What should I do if my child begins to act out?

Your older child might try to get attention by breaking rules — even if it means being punished. To stop this behavior, praise your older child when he or she is behaving well. If you suspect your child is behaving badly to get attention, consider ignoring the behavior. This might encourage your child to look for a more positive way to get your attention. Talk to your older child. Ask him or her how it feels to have a new sibling. Listen.

Keep in mind that siblings sometimes regress after the arrival of a new baby — such as by having toilet training accidents or drinking from a bottle — to get attention. There's no need to punish this type of behavior. Instead, give your older child love and assurance.

How can I encourage my older child to be gentle with the new baby?

Sometimes older children — stressed by the changes happening around them — take out their frustration on a new baby. If your older child tries to harm the baby, it's time for a talk about appropriate behavior. Also, give your older child extra attention and include him or her in activities that involve the baby, such as singing, bathing or changing diapers. Praise your older child when he or she acts lovingly toward the new baby.

Even if your children seem to get along, supervision is essential. Don't leave your newborn alone with a sibling or other loved one younger than age 12.

How will my older child react to seeing me breast-feed the new baby?

If you plan to breast-feed your newborn, you might wonder how your older child will react or how to keep your older child busy while you nurse. Your older child might hover upon first seeing you breast-feed. Explain what you're doing and answer any questions your child might have. If you breast-fed your older child, explain that you once did the same thing for him or her.

Consider creating a breast-feeding routine that involves your older child. He or she can play a special role, such as helping with a diaper change before the feeding or getting you a pillow. To keep your child entertained while you nurse, set out special toys or a workbook beforehand. Play music or audio versions of children's books. Invite your older child to cuddle with you while you nurse. If your older child asks if he or she can nurse, the decision is up to you. Most older children find the experience somewhat strange and lose interest.

How do I explain a medical concern to my older child?

If your new baby has health issues, explain to your older child that his or her baby sister or brother is sick, and you're worried. If your baby needs to stay in the hospital after he or she is born, ask about the sibling visitation policy. You might also take pictures of the baby and show them to your older child.

Keep in mind that if you don't talk to your older child about the baby's condition, he or she will likely still sense that something is wrong. Rather than keeping your older child in the dark, give him or her some information about the situation and show that you're there for him or her.

A new sibling will undoubtedly change your family. As your older child adjusts, reassure him or her of your love. Explain that he or she has an important role to play now, too — that of big brother or big sister.

March 24, 2015 See more In-depth