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The Baby Whisperer: Sibling adjustment - 9 March

Sibling adjustment - how to manage two or more children when you have a new baby!

The addition of another baby to the family is a big step in parenting. It is so much busier, and learning how to share your time and love with two or more children is hard.

Over time we adjust and adapt and it becomes second nature for the family but often not without some challenges along the way.

Older siblings love their new sister or brother but in the case where the age gap is quite small there often are times when they struggle with attention and time that newborn babies require - they suddenly don't have their mum or dad's 100% attention.


In my job I often advise parent how best to cope with two or more children, helping to give parents ideas with things like time management and how to breast feed and settle the new baby without problems from a sibling.

Older siblings often struggle with these times of day when their mum or dad are giving more attention or time to the new baby and not to them.

Being organised I believe is the only way to cope when you are home alone without help, thinking ahead about both children's needs and planning mentally how you are going to do that!

The Baby Whisperer's suggestions

- Plan ahead of time, set up an activity that will help to occupy your toddler while you are feeding or settling your baby. Choose an activity that is not going to require your physical assistance unless it is reading books sitting next to you on the sofa.

- Train sets, play-dough, outside play if you have shade to feed your baby under and block building are simple and activities they can play independently.

- Explain to your older child what is about to happen, giving them a little warning that you are about to feed or settle the baby and that you will be able to finish that game when you have finished.

- Distraction is a vital tool when caring for children, children of all ages need to be distracted from some behaviour instead of being told off or ignored.

- Include your older child in as much as you can, they love helping and being involved with things like nappy changing, bathing and cuddle time.

- Be careful not to say "no" too much when an older children is exploring and investigating their new sister or brother. Use a lot of praise and softer to words during this process, they feel special and grown up instead of scared or upset by your reaction, for example; "Good boy, wow, you have such gentle hands" (placing your hand over theirs if they are being a little rough).

- Learn some effect behaviour management skills to have up your sleeve when words and distraction is not enough.  Time out or a quiet chair are great ways of teaching older children that there are boundaries and if they are not listening, you will have to put there.

Giving choices is another behaviour management tool, giving them the choice of what they can do but both of the choices are what you would like them to do, they love being the one who makes the decision most of the time.  "If you would like to come into the room while mummy is settling Chloe, you need to be quiet. Do you want to come in or would like to play with this and when mummy comes back you can show me what you have done".  "See if you can make a tower while I am settling Chloe".

Where to go for further info:

These books are available at
Siblings Without Rivalry - Adele Caber and Elaine Mazlish
Boundries With Kids - Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend
Why First Borns Rule the World and Last Borns Want To Change It - Michael Grose

Go to the Library for books on parenting: there are many different styles of behaviour management or suggestions on how to bring up children and it is important you choose a method that you are comfortable with as you will have more conviction and confidence.