How To Help Siblings Adjust To A New Baby

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Even if older child was excited about having a new sibling before the birth, he may change his mind once the new baby comes home. How your child behaves will depend partially on his temperament. Children who are more flexible and self-contained may adjust more easily. Those who are highly sensitive, need more time with transitions, and like routines may take longer to adjust.

Often, when the new baby arrives, an older child will feel left out. Make sure to assure the older child he is still loved by setting special time just for the two of you.  You can remind him or her that they were tiny once, and needed to be held and breastfed a lot. Show them photos of when they were little babies.  

Your firstborn may test the boundaries or show regressive behavior.  She may sit in the baby's seat, want a diaper/start having potty accidents, or ask to nurse again.  She's likely to want your attention most when you're nursing or changing a diaper.  He may even try to express his feelings by yanking the baby's arm or snatching her toys. Most likely your child will also be eager to show his new sibling affection and connect with her.


What can I do to help my child accept a new sibling?

  • Read stories about his new role. Reading stories about the difficulties and joys of having a new sibling can help your preschooler adjust to his new situation. Books that show children who resent the new baby in their lives can help him understand that his feelings are natural. Stories that show children enjoying and taking pride in their little siblings present positive role models for your child. (Joanna Cole’s gender-specific I’m a Big Sister and I'm a Big Brother are good places to start.)

  • Or let her tell the story. Have your child help make a simple picture book about her and the new sibling. Let her choose the pictures she'd like to have in the book and ask her what words she'd like on each page.  She might even want to tell the story of her birth and their new relationship from her point of view.

  • Give him special jobs. Let your firstborn help out — he may surprise you with how much he can do.  He can grab new diapers or a change of clothes.  He can gentle bounce baby in her bouncy chair.  Let him help with bath-time by putting soap on baby’s legs.  He can even hold baby with help.  

  • Take care of baby together.  Let her pick what color shirt the baby should wear.  Ask what story you should read to baby.  Invite your child to observe the baby with you. Hold him close and ask him to describe what he sees. "Look at her eyes. What are they doing? How does she hold her hands?" You can even do this while the baby is sleeping.

  • Let him do his own thing. If your older kiddo doesn't want to be involved with the new baby, don't push it. A lot of kids cope with the change by "ignoring" their tiny siblings — at least for a while.  When she’s ready to bond with the new baby, she’ll let you know.

  • Acknowledge his feelings. It's normal for your older child to feel a range of feelings about this new change in the family. Suddenly, your child has to share you with someone who requires an extraordinary amount of your time and attention. Rather than giving time outs, acknowledge his feelings: "It seems like you're feeling sad right now. Do you want to tell me about it?" Or "Is it frustrating that sometimes when you want me to do something, I need to help the baby?" He may just need you to take some time to listen and hold him.  Remember, do not judge or tell him he shouldn’t feel that way - just listen and acknowledge.  

  • Spend a little time alone with him. Spend some time each day with just your older child, even if it's only a few minutes of drawing or building with blocks. This time makes him feel special and reminds him that you're his mommy as well as the baby's.

How can I care for my other child(ren) while breastfeeding the new baby?

  • Arrange a place on the sofa where you can comfortably feed your infant, and the toddler can snuggle close too. Or put a small chair and table near your rocking chair, where the toddler can play, while you are breastfeeding the tiny one. Keep a basket of toys and games on hand to keep your older child occupied, while you are feeding the baby.  You can give your child a doll of her own to care for as well.  Just be prepared for him or her to nurse the baby too.  

  • Use a baby sling, and you may be able to breastfeed and still get up and around, if need be. When the baby is asleep, give your undivided attention to the other child(ren). Fill up their "love wells" when you have time, and they're less likely to have an urgent need or to get into squabbles together, right when it's time to meet the new baby's needs.

  • Check out a La Leche League meeting for more breastfeeding help and ideas from mothers who’ve breastfeed a new baby while taking care of older children.  

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