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My first son is 12 months old and I'm expecting another child who will be born when my son is 18 months old. My son is fairly verbal for his age. He understands phrases like, "Put the ball in the box," or "Bring Mommy the book." He also says about 8 words.
I'm sure that once we bring the baby home, he will understand that there is a new person around, but is it likely that he will understand before? Does it do any good to talk about having a new baby or mommy having a baby in her tummy? Would bringing him to an ultrasound make any sense at this point?

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I think the ultrasound is way too abstract for a 12-month-old. But talking to him about the family expansion is certainly a good idea. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 2 '12 at 10:50
    
He would not understand that a baby is on the way, but he will understand that something is going on, and even though he doesn't understand exactly what you tell him right away, he will understand and eventually accept more than if you don't tell him anything. –  awe Apr 2 '12 at 18:04

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My daughter was 15 months old when my second child was born. We didn't have any talks, but we would point at my belly and tell her that there is a baby in there. We'd show her that we are only suppose to rub Mummy's belly, and would gesture so. Eventually, she would rub my belly and say "baby." We'd play games with her like "Where is the baby?" and she'd come rub my belly to say "baby."

Since most of my pregnancy she was a baby herself, I don't think she understood what a baby exactly was, or what it was doing in my belly - but she knew that she had to be gentle. When the baby was finally out, she would still rub my belly for a few days after and say "baby" but she stopped soon after we showed her the newborn and started calling the newborn a baby. (After my belly started disappearing, I think she figured out that there was nothing in there...)

I am not sure if taking the toddler to an ultrasound would be useful - fetus is pretty hard to see in an ultrasound even for adults! Unless she is familiar with what an heartbeat actually is (do you ever have her listen to your heartbeat anymore?!), she might be wondering what that strange noise is.

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Yes! Although she would perhaps not understand exactly what was going on, I think it's important to prepare them for something is going to happen. It is not easy to know how much they understand, but my experience is that the more they're told, the more they actually understand eventually. –  awe Apr 2 '12 at 18:02

My two oldest kids are 18 months apart. When the second was on its way we kept telling our oldest about it. I don't remember when we started to do so, but certainly when it was clearly visible.

At least shortly before delivery she was aware of the fact.

I think it is definitely good to prepare older siblings to minimize jealousy.

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Don't start too early, children that age have no concept of time. Soon before the baby is born explain what is going to happen, but don't expect she will understand. If she asks about your belly tell her a baby is inside, but stop there. Again, if you tell her too early she doesn't understand time and may obsess about when when when.

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