new arrival – or new rival? sibling jealousy and introducing another baby

You’re expecting your second child – congratulations on your growing family! This means your toddler is about to go from being an only child to becoming a big brother or sister...Here’s how you can help them manage this big step.

talking about the baby

It’s best to prepare your young child for their new sibling – imagine the shock if a baby is suddenly sprung on them. Get the timing right too, as telling them too early can lead to impatience (toddlers really don’t do waiting). Around five months should be fine. Ask grown-ups not to talk about the baby in front of your toddler in the meantime.

Choose your words carefully, making sure it’s always ‘our baby’ rather than ‘my baby’. Talk about ‘your little brother or sister’, as toddlers like the idea of being the ‘big’ sibling.

involving your toddler

Before your newborn arrives, invest time in positive PR about babies. Your local library may have storybooks about new babies and siblings, and you can enjoy reading these together. If you know any babies, spend some time with them to familiarise your toddler.

Involve your toddler with choosing baby clothes and preparing the nursery. Encourage them to make a card or paint a picture for their new baby brother or sister. It's a nice idea to buy a white sleepsuit and fabric pens, and let your little one design a special outfit for their sibling.

introducing your children to each other

New sibling reactions vary. Your toddler may take one look at your newborn and make a swift U-turn out of the postnatal ward. Or, they may smother their alarmed little sibling in a squashy hug. How your child reacts when you're introducing another baby depends upon their personality, and how they're feeling at the time (a tired toddler doesn’t like many things at all).

You can squash sibling jealousy by making your toddler feel safe and loved. Hand your baby to a nurse, then give your toddler a big hug before introducing the new arrival.

plenty of one-to-one time

It’s understandable that your toddler will feel a bit put out. Babies take up a lot of time, and all that feeding looks suspiciously like cuddles to a jealous toddler... The answer is simply to let them know how loved they are, with lots of hugs and attention.

We know this is easier said than done with a newborn, but don’t worry. You’ll soon become adept at reading a storybook while feeding your baby. When the little one sleeps, it’s time to play with the big one – and they’ll absolutely love this time with you.

avoiding sibling rivalry

Despite all your efforts, sometimes it will all get too much for your toddler, and you may see some tantrums or naughty behaviour. Jealousy is understandable, and if a child is punished for this, they may learn to keep their feelings hidden. Instead, talk with your toddler about how they’re feeling and give them lots of reassurance.

Toddlers like a routine, so stick to this as much as possible – if they attend nursery, keep sending them. Playgroups and other activities may be logistically tricky, but your child will be happier if their usual entertainments continue.

keeping things running smoothly

There are lots of ways to help smooth this introduction, from watching the baby episode of Topsy and Tim to having your baby 'bring a present' for their older sibling. You know your toddler best, so you have a pretty good idea of how they may react. One thing is certain – if the newly-promoted older sibling feels safe, loved and reassured, the rest will follow.