After having 3 kids in 4 years, we have somehow managed to avoid most sibling jealousy. At least towards the new baby, haha. Don’t be fooled into thinking there won’t be any jealousy, or that it’s abnormal for a kid to notice things are different. But my hope is that you will be able to avoid jealousy by doting on your bigger kids, and by praising them for what a good sister or brother they are. Here’s some advice we have put to use that I think has helped our kids!
Ways to avoid sibling jealousy with a new baby:
It’s normal for toddlers to seem uninterested. I didn’t realize that at first, but they are just barely babies themselves! They are so little that life carries on for them with probably little memory of what it was like before, which is different for older kids. Here are some things we did with each baby that really helped to lesson sibling jealousy!
1. Don’t take away favorite items after baby comes.
I’ve seen parents tell toddlers that they can have their binky or other comforts till the baby comes. It seems to me that this could easily create resentment of the baby or fear of the baby coming so we didn’t remove anything. Especially if you are planning to wean a baby before the second (which you don’t have to if you don’t want). It would be helpful to do it before the baby comes so it doesn’t feel like it was because of the baby.
2. Give a gift to each sibling.
This is just a thoughtful thing that says I still love you and am still thinking about you. My mother in law told me this really helped her kids look forward to new babies coming home! (And I take her advice seriously as she had 12 kids and said there was really no jealousy in her memory when new babies came home).
3. Let your toddler be near you when nursing.
My mother in law also told me this is so important since literally hours of your life will be spent nursing on the couch! When I nursed our second, my son would often want to come look and touch her head or toes. I would invite him to sit next to me, show him how the baby gets food, tell him how special he was to me and how much I loved him.
I just really wanted him to learn to be gentle and to care for “our baby” with me. And, since I had hours less of one on one time with him reading books or playing blocks or whatever it was we did, he now had to be more included during nursing time.
4. Using the phrase “our baby”.
Another awesome tip given to me! And this one I think is important. My son and I would often go check on “our baby”. He would watch as I changed “our baby’s diaper”. He would get to put “our baby” on his lap sometimes. Basically, the idea is that this newborn is his too. I really liked that! It made him so much a part of daily stuff.
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5. Teach the word gentle.
I wanted to start working on being tender and gentle towards a little baby as early as possible.
We got a baby doll and kissed it, held it, rocked it, and very gently would rub its head and say “gentle”. My toddler would copy us sometimes (but mostly poked the eyeballs and nose for a while).
We worked on him not ever tossing the doll when finished but giving back to mommy or daddy or setting on the floor gently. I really think learning to hold and be gentle with the baby doll helped him know how to act around the real baby.
When he would sit and rock his baby we would clap and say “that’s so nice!”
6. Checking often to see if “our baby” is safe.
This has been invaluable and we still say this. When my second was born, I would take my oldest to see if she was safe all the time. He learned to say “safe”. Like she’s obviously sleeping fine and we would go see her and make sure she was safe.
Later, I would point out what wasn’t safe like a blanket pulled over her face or something in her hand that could jab her. His job was to learn to tell me if our baby was safe or not safe. He still does this now when she is almost two years, and it’s amazing!
Also, praise the crap out of them when they see the baby is unsafe! We have a treat bag for this, and they remind me they earned it.
7. Try not to blame the baby
While this wasn’t an issue with my second born, it was with my 3rd. I had older kids that could tell we had to leave fun places or just not go fun places at all because the baby was crying, or needed to nap, or needed to nurse or whatever.
I noticed how often I would say “We can’t do that because the baby needs to….”. It’s hard as a mom when you see your older kids disappointed that life seems less fun now that there’s a new baby!
I made an effort to just say, “It’s time to go home” or “Not today” instead of blaming the baby for it. It’s honestly really hard because secretly I didn’t want them to resent me. Parenting is hard!
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Our third is now 1 and my older two are 3 and 4.5. They tell me all the time when our little crawling man is doing something they know isn’t safe, like grabbing a cord or eating something he shouldn’t off the ground.
I also want to mention we didn’t really experience sibling jealousy this time either. They both get to hold the baby, and I let them hug and kiss the baby every time before he goes to sleep. I also tell them ALL day in many situations how much the baby loves what they are doing. Or how funny the baby thinks they are. Or how he wants to be just like them.
In the comments I’d love to hear ways you have helped your toddler not be jealous of a new baby, and if they seemed to work well! Please share by leaving a comment below.