And, baby makes four -- including one unhappy older sibling. Did you forget to add sibling jealousy to the list of concerns you had when it came time to bring baby home? You’re not the first mom to do so, but it’s perfectly normal for your firstborn to be jealous toward his newborn sibling, according to KidsHealth. Your older child might show his jealousy a number of different ways, including regressive behavior, separation anxiety, withdrawal or even aggression toward the baby. Remember, the jealousy is normal, but take steps to deal with it.
1. Bringing Baby Home
Start dealing with potential jealousy as soon as you bring your newborn home. Your older child can help pick a gift for the baby ahead of time, so he and the baby can "exchange" gifts when you come home. Remind visitors when they come to see the new baby that your older child would also like some attention. The University of Michigan Health System website even recommends having some special gifts set aside that you can bring out for your older child when visitors start showing up with gifts for the baby. Your older child can also help unwrap the baby’s gifts.
2. One-on-One Time
Despite the demands of the new baby, find moments to spend one-on-one time with your firstborn. Spending even 10 to 30 minutes makes a big difference to the older child. Find time for special activities when the baby naps or someone else is caring for the baby. Get your husband involved in caring for the baby, so you can take time with your older child. This is a good time to accept help from relatives if you live near any. They can care for the baby for a short while so you can spend time with your older child. They can also take your firstborn to a special activity.
3. Verbalizing Feelings
Depending on the age of your firstborn when the new baby comes along, he might have trouble verbalizing his feelings. Listen when he’s frustrated and never discredit his feelings. If he’s younger or having trouble expressing his feelings, help him express them. For example, if he’s showing anger, say, “You’re mad because Mommy isn’t spending enough time with you. We’ll do something fun when Mommy puts baby down for a nap.”
4. Mommy’s Helper
Let your firstborn help with the baby’s routine. The amount of help varies depending on the age of the older sibling, but even a toddler can help. Your firstborn can get you a diaper or wipes or a burp cloth. He can hand you a bottle or a pacifier. He can help sing songs to the baby, pick clothes or push the stroller if he’s big enough. For tasks that the older sibling can’t help with, such as breastfeeding, have special toys or activities available to keep your firstborn occupied while you tend to the baby's needs.
Remember, if your older child does have outbursts or show regressive behavior such as thumb sucking or bed wetting, don’t criticize him. It’s likely temporary as he adjusts to the new addition. KidsHealth suggests not bending the rules when your firstborn acts out, but to look for what feelings might motivate the behavior. Address those feelings when you can, such as spending more time with the older child, but help him understand that he needs to use words, if he’s talking, to express his feelings.
- Fisher Price: And Baby Makes … A Jealous Toddler? Managing Sibling Rivalry When a Newborn Arrives
- Scholastic: New Baby Jealousy
- University of Michigan Health System: New Baby Sibling
- KidsHealth: Preparing Your Child for a New Sibling
- Education.com: When Baby Makes 4: Dealing With New Baby Jealousy
- Children's Physician Network: Sibling Rivalry Toward a Newborn
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images