In this article:
Things to read/watch
Books and articles for adults
- The Second Child by Joan Solomon Weiss
- Twice Blessed: Everything You Need to Know About Having a Second Child -- Preparing Yourself, Your Marriage, and Your Firstborn for a New Family of Four by Joan Leonard
- Welcoming Your Second Baby by Vicki Lansky
- Baby Makes Four by Welcomi Hilory Wagner
- Loving Each One Best: A Caring and Practical Approach to Raising Siblings by Nancy Samalin
- Welcoming Your Second Baby by Vicki Lansky
- Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber
- Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life by Laura Markham
- The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost, by Jean Liedloff: Liedloff offers a new understanding of how we have lost much of our natural well-being and shows us practical ways to regain it for our children and for ourselves.
- Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen: "We took a Positive Discipline class with Mary Lynn Fiske-Dobell based on this book. We have a 3.5 yo and now a 2mo. We have found success in practicing Postive Discipline techniques. Highly recommend!!!"
- Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family by Catherine Newman
- The Second Baby Book: How to Cope with Pregnancy Number Two and Create a Happy Home for Your Firstborn and New Arrival by Sarah Ockwell-Smith
- Playful Parenting: An Exciting New Approach to Raising Children That Will Help You Nurture Close Connections, Solve Behavior Problems, and Encourage Confidence by Lawrence J. Cohen
- "Helping Kids Adjust to Life With the New Baby," Janet Lansbury
Check out the Brooklyn Public Library catalog HERE.
Books for kids
Those with links are YouTube readings you can watch with your child!
- Above: some great books on display during a PSP Sibling Preparation Class at NYP/Methodist!
- I’m a Big Brother & I’m a Big Sister by Johanna Cole
- Little Rabbit's New Baby by Harry Horse
- Baby On the Way by William Sears and Martha Sears
- What Baby Needs by William Sears and Martha Sears
- Zaza's Baby Brother by Lucy Cousins
- 101 Things to Do With a Baby by Jan Ormerod
- Barney Meets the New Baby by Maureen M. Valvassori
- What to Expect When Mommy's Having a Baby by Heidi Murkoff
- What to Expect When the New Baby Comes Home by Heidi Murkoff
- The New Baby at Your House by Joanna Cole and Hella Hammid
- The New Baby: A Mr. Rogers' First Experience Book by Fred Rogers (good for younger kids)
- Arthur's New Baby Book by Marc Brown
- There's A Brand-New Baby At Our House by Susan Ligon
- Waiting for Gregory by Kimberly Willis Holt
- Room for the Baby by Michelle Edwards
- Hello in There! A Big Sister's Book of Waiting by Jo Witek
- I'm The Big Sister! by Susan Ligon
- Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats
- The New Baby by Mercer Mayer
- Julius the Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes
- Before You Were Born by Jennifer Davis
- The Berenstain Bears and Baby Makes Five by Stan and Jan Berenstain
- Brothers Board by David McPhail
- I Am a Big Brother by Caroline Jayne Church
- My New Baby by Rachel Fuller
- How to Grow a Dinosaur by Caryl Hart
- What Brothers Do Best by Laura Numeroff
- I'm a Big Sister by Joanna Cole
- I'm a Big Brother by Joanna Cole
- Lola Reads to Leo by Anna McQuinn
- You're All My Favorites by Sam McBratney
- You're a Big Sister by Marianne Richmond
- You Are Special, Little One by Nancy Tafuri
- Mama's Belly by Kate Hosford: "A friend also gave me "Mama's Belly" which was also really lovely and made me cry a few times while reading it."
- You Were the First by Patricia MacLachlan: "There are tons of other baby sibling books out there, but many of them focus on how to care for the sibling and what a big important job it is to be an older sibling, so I liked You Were the First because it put the focus back on all the wonderful things the first child did/meant/means."
- Waiting for Baby by Rachel Fuller (tailored for young toddlers, very very simple text)
- Hello Baby by Jenni Overend (this one is very specifically tailored to home birth and what the sibling might see when the baby is born at home)
- A Chair for Always by Vera Williams (also about a home birth, but the protagonist doesn't actually witness it, it's happening upstairs)
Check out the Brooklyn Public Library catalog HERE. Check YouTube for some of the books as videos.
Movies and clips for kids
- Sesame Street - A New Baby in My House
- Blue's Clues - Blue's Big News - The Baby's Here! VHS ~ Steve Burns
- Daniel Tiger has an episode on the arrival of Margaret, his baby sister.
- Dream Carter - Zaza's Baby Brother
PREPARATION TACTICS & TIPS
- Read books to your older children about getting/having a sibling (see Books for Kids).
- Create or show your older children a Baby Book with their baby pictures, starting with when they were in your tummy. Tell them the birth story, emphasizing that babies need your help a lot (nursing, crying “because babies can’t talk”).
- If your child seems ready for it, give them the basic facts about pregnancy and delivery. Select an appropriate book from the library to supplement your explanation.
- If your child is over 3, sign them up for a sibling class (they have them at Mt. Sinai West, NYU and other hospitals). (They usually don’t have them for kids under 3.)
- Arrange play dates with people who have babies—and whose older siblings were thrilled. Let your child watch the babies nurse, get changed, etc.
- Plan a visit to the hospital so that your child has a better idea of what will happen to you when you go to have the baby. Have them accompany you to a prenatal exam!
- If your newborn is going to take over the crib, transition your older child out of the crib into a big kid bed a few months before your newborn arrives. (Elmo has a “big kid bed book”).
