Preparing children for a new baby sibling

Q: We are expecting a new baby in three months. How do we get our toddler ready for the arrival of her baby brother or sister?

A: In spite of the great joy that it brings to parents and grandparents, the birth of a new brother or sister can be very disruptive to the future older sibling, especially if the older sibling is a first born. Even under the best and most skillful of circumstances, it will likely take at least two or three months for your older child to get used to the idea of another child being in their “territory” and adjust to the fact that a new person is getting “way too much attention” from their perspective.

Starting to prepare your child months ahead of time is a good idea. Trying to impart some notion of “ownership” by the older brother or sister can be very helpful, as well. For example, the phrase “your baby brother/sister” can go a long way to help them gain acceptance. Having the older sibling participate in caring for their new sibling – in age-appropriate jobs – can also help ease the transition. Having a grandparent, aunt or uncle around to give lots of extra attention to the older sibling has been key for an easier transition in some families. Finally, lots of reassurance from mom and dad that there is plenty of love to go around is a good principle to have.

Regardless of the age of the children in your home, there can be unexpected surprises at any age. A six-year-old who previously was an “only child” can be much more challenging than a two-year-old. Adoptive children will add another dimension of transition if the adoptive child is a little older than the sibling and is ahead of them in milestones, too..

Even if there are three children in your home already, a new baby will require an adjustment by everyone. An important principle is to reinforce that there is an abundance of love, care and concern for everyone and that this new arrival is a very positive addition to everyone’s life.

This column is intended to provide general information only and not medical advice. Contact your health care provider with questions about your child. Dr. Peter Dehnel is a board-certified pediatrician and medical director with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. Send questions to