How to Help Your Child Adjust to a New Baby

Having another baby is exciting – and daunting! You might be wondering how your child will adjust to the new baby.

Sometimes your child might be very excited to have a new sibling join the family. Other times – especially if they’re used to having you all to themselves – they might not be so sure.

Here’s some tips to help your child become a big brother or sister.

Start the story early

Start talking to your child long before the new baby arrives. And be ready to answer all kinds of questions about how the baby is growing – and how it will get out of mummy’s tummy! There are many great children’s books to help your child understand what’s happening, and about being a big brother or sister. Sharing the story and photos of your child when they were born can help too. It can be fun to tell your child how big the baby is getting as it grows – from jellybean size to a small pumpkin!

second pregnancy vs first pregnancy

Baby coming!

Let your child be part of the excitement of setting up the baby’s room and choosing small things for the baby. Kids love coming up with ideas for baby’s name too! Explain what will happen when it’s time for the baby to be born. Let them know where mummy will go, for how long, and who will care for your child. Your child might like to draw pictures for you to take to hospital or mind a special item of yours so they feel connected while you are away.

In hospital

Meeting the new baby in hospital is such an exciting time! But it can also be overwhelming for your child. Here are some ways to make it easier.

  • If you can, have the baby in the crib or being held by someone else when your child enters. This means you have your lap and arms free to cuddle your child.
  • Focus on welcoming and reconnecting with your child. It may not have been long since you saw them, but time can seem much longer for your child.
  • Celebrate this special time, perhaps with a favourite drink or snack for your child.
  • Have someone help your child choose a special gift for the new baby to bring to hospital and have a special gift ready from the baby to your child.
  • Include your child in photos, and make a fuss of the first kiss or cuddle they give the baby.
  • If possible, let your child visit as often as you can until you come home. If not, phone calls and messages can help.

sibling meeting new baby in hospital

It may NOT be love at first sight

It’s a big adjustment having a new baby in the family! Even if your child was excited about the idea of having a new baby, they may have all kinds of reactions once the baby actually arrives. Some children will be excited while others may ignore the baby to start with. It’s normal for children to feel jealous, upset, worried or resentful because of the time and attention the baby needs. Others may be disappointed because the baby can’t play with them yet.

Expect some acting out

Your child may show you how they are feeling in their behaviour, by seeking your attention, wanting more help, regressing to younger behaviour or acting out. All of these reactions are normal. It’s important to acknowledge whatever your child is feeling, listen and help them adjust during this time. If possible, try to spend some time alone with your child so they know you are still their mum too. Ah the joys of sibling rivalry – check out what you can expect!

Being a big helper

Kids love to feel big by helping care for the new baby. Even young children can pass you things to help change or bath the baby, sing the baby a song or show them books or toys. Letting your child make small decisions, such as which socks baby will wear, can help them feel part of things. Many young children also like to copy their parents, so can enjoy having a doll as their baby to care for.

gender neutral toys

Learning to be a big brother or sister can be tough – and take time!

Give your child some time and space to adjust. There are some great resources to help at Parenting SA and Child and Youth Health

And once you bring baby home, here’s some super useful tips from mums who’ve already been there. 

Avatar of Kerry Rosser

I love my three country kids - and all things writing! Like most mums, I wear lots of hats - writer, children's author, organisational psychologist and the pairer of the odd socks!

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