- Prepare your child for the transition. If your child is going to go away to Grandma’s for a long weekend, tell them in advance about the great visit they are going to have and get them excited. You could also have folks stay at your house with your older child to minimize disruption, though you may want to have your child away when the baby comes home. Also, you can explain to your child that they may wake up to someone else in the morning if you go into labor at night. Whatever the situation, play it up with your child (“you get to have a sleepover”) and consider having a practice sleepover. (Daniel Tiger has a sleepover episode).
- Prioritize having your older child spend time with the non-birthing parent so that when the new baby comes there will be a super strong bond and less reliance on the recuperating parent.
- Involve your child by letting them help you pack your overnight bag for the hospital.
- If your child isn't used to talking to you on the phone or Zoom, practice beforehand so they know what it will be like if you call from the hospital.
- Visit and/or babysit a newborn with your child. They might be surprised that a baby is not an instant playmate.
- Have your child observe other parents breastfeed, at lactation meetings or elsewhere.
- Refer to the baby as "ours" rather than "mine."
- Avoid overemphasizing how much the baby will change things to keep your older child from feeling threatened or less important.
- If you will be implementing new rules, introduce them before the baby comes rather than after so that your older child can get used to them.
- Consider a "Big Sibling Party"—like a baby shower, but to celebrate your older child's transition into siblinghood.
Pictured above: PSP sibling preparation class. Park Slope Parents is now working with NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital on a "Super Sibling" class!
- Print out a newborn foot. Have your child compare their foot size!
- Pretend to be a baby in utero. You can play sounds of heartbeats, turn out the lights, and curl up in fetal position.
- Make "birth day" cards with crayons, markers, contruction paper, glitter, etc.
- Play dress up. You can dress up as a baby, or a nurse, or a doctor, and roleplay what it's like to give birth.
Baby dolls/stuffed animals
- Buy a realistic baby doll and accessories to help your child understand what it will be like to take care of the newborn and practice taking care of the newborn. (Note: for those of you who have issues with buying baby dolls for boys, please read William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow—it’s also on the Free to Be You and Me soundtrack/movie.)
- Play doctor, pretend your child's stuffed animals have babies, talk about what needs to be done to take care of them, etc.
Talk to your child about the newborn (unless it is creating too much anxiety)
- Talk about how the older children are big siblings and the kinds of things they must do with their baby sibling.
- Emphasize how big kids get to do things that new babies can’t do (play, go to music class, etc.)
- Take your child shopping and let them pick out a special gift to give the baby.
- Have some great gifts ready to give your child FROM the baby—more doll accessories (a doll "bouncer" chair, little blankies, diapers, fake car seat, stroller, etc.—it's CHEAP for that stuff at yard sales, Walmart and Target)
- Ideas on "big sister gifts" from PSP members:
- "We had a small apartment so we got our older daughter (3 years old at the time) a teepee tent so she could have her own space if she needed it. We also bought an ergo for dolls that we wrapped and gave to her when she visited in the hospital and said it was from her baby sister. We thought it would make her feel more included to carry a doll like mom carries the baby. Both were well received."
- "Hard and non-negotiable rule: No scooter usage indoors. Then you can give her a scooter (great gift idea to make her feel like a big kid!) without worry that it will be rolling around the house."
- "I honestly think you can give anything you think she’ll love. It doesn’t have to be big. We gave our oldest a leap frog tea set that sings and lights up when you 'pour' the tea. The oldest will be 8 in a month (and the middle will be 6) and to this day that tea pot is used and if you ask my oldest she will say that her sister gave it to her when she met her at the hospital. It’s a well-loved toy and one that has gotten a lot of use, which is what makes it special, not the fact that it’s an inherently 'special' toy of any sort, if that makes sense."
Have your child help/get involved
- Ask your child to help (e.g., assemble the new furniture for the newborn's room). Stress/compliment what a helpful big sister they already are.
- Be careful not to put too much emphasis on becoming a “big” sibling since your child has always been the baby (especially for younger kids).
Be prepared for anxiety
- Overdoing it on the preparation can also lead to anxiety in your older child. As you talk about the newborn, the changes that will occur, the hospital, etc., don’t be surprised to find that your child gets a bit overwhelmed and also has setbacks in some milestones they’ve passed (e.g., potty training, sleeping, etc.). Lay off the “baby talk” for a while unless your child is bringing it up.
- One of the best things I read (a la Penelope Leache) about understanding how your child will feel about the baby is to think about how you would feel if your spouse came home and said, “I’m getting married again. It’ll be great.” That’s how it can feel for your first child, even though they might not be able to articulate it.
ADVICE ON HOSPITAL VISITS
- It’s important for your child to see that you're okay at the hospital, although some people suggest not having your child visit unless it’s time for you to go home. (But remember, you know best about what your child can and can't handle.) If your child is going to just “visit” and is not coming to take you and the new baby home, give them something to look forward to (going out for ice cream) after you leave the hospital. Having to leave a parent at the hospital can be hard for your child.
- Consider having your newborn out of the room when your older child comes to visit. If the newborn is in the room, advice was consistent that you should not be holding your newborn when your older child arrives. If you have your newborn in the nursery, allow your older child to go with you to the nursery and push the newborn back to the room.
- Definitely let your child touch your belly, so they understand the baby is out and in your arms.
- Have a gift FROM your newborn to your older child.
- Let your older child help open the gift that they picked out for your newborn. (This could be the “going home outfit”).
