Bringing home your second child has its own unique set of challenges. While you likely feel more confident about caring for a newborn, you may be nervous about balancing the needs of two children.
We’ve collected a list of age-appropriate tips for helping older kids feel included and helping everyone in your family transition into this new and exciting stage.
Giving birth and caring for a newborn can leave you feeling exhausted. Make the first few weeks as easy as possible by taking a few steps in advance:
Take the effort out of mealtime: As many parents can attest, preparing dinner with a newborn can be the most stressful time of day. For many infants, this is when fussiness peaks, which can set off a chain reaction of tension in all family members. Whether preparation means cooking ahead and freezing, buying ingredients for simple meals, or stocking up your takeout menus, make the first few weeks less stressful by keeping dinner simple.
Plan to keep your older child on their current routine, if possible. If your child usually goes to daycare but you plan to keep him or her home during your maternity leave, creating a new routine will take some time and patience. Consider trying to match your home routine to the daycare routine. Your older child will feel less disrupted, and it will help establish a framework for your newborn’s routine. When your new baby joins their sibling at daycare, you’ll be one step closer to a smooth transition.
Postpone other big transitions. Unless you can be done several weeks before the baby arrives, don’t try to potty train, move houses, give up sippy cups, or move your child out of their crib. Some regressive behavior in your older child is typical when a new baby arrives, and you may be too tired to keep up the enthusiasm and positive reinforcement these types of transitions require from parents.
Toddler Siblings (1-2 Years Old)
While there may not be much you can do to mentally prepare a child this young for the realities of a new baby, you can still frame it as a positive experience.
“Our two-year-old prefers having our undivided attention, which is tough to get with a new baby in the house. Last night she told me she wanted to show me something upstairs in her room, but that I needed to leave her baby brother downstairs.” —Ben
Preschooler Siblings (3-4 Years Old)
“When we had our second daughter, her older sister was three and a half, and totally convinced the new baby was hers. She would correct everyone—from the neighbor to the pediatrician—if they congratulated or complimented my husband or I on our new baby.” —Lisa
Most of the same advice for toddlers also applies to preschoolers. But, instead of the challenge of caring for two mostly helpless humans, the significant hurdles at this age are managing expectations and balancing the attention you give both children.
School Age Siblings (5+ Years Old)
“My five-year-old son never asked me why his baby sister looked different when I changed her diaper, but one day as I was kneeling by the tub bathing her, he peered over my shoulder and said with a great sense of relief in his voice, “Oh I get it. They just wear their bums on the front!” —Tobi
A child this age has enjoyed a long reign as “the baby” and may take longer to warm up to the idea of a baby. Or he may hear, “new baby” and think a new playmate is on the way. If he or she is expecting someone they can race scooters with, they could quickly become disillusioned about the whole experience.
Remember their needs and activities. Going out with two kids may be daunting at first, but your older child will likely grow restless after a couple of weeks of being housebound. Work with your partner and trusted family and friends to make sure your older child is still able to make play dates, practices, and the other events that make up their normal routine.
I am a Big Sister
The New Baby
My New Baby
There’s Going to Be a Baby
Once Upon a Baby Brother
What Brothers Do Best
The Boss Baby
How To Be a Baby
Dr. Later is a father of three boys, a die-hard Utah Jazz fan, and a lover of the outdoors. He has an interest in sports medicine and autism spectrum disorder. Languages: English, Spanish