New Sibling Tips

We walked into our pediatrician with a brand new baby, a bit tired, but already knowing to ask for the room with a comfortable glider. Jane Anderson, our pediatrician at the time, is a mother of five and grandmother, and gave me this advice. Don’t feel guilty about sharing your time with the second child. Look at how comfortable you are holding number two. You know how to care for her in a way that you had to learn with your first born. As for your first, you are giving him many gifts. The gift of negotiation. The gift of sharing. Of leadership. Of patience. Overcoming frustration. Teaching.

Ben & Lili summer 2013_edited-1It takes time for a firstborn to adjust to being a sibling. He’s used to having all of your attention. I found the first four months the hardest. When the baby was new, my elder acted out with me constantly. He was always kind with the baby and never hurt her. (You can’t presume this, though!)  I resorted to sticker charts, but really, it just took time for him to adjust. The hardest were preschool drop off and bedtime — he just didn’t want to leave me alone with the baby. Let’s just say that I spent some quality time nursing on the floor in the corner of my son’s preschool room. I knew we were past the hump when my son asked for two more siblings, another boy and another girl.

The next hardest phase was crawling through walking. Suddenly, the baby was getting into the big kid’s stuff. Wanting his toys. Knocking down his constructions. Ripping his drawings. Followed by a bang, as my son would knock her down every time she stood up. We moved my son’s big kid toys into the dining room, which we gated off, but still he was *mad*. Finally, one day, when the baby started walking, she seemed like a playmate. Sharing is still difficult, but the big kid *loves* having a playmate who he can direct — put this here, put that here, go into my fort, let me push you in the wagon.

After the first year, things got *much* better. Sure, my kids fight. But they play together. For hours. They love each other. So, I feel pretty great about things.


Here are my best new sibling tips:

  • Spend time with your older child. If you have childcare or family helping, leave the baby and focus on your big kid. Your big kid will love you for it, and the baby won’t care.

  • The corollary. The big kid doesn’t always need time alone. Rather, big kids love to get their special time *in front of* their siblings.

  • Tell the baby when it’s the big kid’s turn. “Baby, you need to wait for me to give Brother his breakfast.”

  • It’s OK to make the baby wait for the big kid sometimes.

  • Give the big kid jobs to do, to help with the baby, like getting a clean diaper.

  • Let the baby nap on the go at least once or twice a day. I aimed for at least one nap a day at home, but did the rest on the go, so that my big kid would have some fun.

  • Give a gift from the baby to the big kid after the birth. It doesn’t have to be expensive.

  • Buy your child a doll to take care of when you care for the baby. Even boys like to breastfeed their dolls.

  • When the baby is old enough to leave behind, have some big kid dates. We love ice cream dates. Then, tell the baby that Mommy had a date with big kid.

  • Wear the baby when possible, using a carrier, so that your hands are free for the big kid.

  • Because your big kid will want the stroller if baby is in it.

  • Use a small backpack instead of a diaper bag. A real backpack with real straps is easier to juggle, albeit not as pretty.

  • Don’t leave the baby alone with the big kid unless you are 100% sure that the big kid won’t hurt the baby, or that the baby is old enough to take it.

  • Remember that most of us are siblings and had to share, but we turned out just fine.


My four year old’s advice:

  • Babies do baby things, like have poop accidents.

  • You have to take care of the baby.

  • Babies like baby toys.

  • I call my sister a fairy every day. Because she’s very beautiful. In all kinds of dresses, and sometimes she wears hair bands. And she’s nice.

  • I would love if you could have a new friend, and if that new friend has a baby, then the baby can have a friend, too.

  • When the baby takes one of your toys, I offer her a toy to trade with her, so that I can get my toy back. Or I sometimes call my mama to get her help.

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