ADVICE AFTER ARRIVAL
On the big day
- Have someone else bring the baby inside so that you have your hands free to greet your older child.
- Put the baby in the older sibling's lap for their first hello.
- Consider keeping the first day family-only and postponing visitors until later on.
- Involve your child in writing texts or making calls to announce the baby's arrival.
- If your child is old enough, teach them how to hold the baby.
- While having two kids is more complicated, you've already got a huge head start on the whole "baby care" thing. This should feel like a big and positive change from the first time around.
Be patient with your older child...
- Be very patient and extra loving the first few weeks. If your older child wants you to hold them like a baby then that is what you need to do. When the newborn starts interacting/smiling it usually gets better.
- Understand that some jealousy toward the baby is normal.
- Be prepared for some regressions (sleep, behavior, potty training) in the older child as they adjust.
- Try not to get angry or stressed if your older child lashes out in any way against the younger one. Instead, try to spin it positively. A member relates a great story her mother tells about a woman who walked into a room just in time to see her older son trying to hit her newborn in the head with a toy hammer. She rushed over and took the hammer away, but instead of yelling, said, "Look at what a wonderful brother you are! You're trying to share! But the hammer is maybe not the best toy for the baby--how about giving the baby a stuffed animal instead?"
...and be patient with yourself
- Cut yourself some slack on feeding. If you need to supplement, so be it. Breastfeeding can be very different depending on the baby, so line up a lactation consultant to help with #2 just in case. Letdown is faster for some folks with #2, leading to different feeding positions.
- Set up some emotional support if you had PPD with #1. You may have a totally different experience with #2, but just in case, it’s good to be prepared.
Make special time for your older child
- Make sure to take your older child out without your newborn if possible, even if it’s just for 15 minutes to get a slice of pizza. Perhaps a once a week “Out of the House” event.
- Realize that when your newborn is quietly nursing that this can be great bonding time with your older child to tell stories, talk and snuggle.
- If nursing is taking up a lot of time, suggest that the older one "nurse" their teddy bear so that they feel less left out.
- Consider "pretending" both your older child and you are the baby. Cradle your child and use baby talk, and pretend to give them a bottle/nurse, and reverse it where you are the baby. This might remove the fear that your older child can never be the baby again, while at the same time helping them to realize that they didn't necessarily want to be the baby all the time.
- Try "Special Time", as recommended in Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings by Laura Markham: As one parent describes, "It's not regular quality time, but a very specific kind of play -- letting the child be the boss for a set amount of time (5-15 minutes -- I recommend parents set a timer, or better yet, set a timer and let your child press start) and offering roughhousing as an activity. Let your child be the smart, fast, adept one and you are the slow, bumbling, not-very-smart one. These games get your child laughing and help him to 'empty his emotional backpack.' they also strengthen your connection with him, which makes it easier for him to let go when you need to focus on the baby."
- Hand in Hand has a piece on special time that's recommended by one of our members, along with the book Listen by Patti Wipfler.
Keep your older child occupied
- Try to keep your older child as busy as possible with classes, playdates, burning off energy at the park, etc.
- Rely on friends to help by taking your older child out for playdates without you or the newborn.
- Set your older child up with a book, snack, or activity before you sit down to nurse or put the baby down to sleep.
- Giving your older child more decision-making power can help them feel like they have more control. Just asking "What do you want for breakfast?" or "What shoes do you want to wear?" can go a long way.
Get your older child involved in helping
- Getting your older child involved works well with most kids. Have your older child bring over the bottle, a toy or burp cloth, etc. Make a huge deal about what a great help this is.
- Let your older child hold their new sibling.
- Have them sit/lie close together on the bed while they watch a video.
- Ask your older child if they can help you guess what their baby sibling might be saying when they cry.
- It can be very disruptive for your older child if the rules for basic behavior go out the window when the baby comes home. They still need the same structure and boundaries that you always provide, otherwise it seems like you've vanished too.
- Put off significant changes for your older child. Right after a baby arrives is not the right time for them to deal with moving, toilet-training, etc.
- Talk about taking turns such as “it's the baby’s turn now to be held.”
Share attention as much as possible to avoid resentment and jealousy
- Remind visitors to give your older child attention and not too lavish too much onto the newborn.
- Think about keeping a stash of small gifts for your older child in the event that visitors bring a gift for your newborn without anything for you older kid.
- Rather than giving a new toy or item to just one child, have two of everything on hand or take the opportunity to practice sharing.
- Don't lavish too much affection on the newborn when the older child is around. There is enough time during night feedings, etc., when your older kid isn’t around.
Let your language help
- Don’t blame the baby. For example, It's not time to leave the playground because the baby needs to go home, but because it's lunchtime for the big kid. Consider asking your older child to be quiet because it is too loud for you, not for the baby. After a while slowly ease into asking your older child to do things or not do things because of the baby's needs.
- Put words into the newborn's mouth, and "interpret" thier emotions for the benefit of the older child—for example, say things like "Wow, isn't it AMAZING how the baby looks at you? Look at how much they adore you! They think you are the most incredible older sibling! They love you SO MUCH!"
- Build the older child's self-esteem by praising their mature behavior, thanking them for being so sweet with the baby, etc.
- Complimenting the older sibling is very important, like, "Wow, you can run soo fast; baby can't yet." Or “You can say so many things, and baby can just say a goo”; “You are so lucky—you get to eat pizza and the baby is too young."
- Let your older child know that they don't have to share toys, etc.—you can work on sharing a lot later, when the younger child starts showing interest in the older child's things. Making sure that there are a few things that your older child doesn’t have to share (e.g., favorite lovey) is also important.
