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Can't You Take it Back? When the Green-Eyed Monster Strikes

A new baby is such an exciting and confusing change for big brother or sister. After months of waiting for that kicking thing to come out of Mom’s tummy and planning all the fun things that a brother or sister might do, the reality of a gurgling, spitting, crying, sleeping, pooping bundle can be a bit of a downer.

On top of that, this baby is admired by all – the older sibling is asked again and again “Do you like the new baby?” “Isn’t she cute?” “Don’t you just want to squeeze him?” While your child may nod in agreement, the silent message might read something like, “Yes, I would like to squeeze him – squeeze his head right off!” Just when it couldn’t get any worse, your older child now has to share their toys, clothing, and perhaps even bedroom with the baby.

When will it stop?Send it back to the hospital!

This disappointment and frustration, may be expressed verbally, but more realistically, it will come out in your older child’s actions toward both the baby and you.

The following suggestions may help everyone to adjust to the new family member.

Put supplies for the baby where the sibling can reach them. Children enjoy being able to help Mom or Dad by choosing a diaper or sleeper for the baby.

Use language that does not blame the new baby, for example: When big brother wants you to take him to the park, rather than saying, “The baby needs to eat right now, then we can go”, say, “I have my hands full but in ten minutes we can go out, why don’t you get your shoes and coat ready…”

If the sibling seems cranky or impatient, teach your child the vocabulary of emotions and acknowledge the feelings. Encourage your child to ask for a hug or some time with you when he or she needs it. This is a frenetic time for everyone and the lack of sleep and increased changes can significantly affect all of the family members.

With a second baby, the ability to nurse where you want to and to grab a nap decreases substantially. Have nursing pillows and receiving blankets handy in a number of locations so that you can be with your older child and read or visit while feeding the new baby. Catching a quick rest while older sibling watches a video or television program may be your only opportunity to get those zzz’s.

Remember that regression, while frustrating, is normal and your older child may not want to share everything with the new baby – they are already sharing you. Old rattles and baby toys may suddenly become treasures, greatly valued by your older child. Honor your child’s wishes to not share every toy, shirt, blanket or book with the baby.

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