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Newborn: Help Siblings Adjust


You can begin helping your other children cope with a new baby in the home as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Expect that they may have mixed feelings about a new baby and may be scared about what their new role in the home may be. Here are some things you can do the help your older child before the new baby is born.

  • Read some 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. Listen without telling them they are wrong or getting angry at them.
  • Talk about all the benefits of being a big brother or sister.
  • Let your older child help decorate the nursery, chose some of the items the baby needs, or help chose the baby’s name. Let them pick out a special gift for the baby from big brother or big sister. Let them practice holding and taking care of a doll.
  • Make major changes (such as moving your older child from a crib to a big bed or toilet training) well in advance.
  • Remind them they will be as loved then as they are now and that there is enough love to go around.
  • Tell the older children stories about when they were born and how excited everyone was. Show them their baby pictures and videos.
  • Be realistic about how things may change. They will now have to share mommy and daddy with another person.
  • Tell them that you will be away for a couple days when the baby is born. Tell them who they will be staying with and what they can expect.

Right after a new baby is born (either at the hospital or during the first couple days at home) preschoolers may be a little less "chummy" with mom than usual. Don't take this as rejection but as a sign that the child wants to be reminded that his special place has not been filled by the new baby.

Here are some things you can do the help your older child during this time:

  • Give your child some small gifts to open. Having a gift from the new baby can be a special touch.
  • Have the caregiver or Dad do some special activities with your child while you are at the hospital. A trip to the zoo or the park or seeing a movie can make your child feel extra special.
  • Give your child a name tag that identifies him as an older sibling such as "I'm Jacob, Emily's Big Brother." This helps the child feel important and identifies him for the nurses.
  • Give your child his or her very own snapshot of the new baby as soon as possible, so he or she can show the picture to friends.
  • Remind your older child that you still love them as much as ever. This is something you will need to tell them often, especially in the beginning when you are having to give so much attention to the new baby.
  • Take a picture of the older child holding the baby and make sure it is put in a prominent place.
  • Tape a photo of your older child (or a picture drawn by the child) to the baby's crib in the nursery. This makes the child feel important and helps him identify "his" or "her" baby through the nursery window at the hospital.
  • After the first few days, try to spend some one-on-one time to let your older child know that he still has a special place.
  • Don’t expect your child to be grown up now that there is a new baby. He may be the big brother, but he’s still not yet big. Don’t push him to act older than he is just because there’s a new baby in the house. He may act more like a baby himself. It will pass as your child starts to feel safe and comfortable in his new role.
  • 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.
  • Gently remind people who come to visit that there are other children in the house besides the baby. Encourage them to give the older children some special attention too.
  • Be sure that older children have some special things and places that they don’t have to share with the new baby.

Written by Kate Capage.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-01-30
Last reviewed: 2010-07-01

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 health care professional.

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