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When a Sibling Arrives

Helping A Firstborn Become Friends with the New Baby

The birth of a new brother or sister may be difficult for a child who has enjoyed being the only child. There are often feelings of jealousy expressed by the older child at the birth or sometime within the first year. He or she may feel pushed aside, unwanted, unloved and very jealous of the time and attention the new baby gets. Before the baby, this attention was all his.

To help prepare for the new baby

  • Give your child real expectations of a newborn who will eat, sleep, cry, and need lots of diaper changes for the first few months. A baby will not be a playmate or friend for quite some time.
  • Involve your child in preparing for the new baby. ("Shall we buy the sheets with the ducks or the sheets with the teddy bears for the baby?")

Normal reactions to a new baby

  • Big brother or sister will want lots of attention after the baby comes home. He or she may be able to tell you he needs a hug or to sit in your lap, or may go away in disappointment, frustration or anger because you are too busy with the new baby.
  • Many children will regress to earlier behaviors such as wanting a bottle, bed wetting or thumb sucking. Some of these behaviors are reminders of a comfortable time when he or she was the center of attention.
  • Your child may be hoping to be reassured that she or he is still loved and cared about enough to take your time. He may think that time equals love. New babies naturally require more time and attention, but this may be difficult for your older child to understand.

To help your older child still feel wanted and loved

  • Empathize with your child about all the frustrations. ("It hurts my ears too to hear so much crying," or "I really wish I could hold you right now and read your favorite book.")
  • When friends and family visit the new baby, ask them to visit with your older child first.
  • Suggest to friends and family that a small gift for the older child would be appreciated when bringing gifts for the new baby. If you are uncomfortable making this suggestion, you might want to keep a new toy or book that could be brought out for your older child on these occasions. This is probably not the time to teach your child that you don't get a gift every time someone else does.
  • Provide your child with a "baby" of his own to feed, bathe and dress when you're dressing the new baby.
  • If your child regresses to "baby like" behaviors they need your positive attention and support. Resist giving attention to the "baby like" behaviors.
  • Find some time to devote to your child when baby is sleeping or someone else can care for the baby. Even a small amount of time will be important to your child.
  • Give your child small opportunities to help with the baby such as offering a pacifier, putting on booties, or winding up a lullaby toy.
  • With close supervision, let your older child cuddle with and hold the new baby.

Content provided with permission from Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

For more information or to discuss parenting concerns please contact Partners Employee Assistance Program at 1-866-724-4EAP.

In case of emergency, please call 911 or your local hospital emergency service. 

This content was last modified on: 09/08/2008

Partners EAP is not a service for the general public.

In case of emergency, please call 911 or your local hospital emergency service.

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