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Preparing older children for a new sibling

When a newborn baby joins the family it takes time and patience for other children to adapt to the change.

It can be exciting for a child to welcome their new brother or sister into the family. It's also normal for children to feel jealous of a new brother or sister.

Some children go back to baby behaviour. A toilet-trained child may wet themselves again or have tantrums.

The time and love you give to an older child and the way you deal with their behaviour are important. It's important to show your child how to deal with and manage their emotions.

Let them know you love them and that they are an important part of the family.

Preparing an older child

To help prepare an older child, you can:

  • talk to them about the pregnancy and the new baby
  • let them help you get ready, for example, chatting about potential names
  • bring them to some antenatal appointments
  • read them stories about baby brothers and sisters
  • bring them to visit friends who have babies

Helping an older child to adapt

An older child may be jealous. They may go back to baby behaviour for a time, such as wanting a bottle or breastfeeding. They may also want you to lift them or to use baby talk.

If possible, spend time with the older child. Keep up with their routine or activities. Have a chat or play a game. Even 10 minutes of special one-on-one time is good. This may help to make them feel secure and adjust to their new position in their family.

Ask visitors to tell your older child how great they are as the new big brother or sister.

There are ways to help an older child adjust to your new baby:

  • give them some time and attention
  • keep the family routine as normal as possible
  • encourage them to get involved, especially while playing and reading
  • do not force them to be too involved
  • talk to them when changing nappies and feeding the baby
  • have the new baby bring the older child a gift

It may be possible to tandem feed (breastfeeding 2 different age siblings) for a while. For information on tandem feeding, contact your local breastfeeding group.

For advice about coping with your child's behaviour, contact your:

  • public health nurse
  • GP or practice nurse

Parenting advice and getting support

Page last reviewed: 29 June 2022
Next review due: 29 June 2025