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Newborn: Help Siblings Adjust

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KEY POINTS

  • Expect your older child to have mixed feelings about a new baby and to be scared about changes in the home, such as not being the baby anymore.
  • Start helping your older child get used to the idea of a new baby as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Talk about the benefits of being a big brother or sister. Let your older child help decorate the nursery, choose some of the items the baby needs, or help choose the baby’s name.
  • Reassure your older child that you still love them as much as ever. This is something you will need to tell your child often, especially at first when you give so much attention to the new baby.

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Things will change with a new baby in the house. Your child will now have to share mommy and daddy with another person. The baby will take lots of time and you will be tired. You should expect your older child to have mixed feelings about a new baby and to be scared about changes in the home, such as not being the baby anymore. You can make things easier on yourself and your child if you prepare ahead of time.

Before the new baby is born

  • Start helping a school-age child get used to the idea of a new baby as soon as you find out you are pregnant. A toddler or preschooler may not understand very much about what it means to be expecting a new baby. Your child needs to hear about the new baby from you, not someone else.
  • Read books with your child about siblings and babies. Use this as a chance to talk about how they feel about the baby. Let them tell you about their feelings and ask questions. Talk about the benefits of being a big brother or sister. Tell your child that there is enough love to go around.
  • Explain to your child that it may be a while before they can play with the new baby. Tell your child that new babies cry and will take a lot of your time and attention.
  • Let your older child help decorate the nursery, choose some of the items the baby needs, or help choose the baby’s name. Let your child pick out a big sister or big brother gift for the new baby. Let your child practice holding and taking care of a doll. Teach your child how to touch and hold a baby very gently and support the baby’s head.
  • Tell your older child stories about when they were born and how excited everyone was. Show your child their baby pictures and videos.
  • Visit friends with a new baby if possible.
  • Check with your hospital about tours and classes for siblings.
  • Try to avoid major changes for your older child (such as moving from a crib to a big bed, weaning, or toilet training) just before or after you bring your new baby home.

When the new baby comes home

  • Let someone else carry the baby into the house so your arms are free for your older child when you come home.
  • Bring some small gifts for your older child. A gift from the new baby can be a special touch.
  • Take a picture of your older child holding the baby, so they can show the picture to friends.
  • Gently remind people who come to visit to give your older child some attention too. Let your child hear you tell people how helpful they have been.
  • Reassure your older child that you still love them as much as ever. This is something you will need to tell your child often, especially at first when you give so much attention to the new baby. Try to spend time with just your older child each day, especially at bedtime, to let them know they still have a special place. Encourage your child to talk about their feelings now that the baby has arrived.
  • Don’t expect your child to be grown up now that there is a new baby. Your child may act more like a baby after the baby is born. This phase will pass as your child starts to feel safe and comfortable in their new role.
  • Teach your child how to interact with the baby. Make sure that your older child knows that there is no hitting, kicking, or pinching the baby allowed. Praise your child when they are gentle and loving toward the baby.
  • Let older brothers or sisters help if they want to. They can help with chores such as folding baby blankets or helping you feed or diaper the baby. Helping out can make them feel important in their new role. However, don’t force the older child to help if they don’t want to. And don’t leave a young child in charge of a baby while you do something.
  • Be sure that your older child has special things and places that they don’t have to share with the new baby.
Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2019-02-21
Last reviewed: 2019-02-18
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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