Tips from PSP members on handling difficult behavior if your older child isn't getting along with the baby
- One member asks: "We are having a lot of trouble lately with our 3.5 year old who will just not stop harassing his baby brother (9 months) and I am wondering if anyone has some useful advice or resources. Pretty much whenever they are together, unless big brother is really absorbed in something he is just constantly going at the baby. Kicking, pushing over, rolling or sitting on him, poking, squeezing hard, generally knocking into him (baby is standing and now getting knocked over constantly). Pretty much anything you can think of. Its certainly gotten worse as the baby has gotten older and now needs more attention since he is moving around. We try to give lots of attention to big brother when we can, i make a point of having "our time" after the baby goes to bed etc. It's so hard to do positive reinforcement when he's just constantly doing potentially dangerous things to the baby.
Any advice or things that have worked for other appreciated!"
- "I've preemptively listened to this podcast, which our pediatrician at Tribeca Pediatrics hosted. It was really helpful. It turns out that giving too much attention to the older child or intervening too much can actually make things worse, but at the same time, it's important to set boundaries and give time outs when necessary."
- "Our oldest boy was just under 2 when his younger brother was born. and it was the worst for the first year. the whole first year was hard like this - fighting, lashing out, being rough, hitting, etc. We tried a lot of different techniques: giving attention to the baby, time outs for the oldest, etc. Honestly, I'm not sure if anything worked but time... once our youngest started to become more engaged with his world (like at around 1 year or so) things just started to change. They started to play together. Our oldest started to see the baby as funny and silly and his buddy. It also really helped to get our oldest in a program where he was by himself - so that both of them had time apart and got individual attention in different forms. I know it's hard with COVID, but might be worth finding a way to have them have separate time (whether it's through a program or classes, or just through individual one-on-one time with his parents). Our older son really responded well to one-on-one time with me in particular... so it was important that I found ways to leave the baby with my husband, etc. Although that of course started me feeling guilty about not spending enough time with the baby then (because there's no easy way out of this!)
I guess what I'd offer is just keep doing what you're doing - give them each as much individual love and attention as you can, and I do believe that he will grow out of it and things will slowly evolve and change. It's so hard, but know that it is likely just temporary.
Our kids now are like BEST buddies. they spend all their time together, sleep in the same room, go to the same day care program, and whenever we do one-on-one time with them they always ask for the other and talk about how they miss them... so yes, things can and do get better."
- "We also had a turning point around 1 year so hang in there! A few things I think helped were:
1. The toddler is craving attention so whenever you are able to provide 1:1 time with him is helpful. I hesitate to write this because I would hear that and ask myself 'but with what time?!' and feel guilty about it, but even 15 min of 'floor play' (getting on their level physically) makes a difference. I found this a little easier as the baby would start playing more independently
2. Also we started talking more to the baby in front of our son and making a conscious effort to treat them equally even though instinct was that our son as the oldest should 'know better.' So for example if she went to take our sons toy and he freaked out, instead of telling our son he needs to share, I started telling the baby things like 'I’m sorry E., but C. was playing with that toy.' And of course she would then cry, but our toddler perhaps felt more equal treatment
3. To that end, when you are chasing after the baby or feeling like all your attention is going to her, telling your toddler things like 'I will be right there, I just have to watch your sister closely right now so she doesn’t get hurt on the steps' seems to help. Over communicating so he knows you’re thinking of him.
4. Lastly I did try ignoring per the Tribeca pediatrics article. It was somewhat effective but hard not to intervene."
- "From what I've read, toddlers just don't have the brain development to stop doing harmful things. My 3-year-old reinforces this repeatedly. She will be playing nicely with our 7-month-old and if I walk out of the room for two minutes she starts making monster sounds that make him cry. When I ask her to stop she says, 'But I REALLY like doing that.'
I try to never leave the two in a place where I can't quickly intervene. If you are wondering how things get done, they don't. My house is a disaster. But I can deal with piles of clothes easier than siblings fighting. When my husband is on kid duty, he squeezes in 33 tasks and there are more tears with the kids so it's about what keeps you (semi) sane. At least in our house, we are all losing our minds.
The other thing I read is that is to correct both children. So I tell our baby not to pull his sister's hair, even though he has no control over it. Or she is squishing him, I say, 'G. stop squishing your brother, and H. you can't let your sister squish you like that it's just not safe.' Even if the baby is just sitting happily in his chair and I am helping his sister with something, I make a big deal out of it and say, 'H. now you are just going to have to sit in your chair right now. I am helping your sister (get dressed, color, eat breakfast, whatever).'"
FINAL WORDS OF WISDOM (Quotes from PSP members)
- “With time and understanding it all works out and before you know it you have a 2 and 3 year-old who love to play together and neither of them will sit still long enough so that you can hold them like a baby.”
- “Those first 2 months are HARD no matter how you prepare the sibling. They want mom and you are holding/nursing that baby 24/7, which is totally normal - but a 3 year old doesn't know that."
- “I found it got naturally easier at around 12 weeks or so, once the baby started interacting/smiling with big sis and feedings became a little easier/more regular.”
- “Remember too, that you have already taken care of one child, so you know what it entails and that confidence and knowledge will help you navigate through rough waters.”
- “I was sooo worried because some members of my family had said things that hurt, for example: Oh, poor Michael's world is going to fall apart; he's no longer number one, etc... You get the picture. So many things that people say just lead to unnecessary worry!”
