Helping Siblings Adjust to the New Baby
Welcoming a new baby in the family is a time of change for everyone, especially children. It is a big adjustment when there are new routines, new noises, and they realize the baby is here to stay!
Mothers and fathers may have their own doubts at times and wonder, "Will I love this baby as much as I love my first child?" "Will I have the energy and time for the new baby, my other children and my spouse?"
Just as you may have doubts about how another child will affect your family, your other children may have some of these same doubts. Children do not generally like to share your love, time or attention with another person.
With the birth of a new baby, older children may fear losing the love of a parent. Children may be wondering, "Will my mom and dad like the new baby more than me?" "Everyone is so happy about the new baby. What about me?"
It is not unusual for siblings to show signs of jealousy and fall back into old behaviors they had "outgrown." They may forget newly learned behavior such as toilet training. They may act like a baby, such as crying, wetting their pants, or wanting a bottle. This is quite normal. It often does not last long.
Here are some suggestions to help the older sibling adjust to living with a new brother or sister:
- Before and after the birth, read books to your child about living with a new baby.
- Often, children will be most difficult during feeding times. Give your child a doll to feed, bathe, and wrap when you care for the new baby.
- Encourage your children to use the bathroom and offer them food or drinks before you sit down to nurse the baby. This will help avoid interruptions.
- Read books to the older children while nursing the baby.
- Have a collection of toys to play with only while mother is nursing the baby.
Ways to make other children feel special include:
- Remind your children that you love them, and let them know how special they are. They are the new big brother or sister.
- Include the other children in the daily care of the baby. They can be "helpers." They can get a diaper or wipes, or throw soiled diapers in the trash. They can talk to the baby during diaper changes or other baby care tasks.
- Remind the older child about special things that the baby cannot do yet; such as making cookies, blowing bubbles, etc.
- It is helpful to remind visitors to greet the older child first. Suggest to visitors that they may want to bring a gift for the older child to make them feel special. Delaying opening gifts until the older child is sleeping may also be helpful.
- Have a special time each day just for you and them to play, read or cuddle.
- Remember to be patient. It may take a few weeks for the older sibling to adjust. This is a time of transition for each member of the family.