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Helping Your Child Adjust to a New Baby

By Heather L. Zimmerman, M.D.

Helping Your Child Adjust to a New Baby image

The thought of sharing mom and dad with a baby brother or sister can be unsettling for a young child. After all, your little one has had your full attention for some time now. By helping your toddler adjust to a new baby, it will help ease any mixed emotions or questions he has before the baby arrives.

Sharing the News

The best time to tell your child the exciting news is when your belly becomes noticeably larger or about two months before the baby’s arrival. There are many ways you can prepare your firstborn for the arrival of a little brother or sister. Boys Town Pediatrics suggests:

  • Reinforce his new role as big brother by referring to your baby as "his little brother or sister" instead of "the new baby" or "mommy's baby".
  • Involve him in the preparation of baby's arrival by letting him help choose the baby's name and coming home outfit, helping to decorate the nursery and helping pack mom's suitcase for the hospital.
  • Tell him about his first days as a newborn. Talk about who first visited him in the hospital, gifts he received, how mom and dad cared for him.
  • Look through photo albums of him as a baby. Show pictures of him sleeping, mom feeding him, dad playing with him.
  • Let him tag along on prenatal visits so he can hear the baby's heartbeat or see images of the baby during the ultrasound.

The Big Day

While you are at the hospital, be sure to keep in touch with your older child as much as you can. It will reassure him that everything is okay and that you will be coming home as soon as possible. When he visits the hospital, be sure baby is in a bassinet so that your hands are free to give him a big hug. Let him a wear a nametag while there that says, "Hi, I'm the big brother." Take a Polaroid or digital picture of him holding the baby in the hospital to show his friends at playgroup or school.

Arriving Home

Once baby comes home, it is important to show your older child that he holds just as special a place in your heart as his little brother or sister. You or your spouse can do this by:

  • Giving him as much love and attention as possible. Sing songs to him while changing baby's diaper, tell him stories while feeding baby, and play games while baby is sleeping.
  • Making or buying a special gift from baby to your older child and letting him unwrap it when baby comes home.
  • Placing a picture of both your baby and your older child by your bedside.
  • Creating a special place in your house that is for your older child only. Respect this place by making baby stay clear of that area.
  • Giving your child love whenever you notice signs of jealousy or regressive behavior.