As Families Grow: Helping Siblings Adapt To A New Baby

Mother with toddler watching the new babyHow do I help my family adjust to a new baby? It’s a question that families ask themselves with the arrival of each child. No matter how many times you’ve experienced this, welcoming a new family member is unique to each individual and to each family.

We’ve updated our tips from parents who have experienced the expansion of their families and included links to previous blog posts. You can view the most recent discussion on the La Leche League USA Facebook page at

Many parents found it important to emphasize the amount of attention and time they would need to devote to the new baby. However, they countered that with finding ways to include the older sibling(s) while meeting the needs of the newborn.

Nancy F. knew much time would be spent sitting and nursing, so she made sure her older son would be content and close to her during those times.

“My son had just turned three when his sister was born. I told him ahead of time that babies nurse frequently because they’re growing and that anytime I sat down on the couch to nurse her he could bring books for us to read together. (I had) baby in one arm, three-year-old next to me turning pages for me and helping to hold the book. We were all happy.”

While parents wanted to help their older children understand that infant care requires a lot of time, they didn’t want their older children to think it was the new baby’s fault that they needed so much more care.

Jill T. recalled a tip she received and how she put it into action in her home.

“A good piece of advice I heard was don’t blame everything on the baby. ‘I can’t play with you because I have to feed the baby.’ Things like that will make them resent the baby. I usually tell my toddler I have ‘busy hands’ when I’m holding the baby. And like others said, get them involved in helping with baby.”

Chris D. also explained how she tried to help her older children avoid feelings of jealousy and how she involved them while she cared for her newborn.

“When you’re nursing or changing the baby, etc., gloat about how much you did this with them: ‘And this is how I loved you.’ It avoids jealousy. Two-year-olds love to be helpers. At bathtime we used the kitchen counter. So, getting out the towel, soap, bathtub, and changing pad was always important (for the older sibling) to accomplish. It builds self-esteem and a new role in the family.”

There is nothing that makes a child feel more important than to know they are included and that their parents want to do things with them. Sarah R. shared how she worded this throughout her daily interactions.

“My best advice is to narrate both ways. ‘Mama wants to snuggle with you, too. Let’s let baby finish nursing and then we get to have a cuddle.’ Or ‘Baby, I hear you fussing. Let me help brother tie his shoes and I will pick you up.’ Or ‘Let’s head inside in 10 minutes for lunch, and then after we eat I’ll lay baby down for a nap and we can (do xyz.)’”

Danielle M. shared how she tried to make the transition with a new child easier for her other children, as well as an idea for making the hardest part of the day – for her – a little easier.

“I just had my third baby, and I have loved giving a present from the baby to my older (children), something they can do next to me and baby while we are resting in bed, like a new video game or a mess-free drawing set.

“This time (after my third baby was born), mornings were hardest, so what helped me the most when my husband went back to work was to make little breakfast snack packs (a mix of random snacks and a juice box: muffins, granola bars, dry fruit, squeeze pouch, etc.) the night before and have it in my room so when the two- and four-year-olds came in and wanted breakfast I could just give them that easily.

“It worked wonders for having a nicer slow morning! I just kept the little snack bag on my nightstand, and then once they woke up I would turn on cartoons so they could eat and relax while I could finish napping or just lying in bed nursing the baby.”

What has helped your family members adjust as your family grows? We’d love to hear your ideas! Send them to Amy at [email protected].


Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].

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