The prospect of a new baby brother or sister can be exciting for a young child, but their perspective can change after the baby arrives 🙃 Don’t worry—it’s not unusual if your older child isn’t in love with their newborn sibling right away or if their feelings fluctuate.
Tips to help new big brothers and sisters
One-on-one time is No. 1
While it isn’t always easy with a newborn in the house, make a point to spend some one-on-one time with your older child. Even 10 minutes of “special time” a day will reassure them that they’re important too.
You can tell your child in advance, “I want to have (your child’s name) time today,” set a visual timer for 10 minutes, and let your child decide what they want to do (screen-free). If your child doesn’t know, hugs, tickles and giggles on the floor or bed can be particularly bonding. The idea is to follow their lead, let go of any distractions or your own ideas about how the time should go, and resist the urge to correct or teach them anything.
Invite your child to help, but don’t force it
Give your older child some control by involving them with plans and routines. For example, they can help you pick out a book for the baby, change the black-and-white cards in The Play Gym, or hand you a wipe. Encouragement and positive reinforcement are the keys here, but if your child doesn’t want to help, don’t insist.
Another idea is to give your child a doll and encourage them to mimic your care of their new sibling, like bathing, feeding, and diapering. This type of play may help them process their feelings and make better sense of the changes.
Encourage positivity, but accept negative feelings
It’s okay if your older child doesn’t feel totally positive about their new sibling. They may love the baby, but resent the changes, feel jealous, or not show love at all. Name your child’s feelings: “Waiting for me to feed the baby before we can play is frustrating.” Let your child know—and remind yourself, too 😉—that feeling sad or frustrated is perfectly normal.
Be ready for regression
If your older child is a toddler or preschooler, don’t be surprised if they revert to behaviors from an earlier age. For example, they may ask for a bottle even though they’ve been weaned or have accidents despite being potty-trained. This is your child’s way of asking for your attention and reminding you to tell them they’re special, too.
A hint about regressive behavior: avoid big transitions such as potty-training or moving into a new bed right after the baby comes home.
Our favorite books about being a big sibling
Consider asking friends and family who want to bring something for the new baby to bring a gift for your older child instead. Books about becoming a big sibling are a great idea.
0 to 3 books
‘The New Baby at Your House’ by Joanna Cole with photographs by Margaret Miller
A book to help children navigate the ups and downs of becoming a big sibling. Great diverse photographs
‘Best-Ever Big Sister’ by Karen Katz
A look at what big siblings can do that their baby siblings can’t. Full of great flaps to lift.
3 and up books
‘Julius, the Baby of the World’ by Kevin Henkes
Lily’s parents think her new baby brother is perfect, but Lily knows better—until her cousin shows her how she really feels.
‘There’s Going to be a Baby’ by John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury
A young child asks a million questions—with curiosity, excitement, and worry—as their family gets ready for a baby sibling.
‘Bobo and the New Baby’ by Rebecca Minhsuan Huang
This story explores the emotions a child feels when a new sibling is introduced—from the perspective of a dog.
‘Lola Reads to Leo’ by Anna McQuinn with illustrations by Rosalind Beardshaw
Lola gets ready to be a big sister and is especially excited to share books with her new sibling. Part of a series.
‘Peter’s Chair’ by Ezra Jack Keats
Peter runs away because he doesn’t really think he wants to be a big brother—until he learns what it actually means.
‘When Aiden Became a Brother’ by Kyle Lukoff with illustrations by Kaylani Juanita
A transgender boy works through complicated emotions as his parents get ready to bring a new sibling home.
‘Pecan Pie Baby’ by Jacqueline Woodson with illustrations by Sophie Blackall
A young girl is afraid the special bond she has with her mother will disappear when her sibling arrives.
‘On Mother’s Lap’ by Ann Herbert Scott with illustrations by Glo Coalson
An Inuit boy learns that his mother has room on her lap for two children.
‘Wolfie the Bunny’ by Ame Dyckman with illustrations by Zachariah OHora
A bunny family has adopted a new son—but he’s a wolf—and only one sibling is the only kid in the family worried about this.
‘That New Animal’ by Emily Jenkins with illustrations by Pierre Pratt
Two dogs can’t quite believe that this new “human” animal has come to live in their home. They don’t like him at first—until they learn to love him.
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