Introducing a new baby

New baby with toddler sisterThe worst photos of new babies are ones where the mother is beaming at her new hamburger-visaged parcel and in the corner of the sofa there is a toddler or small child with a look of utter betrayal on his or her face.

So what can you do to try to make introducing a new baby OK for your older child or children?

  • Prime visitors to make a fuss of the older child.
  • Give the existing sibling a special role in relation to the new baby - eg first visitor, first to hold her, first bath assistant. Possibly not the right to name her - unless you are relaxed about having a child called Darth Maul.
  • But if the helping out is not working - back off, listen to your child, allow her to have her feelings and keep giving her as much love and attention as you can until the baby begins to grow on her.
  • Point out the baby will get more fun, will become a playmate. Being the first person to make a baby laugh can be a breakthrough moment in the sibling relationship.
  • A significantly older sibling might like to help out properly with the baby but shouldn't be coerced into doing so.
  • You may have to leave the interloper newbie in her bouncy chair more than you would otherwise like in order to lavish sufficient attention on the older child (a sling is good for this kind of multi-tasking). Try reading and feeding at the same time. The older child does gradually need to learn that the baby is also a person who has rights and needs, but not necessarily immediately.
  • Playgroups, however little you may love them, give a toddler time to escape from baby and you some time to spend bonding.
  • Amplify any small act of kindness from older child to baby and praise them thus.
  • Give the older child responsibilities and privileges for being older.

Expect and allow for some bitter feelings, confusion and some acting out from your older child - drowning her baby dolls in the loo, planning ways of murdering her baby brother (be alert for actual implementation of fratricidal schemes). Your older child should know it's fine to be angry and jealous and it's OK not to like the baby; it's just not OK to try to kill him.

You can emphasis the older child's greater advantages and the baby's admiration for her: "Look she is watching you do that. She can't walk/talk/eat a biscuit like you. She thinks you are amazing"; "She smiles at you because she thinks you are great/funny". Obviously, this only works for smallish age gaps - your 10-year-old may look at you with disdain. 

What Mumsnetters say about sibling reactions to the new baby

"On about the third night after another bout of the baby crying, he just lost it - someone, something had invaded his space, he couldn't sleep himself, couldn't bear the crying... he got up and ran out of the bedroom, hands over his ears, and of course I held him then and the tears just poured and poured. That was our turning point. He was much less difficult afterwards, though still rough with baby etc. I think that night of me repeating over and over how much I loved him and was sorry and understood, must have helped a little bit as he was 'with' me again. I really had felt as though I had lost him." TwinklyfLightAttendant

"What often works for us is an 'adult to adult' type moment: I'll raise my eyebrows at my older daughter as her baby sister does something naughty, infuriating or downright mad, and we'll both sigh together. It perversely makes DD1 more tolerant of DD2. Momentarily including your daughter in the adult world and sharing your exasperation about something the baby is doing may actually be more effective than trying to persuade her the baby is fun, which she simply knows right now isn't true." Issymum


How to handle sibling rivalry


Dealing with other people's children


Last updated: 14-Apr-2015 at 4:42 PM