8 Ways To Help Your Older Child Adjust To A New Baby
Updated: Sep 19, 2022
Bringing a second child into the world can be an adjustment. Here are eight tips to help the older sibling adjust to life as a new big brother or big sister.
Photo by: Jessica Simpson Photography
When we decided to grow our family, one of my main concerns was - How will I continue to give attention to my very needy toddler when we bring a newborn home and how will I make him feel loved without putting his needs on the back burner?
I'll never forget the moment our oldest walked in from his grandparent's house after we brought the baby home. "That baby Oliver?" "May I hold him?" "Did he get a haircut?" He was confused, excited, and proud. He would literally come home from school and just sit and watch the baby.
After only a few days home, the baby's Bilirubin levels were very high and we had to be admitted back into the Pediatric Unit of the hospital for Bili-Light Treatment. We were leaving our toddler again so soon! He left, reluctantly, with his grandparents. Rolling suitcase in one hand and bunny in the other.
Fast forward three weeks and I wake up with severe pain in my right side and shaking uncontrollably. I thought it was just post-surgery gas, but it kept getting worse and my temperature was rising. Off to the hospital I went. Leaving my babies behind. Again. This time with daddy. When they confirmed it was Appendicitis requiring emergency surgery, I broke down and cried in the bathroom while leaking breastmilk through my hospital gown.
Things had finally settled when my wisdom tooth cracked and became infected. One of the many “joys” of pregnancy is the impact it can have on your teeth. Here I was, going into my third surgery in less than a month. They recommended pumping and dumping for the first 24 hours. This meant my husband had to be the main caretaker and pick up the household slack while I was recovering from my c-section, appendectomy, and now the surgical removal of my wisdom tooth. Another blow to my mama's boy.
His behavior at this point left something to be desired. Many temper tantrums and many tears (by all parties) were had. Potty training had regressed and he refused to go to bed; begging to sleep in our room because that is where the new baby was sleeping. He even started to act like a baby- requesting we carry him, saying "goo goo gaa gaa," and wanting to drink 'milkies' like a baby.
I kept asking myself, What can I do to help with my toddler's behavior? How can I fix this?
Here are a few things we started doing or changed that resulted in a much happier big brother- and mama!
First and most importantly, don’t belittle or scold the older sibling because of their regression.
Reassure them and offer praise for their "big brother / big sister" behavior. It is not uncommon for these regressions with food, sleep, toilet, etc to happen during major life changes, such as bringing home a new baby.
One parent to one kid. If I was tending to the baby, my husband was tending to big brother and vice versa. This ensured his needs were still met while the other parent was caring for the baby.
Stop The "Blame Game"
“We can’t, the baby’s sleeping.” “Be quiet, you’ll wake up the baby.” “After I feed the baby, I’ll help you.” Instead, use alternate reasons. “We’ll go after lunch.” “My hands are busy now.” “I’ll help you in five minutes.” By changing the way you respond, you aren't blaming the new baby which could lead to resentment and jealousy thinking the baby's needs are above theirs.
Listen and Acknowledge
We let him know we understand it must be hard when mommy and daddy spend so much time with the baby and it will get better. When your child knows that you understand their feelings, they’ll have less of a need to act out to get your attention.
Offer Special “Alone” Time
One parent would stay with the baby and the other would give our toddler one-on-one time. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. Some ideas are breakfast/lunch dates, playground visits, Target (his favorite), going on a bike ride / walk, reading a book together or playing a game. He craved that alone time with us and was happy to do anything together.
Starting a bedtime routine with a newborn as early as you can is important for good sleep habits. It was tough to find a routine that worked for us after getting home, which resulted in the baby not going to bed until almost 11 pm. We started to focus on getting the baby in bed earlier so we could give our oldest undivided attention. As your child gets older, it’s okay to push their bedtime a little later. His favorite thing to do now is snuggling on the couch with low lighting before bed.
Get Them Involved
Toddlers like to help whether you like it or not. You might as well embrace it and take all the help you can get. They will enjoy being involved! We had our son help with feedings when I needed to pump, diaper changes, bath time, bringing me things while I was breastfeeding, and now that we have started solids he is helping with that too.
A Year of Fun
For Christmas this year, we plan to give him a “Year of Fun” gift. This is where we plan one special activity a month. I have a list of ideas such as going to the water park, fun centers, zoo, aquarium, caverns, movie dates, horseback riding, drive-thru safari, go-karts, and more. I just know he is going to love it and as the baby gets older, I am sure he will enjoy it too!
Bringing a second child into the world and your home is an adjustment. Jealousy is completely normal when a new baby joins the family. Relax. Give yourself grace. There will be times you are not perfect, you’re not meant to be. Give your child some extra love and snuggles.
Today he told me, “I love being a big brother!”
Did your toddler have a hard time adjusting to a new baby at home? Let me know your experience in the comments and share some helpful tips for other mamas!