Transitions Following the Birth of a New Sibling

The addition of a new baby can be a time of significant change and upheaval for everyone in the family. As a parent, you may be feeling positive anticipation for your new addition. Your older child or children, however, are likely to have an emotional transition to make after the birth of a new sibling 1.


With the birth of a new sibling, older children find they have to adjust to parents and other family members dividing their time and attention among more children 2. Jealousy is a common reaction to this change as children struggle with negative feelings in response to garnering less attention, advises Children also observe parents devoting a lot of time and energy taking care of the new baby, which can lead to feelings of jealousy as well.


Watching a tiny, helpless baby claim lots of attention from parents may cause an older sibling to revert to behaving like a baby or toddler, according to 2. The child may navigate the transition by trying what seems to work for the baby. If the baby can capture so much attention by crying, needing a bottle and wearing diapers, the older child might reason that he can gain additional attention with similar behavior.


Older siblings may experience anxiety in response to a new baby, according to child and family therapist Kathy Eugster, who is based in Vancouver, British Columbia. If your child struggles with anxiety during the transition, she may become clingy, nervous, withdrawn or depressed. She may exhibit separation anxiety when she goes to school, day care or a babysitter, even if she had previously not reacted negatively to separation.


Some children respond with anger to the transition, suggests pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene of Your child might express his anger with words or even with actions that could hurt the baby if you do not supervise carefully. The anger an older child feels may be related to sadness and grief about the birth of the new baby because the older child’s life and circumstances are now vastly different and he's unsure how to react.


If you discern any transition issues with your child after the birth of a new baby, it’s important to provide her with as much love and positive attention as possible 1. Spending focused one-on-one time with your older child may help ease the transition, advises Dr. Greene. Reward the behaviors you want to encourage and try to ignore behaviors you want to discourage.