- “I am so happy my son has a brother so close in age, not just because they'll be playing together, but because it is teaching him so many valuable things - sharing, giving, developing empathy and loving.”
- “It is important to remember that sibling relationships are life long and develop and change over time. They can be volatile at times and connected and warm at others. They are not made in the short weeks after the birth of a second or third child but as the kids grow up together.”
- “Understanding your own relationship to and feelings about your brothers and sisters as well as your position in your own family of origin will go a long way to being clear about what you bring to your new family situation. (For example, sometimes we find that we tend to strongly identify with the child who occupies the same position as us.) In turn, that understanding will make it easier you act in a way that will facilitate the integration of a new child into your family. And most importantly, accepting everyone's feelings, including your own, will be the most helpful tool in helping everyone adjust. Of course, the many specific things that have been mentioned can contribute to setting the stage for harmonious family life. But everyone has ugly feelings sometimes and kids usually cannot express them so clearly in words. As is the case in all relationships, they will sometimes act out or express these feelings symbolically.”
- “Remember, you have given your kids a great gift: someone with whom they can double team you (don't forget to teach them how to use 3 way calling for this!), someone they can complain to about you and someone who can understand their frame of reference when they are adults.”
- “It's most often the case that I get overwhelmed when I have expectations for a harmonious co-existence between them, or between them with me. When I can remember, and really accept, that, in fact, this can be quite painful for the older child, and that not only is this par for the course, but that this, at times, exasperating experience for my son is exactly what he needs to go through, that these are growing pains, that I can really see the benefits of learning to share early on (share--in the deepest sense).”
- “I have never emphasized that he is to love his sister right away.”
- “Offer alternatives to the hands on stuff, including the usual inanimate object projection, or to try to touch gently when the hitting impulse strikes, to walk away, to talk to me about what he's feeling, or i will embrace him when it appears that what he really needs is a good cry, and encourage him to do just that.”
- “In terms of how the older one deals, the first few months are not so much of a problem for a lot of families. Basically, again you keep being the parent of the older child. So you nurse while you read a book, you go on the playdates, the little one just gets toted around. All attention is on the older one. The problem is around 6 - 9 months when the little one is particularly cute and getting a lot of attention, and then is mobile, and can wreck what the older one has made/built/created, etc.”
Here are a few things that helped our kids and others we knew:
- "Attention to the older child is a real issue and shouldn't be lost sight of. People get absorbed in a new baby. Not only the parents but lots of visitors are paying so much attention to the baby, and the older child can feel neglected. I think people have gotten more savvy than they used to be (e.g. my big kids got big sibling presents when the baby got a baby gift) but it's worth making an effort to ensure that the big one doesn't get lost in the fuss over the new baby."
- "We put together something that was like a baby book, but it was a Big Brother or Sister book. The original Big Sister book was for our friends' daughter, M., who was five when her little brother was born. My spouse at the time (now ex) invented the idea and it has been helpful for many children since. It was a "Trapper" (brand name of a looseleaf type thing with folders and construction paper pages) and we had some preformatted pages (i.e. that we preformatted):
- Draw a picture of the baby
- Trace your hand and the baby's hand
- Paste in a picture of you the day you became a big sister and so on. But most of the book was empty and it was left for the kid to ask all visitors to sign a congratulatory message to her on becoming a big sister. This allowed for a ritualized way to ensure that some attention was given to the older child by people coming to see the baby."
- "My partner and I also gave M. a little 'Big Sister Party,' welcoming her into the world of Big Sisterhood (my ex and I are both Big Sisters). Try finding a family friend to offer a special Big Brother or Big Sister outing in those early days, when your older child may feel trapped at home (particularly if the weather is inclement and/or you don't want to take the baby out yet)."
- "We stressed the things our big kids could do that the baby couldn't. 'What a big boy you are, getting that book down. I bet the baby wishes she were a big kid like you.'"
- "We pointed out that the baby waits, too. Older siblings get told a lot that they have to wait because the parents are picking up/diapering/feeding etc. the baby. We made a point of telling the baby to wait, too. So, I'd say, for example, 'I'll be with you in a minute, K. I'm just pouring the baby's milk.' It had the same effect on her as the more common 'Mommy's coming!' - my voice calmed her - but it made a different point to him.
- I find that so much of parental advice on this issue comes from the assumption that the coming of a new baby is a bad thing for the older child and the goal of the parental response is to make it less bad. I really think it can be very positive and that parents cue kids into how to feel about it in part by the way they present it. FWIW, our two older kids adapted very well to having new babies in the house (although the feelings about siblings as they got older have varied, sometimes day to day and sometimes minute to minute).
More advice from an 8-2013 thread...
- "We're in the thick of it too, only our little guy is 8 months old, and it's still happening for us. It's a big take-down for them, to be sure, after four years of being the center of attention (almost five, for our older daughter)! It's made me so glad to be the baby of our family, I have to say -I don't envy what it must feel like to be an older sibling when the baby shows up. Unfortunately I don't have any major words of wisdom, but I will say that when I remember to really validate her feelings, things seem to cool off for a while. The few times she's felt free enough to yell that she hates her brother and wishes we were a family of three again, I've just responded with a hug, 'I know. This must feel really hard sometimes,' and that just seems to deflate the upset feelings, and shortly thereafter she'll usually say, 'I didn't mean that. I was just upset,' and I'll say, 'It's ok to feel that way. This is a big transition.' And I can see that those moments are really helpful to her. I know that I've opened the door for her to open up about how she's feeling but with my mommy-brain haze I really can't remember how. I know I'm trying not to put words in her mouth but might just tell her how I can see she is feeling really frustrated, and she then will elaborate. A friend gave me a bit of advice that I really appreciated and found useful, which is that I've also made sure to remind her, in our fleeting quiet moments together, that I'm learning to be a mom to two children now, and I've never done it before and have to learn as I go, and sometimes it's not so easy for any of us, but I'm trying, and doing the best I can."
