It takes times for a tot to learn to share the limelight.

Toddler Behavior After a New Baby Arrives

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

Your normally endearing toddler -- with the exception of an occasional tantrum of course -- may reveal a new side of himself when a baby sibling arrives on the scene. An adorable sense of wonderment may be sprinkled with unbecoming and disruptive moments of jealousy, hostility and regression as your toddler adjusts to the newest member of the family.

Hostility And Jealousy

Sibling rivalry often begins the moment the baby enters the home. The idea of sharing mommy with a new baby doesn't sit well with some toddlers. She may express her displeasure by running off with the baby's bottle or performing similar stunts that will interfere with her sibling's needs. Make it clear to your toddler that it's not okay to disrupt the baby's needs, intentionally try to make her cry or hurt her in any way.

Explaining to your toddler that it's safe to talk about her frustrations and fears about the new baby can help minimize episodes of acting out. Ask your tot if she is sad and wants a hug if she appears distraught. Tell her that you understand how hard it must be for her when you have to focus exclusively on the new baby.

Dealing With Regression

Acts of regression in an older child are just about the last thing you need to deal with when a caring for a newborn. Nevertheless, it's quite normal for a toddler to revert back to babyish behavior when a newborn arrives on the scene. For instance, a child who's been drinking out of a cup for months or even years may want his bottle back. A potty-trained child might have daytime accidents or start wetting the bed.

Moving backwards is an older child's way of testing the waters to see how he stacks up against his younger sibling. Give your tot his much sought after attention instead of scolding him for acting like a baby. Tell him how proud he makes you when he acts like a big boy.

Withstanding Withdrawal

Withdrawing from her rocked little world is another way an older sibling may react to a new baby. Refusing to play, acting despondent with her head hung low and not talking can be signs that your child has tuned out for the time being. Invite her to help with the baby but don't force the issue if she shows no interest in participating. Ignoring a baby sibling is a normal coping mechanism for many toddlers as they adjust to the idea of sharing mom and dad with someone else.


Believe it or not, an older sibling's negative response to a new baby has a positive spin. The ability to express jealousy that can show up as anger, hostility, harassment, aggression, stubbornness, regression or withdrawal means that your toddler feels that his environment is safe enough to express behaviors he knows you don't want to hear or see.

Keep in mind that young children need supervision whenever they are with their baby siblings -- even if things seem to be going smoothly. Newborns should not be left unattended with children younger than age 12.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

Photo Credits

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