A Blog from Your Kaiser Permanente Pediatricians in Northern California

Toddler looking at baby

7 Ways to Help Siblings Warm Up to a New Baby

Bringing home a sibling for your first child is an incredible gift. Most kids – about 80% – are raised with at least one brother or sister. Your kids will grow up together and have each other’s support and connection for a lifetime! 

However, the older sibling doesn’t always welcome the new addition with joy, do they? We’ve all heard stories of kids who want their parents to send back the new baby!

Here are some ideas to avoid having to return yours:

  • Share the general sense of excitement with the older sibling. Even though toddlers won’t understand your pregnancy – or the long wait! – you can tell them when they start asking about your growing belly, clothes, or bassinet.
  • Explain to the big sibling what will happen when the baby arrives. Tell them you’ll go to the hospital to have the baby and stay a day or two. Tell them babies need your attention – they cry and need lots of feeding and diaper changes. Reassure your older child that none of that means you love them any less!
  • Greet the older sibling with empty, open arms when they come to see you and give them a big hug! They’ve missed you and need that reassurance. Then, the two of you can “look for the new baby” and find them nearby in someone else’s arms. I’ll never forget how much fun that was for my first child and his look of awe when he watched his baby sister lying in the hospital bassinet.
  • Have the older sibling bring the baby a small gift they chose with you ahead of time. Socks, a hat, or a book work well! And – magically – the new baby may give their sibling a special treat too.
  • Talk early and often about how lucky they are to have each other. The older sibling is indeed lucky to have a new baby and how wonderful that the new baby has a great brother or sister! This “brainwashes” them from an early age to be on each other’s team.
  • Let the older child help care for the new baby. They can choose clothes and blankets, and bring you a diaper for a change. When the baby cries, it may upset and worry your older child. You can help by teaching them some of the reasons babies cry. Ask, “Why do you think they’re crying? Are they hungry? Or wet?” Your older child may benefit from having a baby doll to care for too.
  • Try to spend some one-on-one time with the older child each day (even though you’ll be tired). This also works to help an older sibling who’s started to act out or regress in their development. It’s common for the older sibling to start having trouble sleeping alone or toileting accidents. As hard as it may feel, spending extra time just with them to read, play, or go out for a little trip will often help.

And one last word – many parents worry that having a second child will change the way they feel about the first. Can they love another child? Will it somehow hurt their bond with number one? To this I urge you to believe there’s room in your and your child’s hearts for the new baby!

Find more resources for parents:

My Doctor Online:
Caring for Your New Baby
Having Your Baby, What to Expect
Healthy Babies

Sibling Squabbles? Turn the Tussles into Giggles

The American Academy of Pediatrics:
Preparing Your Family for a New Baby

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