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New Baby Sibling

Helping Your Older Child (or Children) Adjust

What do I need to know about adding a new baby into our family?
Sibling rivalry usually starts right after, (or even before) the arrival of the second child. The older child often becomes aggressive, “acts out” or even regresses.  Regression means acting more like a baby—for example, by wanting a bottle, or peeing in their pants.  It’s important to prepare your older child when you know you are expecting a new baby.  Kids need to know what to expect, and they need time to adjust.  After your baby arrives, there are many things you can do to make the adjustment easier. 

Having a new baby in the family may be one of the tougher things your older child has to deal with.  However, it may eventually be one of the greatest gifts you can give them.

How can I prepare my child ahead of time for their new baby sibling?
Here are some things you should do to help prepare your older child:

Why is it hard for an older child to adjust to a new baby?
There are many things that can contribute to a difficult adjustment:

To get a sense of how your older child might feel about the addition of the new baby, imagine this: 
Imagine that your partner puts an arm around you and says, "Honey, I love you so much, and you're so wonderful that I've decided to have another wife (or husband or partner) just like you."  When the new wife (or husband or partner) finally arrives, you see that (s)he's very young and kind of cute. When the three of you are out together, people say hello to you politely, but exclaim ecstatically over the newcomer. "Isn't (s)he adorable! Hello sweetheart... You are precious!" Then they turn to you and ask, "How do you like the new wife (or husband or partner)?" 

How can I help my child adjust to the new baby once it’s here?

What other resources (including Spanish information) are there?

Are there any good books for parents on adding a new sibling into the family?
Either of these books would be helpful to read while you are expecting your second (or third) child.  Both address many issues, including parents’ feelings about a second pregnancy; helping your firstborn adjust; understanding rivalry issues; the father's role; setting up a family birth plan; and managing two or more kids while sustaining your marriage.

What books can I read to my child to help with adjusting to the new baby?
There are lots of great children’s books about pregnancy, birth, adoption, and new baby siblings.  Reading books with your child will help them prepare for and understand what is happening in your family.  Books about feelings will help your child know that all their mixed-up feelings are normal and okay.  Books can spark conversations between you and your child about their worries, questions, and feelings about the new baby.

Toddlers:

Preschoolers:

Preschool though school-age:

Are there any videos for kids that deal with new baby siblings?

What are some related topics on YourChild?

Written and compiled by Kyla Boyse, R.N.  Reviewed by faculty and staff at the University of Michigan

Updated October 2009

U-M Health System Related Sites:
Department of Psychiatry
U-M Pediatrics

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