And I do know that when I manage to carve out time for her - more concrete time for just us, even a walk around the block - everything is better. It's just hard to do sometimes, of course, with a baby. Gosh, I'm reminding myself, I really need to do that again pronto! She'd started nail-biting a lot, and when I started being more understanding and focused and there for her, she stopped."
- "I will say that many people told me that it took 6 months for the adjustment to happen and I did find that 6 months was a huge improvement and then a year was when things felt pretty normal, that we were just a family of four. Of course, there are setbacks, but generally speaking it got so much better after 6 months."
- "It's a difficult balance- we're still working on it. Lately, as baby is sleeping through, we read books together in the morning. Grandma is also a special member of the family that seems to belong exclusively to big bro. We also try to spend quality time when it's naptime and I do a summer camp pick up on friday which we refer to as our special lunch date/dessert date- time we go to restaurants together or meet up for a playdate."
- "She is only 4 and may not even realize exactly what she feels about her new brother let alone alone how to express it. Have you asked whether she misses time alone with mom and dad? Have you asked whether she's angry at her new brother for taking her mom and dad's attention and time. Whether she's jealous about it. She may feel she is not allowed to hate him, and if you give her a safe place to express herself, you may find her behavior improves tremendously."
- "I find that many parents tell their children they are not allowed to use the word hate. The children then correctly understand that their parents believe that when they have intense feelings, they are bad for having the feelings. I know parents do this with the best of intentions, but I think our children are far better off learning it's normal to have strong emotions and that there are lots of ways to express them. Of course, that means you have to remain very neutral if she expresses anger and hatred for her brother. Anyone with siblings knows that throughout our entire lives the very people we love dearly make us angry too. I think her entire world was just turned upside down and if you acknowledge that, she will know she has a safe place to express herself and that she's perfectly normal."
- "When this happened to my son we spoke very openly about his jealousy and how sometimes he hated the very existence of the creature who changed his life. I believe with my whole heart and soul it was acknowledging and legitimizing those feelings which helped him transition. To me it was not so different from those moments when I hated him with all my might for 'ruining my life.' Of course, I love him dearly but boy did I go through some wicked post-postpartum. And I know having a safe place for me to express myself helped me get through those days! I think you just have to remember she is only 4 and needs some help in being able to express all that she is feeling."
- "Our 5-year-old son (who was 4 1/2 when little sibling was born) had a difficult transition for about the first 5 months. Around 6 months, things got much easier. We did 2 consultations with a fantastic psychologist , Ken Corbett, who heard us out and gave us some very gentle guidance on what to do (most of it was about creating space for the child's negative feelings about the sibling). Ken also met with our son once, just to rule out anything bigger going on. Bottom line: it gets better with time!"
- "We have a now five year old (4 when he became a big bro) and an almost 7 month old and he went through a very very similar transition. He was acting out at school and having similar tantrums at home and just being super difficult (lots of very intense hugs and being really silly and clumsy around the baby). I don't know if this is the case in your home, but we realized we were tired and unprepared for his behavior and were snapping at him and raising our voices a lot. These were things we rarely did before the baby and so we realized this must be really hard for him. We made a really good effort to not raise our voices and decided to only correct him around the baby stuff if it was really something dangerous (we kind of let the small stuff go..like strong hugs and little pokes and such). We also talked to him about how we were going to try to not do those things but that he also had to try to not do x,y and z with the baby. This definitely worked, but it took time... I think we are still in the transition, although much much better now. We also tried really hard to praise him for all the good touching and playing with the baby. And one other thing we realized we were doing was saying things like, 'you love your brother, right?' or 'you don't want to hurt him, do you?' and we noticed that this wasn't giving him the opportunity to say, yes, I do want to hurt him and I don't love him. So we started saying things like, is it hard when I can't play with you because I have to feed the baby? or do you sometimes wish he wasn't here.. and on and on. He really engaged with these questions and cried a lot and told us all sorts of feelings. It was hard to hear, but so good for him. Now when he gets frustrated he'll often just huff and say I wish baby wasn't here--a big improvement from melting down at home or school. I think it really helped to be able to share his ugly feelings. It's so much better now.. it think a lot of it is just time and patience... which is so so hard to come by at 2 months! I think it's also really hard at 4 to suddenly have to share your parents. I thought it would be easier since they are so independent, but I think it's that much harder. Good luck!"
- "My daughter was 3 when my son was born. Same issues. Tantrums, stomach upset. Going over and over her baby book and pictures of her and memories of her helped. Also lots a alone time with her, no baby. Pointing out all the grown up stuff she is allowed, ice cream, pierced ears, etc. Seems like 6 months for other kids I have seen, but was more like a year for us. Better every week though. I started drinking coffee for the first time and a more occasional glass of wine helped too."
- "My 3 year old sounds similar, even down to the stomach ache (which I think is sympathy pains with the baby's gas). What's made it easier is spending one on one time with the older kid. We got a sitter to watch the baby so that I could take baby to the children's museum or the carousel. We only go for a couple of hours so that I can come home to nurse/pump. If you can afford it, maybe that would help the toddler's overall attitude."
