a regression, maybe it’s the terrible two’s or maybe it is because he is starting to sense his world being flipped upside down by this pending arrival. He has started throwing way more tantrums, stomping his feet at me, whinging way more, hitting me when he gets angry, wanting to be carried more, wanting to be spoon-fed at meal times which we haven’t done for months. He’s even had some accidents even though he’s been toilet trained for 6 months, and the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong, he is excited about having a baby brother, he shows no aggression towards the baby or his new brother coming, in fact he loves my tummy – he kisses it, reads to it and sings to it, it’s really quite adorable. However, his behaviour towards me has definitely changed and become way more challenging. And I know some of my friends have gone through this too!
So, it’s gotten me thinking. Is all of this normal? Is there an explanation behind it? How can we, as pregnant, hormonal and exhausted mamas manage this?
I went away and did a bit of research for us, and yes, it is a thing!! It is common, it is normal and like everything else, it will pass!
According to Parenting Expert, Janet Landsbury, our toddlers may “understandably be worried, unsure and unsettled about the impending, somewhat mysterious change in his life, and that’s causing him to regress a little — withdraw, feel clingy and needy. The best way to handle this, in my opinion, is to realize that his behavioural changes are normal, natural and temporary, and welcome them.” She goes on to say, most importantly, for us mums, we must try to relax, breathe deeply and try not to add any of our own anxiety, worries, guilt or fear to the equation. “This will pass, I swear, and soon your toddler will revert back to being their friendly, articulate, outgoing and funny self. Some children calm down considerably as soon as the baby’s born. Others take a few more months to transition to a change they perceive as both positive and negative. Accept it all with open arms. Try to enjoy all the ups and downs of this exciting chapter in your life.”
From the research I have done, these are the top five ways you can help your toddler to get through this uncertain and unsettled time in their lives:
Find alternative ways to give him the attention he is craving:
You might think that your life hasn’t changed much (yet!), but your toddler has probably noticed that you are more tired than usual. Or that you’re too sick for your usual living-room dance party. Doing your best to keep up your toddler’s routine, while taking care of yourself, is one of the best ways to handle this toddler regression. If you’re not up for a game of hide-and-seek, do something else together, read a book or play with cars or dolls and when all else fails, have a cuddle together in front of the tv.
Show him that extra bit of love:
Show him that he doesn’t have to act like a baby to get your attention. I know during my pregnancy I have been shorter tempered than usual but it is important to keep your cool, take a deep breath, try not to be mad. Show your toddler you love him, rather than getting mad. Sometimes, his tantrum or cry for help is really a sign of just needing a hug from you. I actually wrote an article about the importance of cutting down on the yelling and rather hugging our kids more, I think I need to take on some of my own advice here.
Really reward and praise the grown-up/independent actions:
Point out the perks of being bigger. Praise him when he displays maturity and applaud his big-boy achievements (like using a spoon, dressing or solving a puzzle). Encourage and reward independence. At the moment we are trying to teach both of our kids to dress themselves, wipe their own bums and make their beds, all those little things that will make life a bit easier when the baby arrives. So when they try, we let them know how proud we are.
Don’t dismiss your toddlers feelings:
Let your little one know it’s okay to be angry or sad. If he does try hitting you or stomping his feet at you, say things like “You don’t really mean that” and instead encourage him to talk about his feelings. Saying things like, “You can always tell me how you feel. I always feel better when I talk about my feelings.” Rather than telling them not to cry or not to be angry. Expressing feelings is important.
Minimise the number of other big life changes:
With such a big impending change at the root of your toddler’s regression, it’s especially important to reduce other changes in his life. Stick to his usual schedule and routines as much as possible. For example, just before I had Paxton, Harper started child care and we moved house. It was all a bit much for her. So this time round, we made sure to spread out any big changes for Paxton. He toilet trained about six months ago and he moved into a big boy bed two months ago. So plenty of time to adjust before the arrival of his new brother. I go into this is in more detail in an article I wrote about preparing your toddler for another baby, so make sure to click here to have a read.
What I have taken from all of this is that our toddlers can sense that their world is about to be flipped upside down. It is a daunting time for them so it is our job to make them feel loved and secure. Even though you may become a little busier when the baby arrives, make sure they know that you always love them and are there for them!
Here are some links to some other articles I have written which might also help you to get through this testing and tiring period…
- How to Survive Morning Sickness when you have Young Kids
- Parenting… Why we should stop Yelling and start Hugging More
- Reducing Toddler Tantrums
- 7 Tips to Help prepare your children for another Baby
Like everything that comes with being a mum and parenting in general, this hard patch will pass. With your help, love and support, your toddler will grow out of it.
Good luck! Keep going and please feel free to get in touch.