Your older child might try to get your attention by breaking rules — even if it means he or she will be 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 your attention, consider ignoring the behavior. This might encourage your child to look for a more positive way to get your attention. 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 plenty of 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 take away the baby's bottle or harm the baby in any way, it's time for a talk. Sit your child down and explain that he or she isn't allowed to hurt the baby. 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 to nursing sessions — or how to keep your older child busy while you nurse. Try not to worry. Your older child will likely express curiosity and 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 did the same thing for him or her when he or she was a baby. To keep your child entertained while you nurse, set out toys, a workbook or other supplies beforehand. You might also play music or audio versions of children's books. 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 quickly 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 illness or 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 do your best to show that you're there for him or her.
A new sibling will undoubtedly change your older child's life. As your older child adjusts, reassure him or her of your love. Explain to your older child that he or she has an important role to play now, too — that of big brother or big sister.
Mar. 23, 2012
See more In-depth
- Sibling relationships. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://patiented.aap.org/content.aspx?aid=5019. Accessed Dec. 23, 2011.
- Shelov SP, et al. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books; 2009:35.
- Berkowitz CD. Berkowitz's Pediatrics: A Primary Care Approach. 4th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2012. http://ebooks.aap.org/product/berkowitzs-pediatrics-primary-care-approach-4th-edition. Accessed Dec. 21, 2011.
- Zaichkin J. Newborn Intensive Care: What Every Parent Needs to Know. 3rd ed. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Sheridan Books; 2009:156.
- Meek JM, et al. New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books; 2002:105.