- "My only advice is to hang in there and let her express herself. My kids are the same spacing as yours. And like you, my first is a girl and second is a boy. We read a lot of big sister books before and after he was born (our favorites were How to be a Baby by Me the Big Sister and the Angelina book where Polly is born.) My daughter swore up and down that she wasn't going to be jealous and that she was never going to say mean things to or about the baby. We just told her that it was ok to be jealous, etc.
And for the most part she was amazing when her brother was born. But she went from being fully potty trained to having so many nighttime accidents that she was back in diapers for over a year. And there were of course the times when she said she wanted him to die. I just responded that I knew she didn't mean it but that I knew how hard it was sharing Mommy and Daddy. But she was also pretty bratty at times and I can't say that anything special worked other than consistency & time. 17 months later they share a room and they play really well together. There is still jealousy with both of them. But we make sure to have special times where she gets a parent alone for an activity that he's not invited to and he'll be starting a gym class in the fall so he will get that time too. Two weeks ago she decided she was done with diapers which I think means she accepted the new order of things."
And even more thoughts from an 11-2019 thread...
- "Mostly just be prepared for chaos. Our pediatrician warned us that the first 3-4 months are brutal and then it gets better and I can generally agree that on many days it feels like we're turning the corner."
- "My doula gave me some awesome advice for dealing with the guilt/ambivalence I felt about number two (how could I possibly love this kid as much as the first one). I don’t know if you feel this or need to hear it, but those feelings are super common. So just in case, she said: give yourself time. You’ve had 3 years to fall in love with your first. It’s ok if you don’t feel exactly the same about your second immediately."
I totally felt so many feelings about giving my attention to another kid, which in hindsight now feels silly, but was so real and painful at the time. So yeah, *if* you have those feelings, it's super common!"
- "I *didn't* have that common worry about being able to love another kid as much as my first -- but the feelings of loss re: my 2016 kid have been substantial. I've joked that it feels like I have a baby and my partner has a toddler -- I do most of the baby care and he does most of the toddler care -- and while 'divide and conquer' has been really helpful, but it's just been hard in ways I don't think I fully anticipated. We've made time for a little bit of connection every day, but in the mundane details of childcare, things like not knowing his preferences during his bedtime routine anymore can feel really.... sad. Friends have told me it starts to even out eventually, and already I can feel that being true: we're going on more one-on-one outings together, and my partner and I can take turns with bedtime now that we've started sleep training, etc."
- "We had to divide a lot of the things we used to do together and that was tough but you'll quickly develop a new normal. I also found myself rushing through [his] baby stage a bit because after being through it with [her] I know how much more I enjoy the toddler age. I initially felt a little guilty about that, but I comforted myself in knowing that I don't have to be the same parent for the two of them, that I had changed a lot over those 2ish years and it was okay to handle situations differently."
- "Toys and play are where the older sibling will have control, in a situation where there is little control. So yelling at trains, for example, or smashing block towers, are all really good to let happen."
- "Another tip I've heard is to ask the baby to wait for things so your toddler sees that they're not the only one being told no. So if the baby needs your attention, something like 'I'll be with you in just a moment I'm helping O put his shoes on right now' can be powerful for the older kid."
- "I ordered a personalized book for him about being the best big sibling- they put the kids’ names in and it comes with a medal for the older kid. (I think I got it from iseeme.com, though there are a bunch of companies that do it.) He loved that!"
- "Best wishes with the transition, and just know that some days you're going to feel like a failure, and some days you are going to feel like a magician and a superhero (like the first time you put both kids to bed by yourself)."
- "Someone else in this thread mentioned 'make sure you have two of everything' - that is so true, and it's also important to get the EXACT SAME thing. Not with everything in life, but I think it's more important with every day things like snacks...cups, etc. Just expect that they will play with each others' toys - you'd be surprised how your toddler will be super interested in baby toys, lol. Someone else mentioned about how the first few months are brutal... they ARE. I think if I were to give my past self advice, I'd say indulge yourself MORE. Get more help. Get a meal kit. Whatever makes things easier for yourself, absolutely do it. Because good news - things are MUCH easier later, and you won't need all that support! Hooray! It only lasts so long."
And a little more from a 2-2020 thread...
"Our oldest is a little over three and we just brought baby brother home. One thing we did was use a template from friends to create a Shutterfly photo book with very simple text that was just about our family. We used it to introduce the idea of a baby to him when I was around 20 weeks.
We used our own photos and talked about our family growing, adventures we had been on and we would take the new baby on. We used photos from number one in uterine to talk about how long it would take for baby to come and talked about all the holidays and events that would happen before the baby arrived. We also included photos of other 'big brothers' he knew, like his older cousins. The whole thing is about 10 pages. It made a much bigger impact than any of the board books about siblings we got."
"Before we told her about the baby, I got her an anatomically correct boy doll to introduce boy parts which would undoubtedly come up later with diaper changes and that worked out well.
After we got the first ultrasound pictures we looked at the photos together and that’s how I told her about the baby. I put them on the fridge and she would take them down all the time to look at them and talk about the baby in mommy’s belly. We talked about the things she could do once he arrived to help, if she wanted to (in the beginning it was mostly me talking but her language really picked up around 18 months haha). Other than that, it wasn’t discussed much unless she brought it up. Like when she brought up something D. (her brother) would do when he 'came out' we would explain that D. wouldn’t be able to do much besides lay down, sleep, and cry, so she was very prepared for the fact that they wouldn’t be running around together immediately.
We do have several photo books of her when she was a baby and she loved to look at those and I think that helped her with the concept of what a baby would be like.
Now that brother is here, she does often like to help bring me things when he is feeding. She also really likes to 'show him' things and brings things up to him and that’s been a good way for them to 'interact.' Another topic she loves to discuss is what she is going to teach him when he is able to do more. She interacts side by side with me with her boy doll a lot, giving him a bath when baby gets a bath, etc. I also got her her own ergo baby carrier to use once we start using the carrier with baby."
"We had one 'big sister' book gifted to us which we did read but I edited it a lot when we read it. I don’t refer to her as a 'big sister' because she isn’t even 2 yet and I didn’t want her to suddenly feel like she needed to be big or do anything she didn’t feel like doing. One thing that I read which I think has been really helpful is not to force anything. Most of the time she ignores him completely. She asked to hold him once and every once in awhile she asks to touch him and will pet him like he’s a cat lol.
When we got home from the hospital my husband and I walked in and greeted our daughter without the baby, and then let her come up to him, which I think was a good strategy. She put her favorite Duplo toy in his car seat and then went about her day like nothing had happened.
It’s really all been fine and going much smoother than anticipated. Two books I would recommend are Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Parent Speak by Jennifer Lehr (specifically The 'Who’s my Big Boy?' section). I imagine it will be harder when baby becomes more mobile. Good luck!"
And a 2-2021 thread...
- "I had my second in September when my first was 21 months old. I would describe her very much like your first: sweet but high energy and has high attention needs. We’ve been lucky in two ways: 1) She loves pretend play, so we got her a dollhouse (as a special big sister gift) and get some independent play from that. 2) She is loving towards the baby, so it’s easy to tell her how wonderful she is with him and make a big deal of how much the baby adores her (which he clearly does the older he gets).
However, she has gone through periods where she gets very upset whenever I nurse the baby or pick him up. I can’t even turn my back for a few seconds if he’s on the floor playing because she might try to jump over him or climb on him. He’s a bit safer in the bouncer, and I have the option to put him in a bassinet in the living room but still can’t leave the room because she likes to hand him toys rather forcefully and climb on the bassinet stand to peek at him.
These are techniques which sometimes works for us: For sleep when he was a newborn he napped in the living room bassinet or in a carrier on me (while I found ways to still interact with my daughter). Now that he is easily disturbed he sleeps in a mini crib in our room. I have a bedtime and naptime routine which is almost entirely in her room and can do with her involvement. Then I leave her in the childproof nursery to go into our room and sing a short song and put him down. If she gets upset it’s not for long and she’s safe. There are things that help based on her unique likes: for example, she loves being tucked in with a blanket and it sort of puts her in standby mode, so I tuck her in with stuffed animals in the glider, and she’s often happy alone temporarily. However, this only happens for naps or bedtime when I’m alone with both of them, as I doubt I could get much more mileage out of it.
For nursing, when she always got upset (this is so much better now!) I would hold her first on the nursing pillow and tell her she was having a turn being cuddled and then her brother would have a turn. She always went first. It helped. She really needed to be a baby still (and maybe know she wasn’t being replaced???). She is finally okay with being called a kid or big girl (and has stopped insisting she’s a baby), but for a while she would drop to the floor and whine wanting to be picked up and rocked like a baby. So we gave her all the baby time she wanted.
In general a few other things have worked well: Asking for her help with tummy time, asking for her to bring a new bib or burp cloth over, or anything that involves her and makes her feel important. With her independent play she’s gotten a lot of encouragement with ideas, for example, storylines for her pretend play or my building a duplo playground as a new fun thing to keep her attention.
She also has really enjoyed hearing stories about herself as a baby or what she did last week, and this is something we can do while changing the baby or I can do while nursing. And both my husband and I have gotten really good at making up silly songs about her to entertain her while getting other things done. There are also lots of kid songs that give them commands (clap, run, jump), which are great for active kids indoors and keep her busy. If she drops something on the floor and wants me to pick it up (a way for her to try to get my attention) I use a voice pretending I’m the thing she dropped and say “Louise, can you please help me and pick me up?” When the baby used a bathtub on the kitchen counter she would get a small bowl to bathe a toy of hers and a washcloth. There’s so much that works now but is exhausting — it’s all exhausting quite frankly. I assume, though I don’t actually know, that the young age makes it so they’re just not developmentally ready to be left in a room alone to play (at least not for long). But it really has gotten easier as she’s gotten just a little older. Plus it can take a while to find what works, but by being creative and continuing to try new things I’ve found more things that work for her, and she is usually very happy to have her brother around now."
- "The juggle is so hard. Several people told me the first 3-4 months are the most challenging so it helped to know things are temporary. Having the older siblings actively help can be huge though my daughter was 2.5 when my son was born so that might be easier when they are a bit older . And special toys are nice but screen time can be great. Also while I would never 'bribe' with food I may sometimes have resorted to short tactics like saying it’s time for some goldfish and Daniel Tiger in the living room (ooh bonus eating in the living room) while we put H. to bed. Finally carving out 10 minutes a day of one on one time for your toddler can be helpful.
Basically do whatever you have to in order to survive the first few months. My second is 6 months old and all of the dubious parenting techniques that I used to get through the first few months have evaporated away with little effort so don’t worry too much about bad habits."
Last updated May 2021. Special thanks to Noodle Soup for tips from the "Our New Baby. . .and ME!" coloring book.