adjusting to a new sibling

Helping a 2 Year Old Adjust to a New Baby

I had a text conversation this week with a couple of old gal pals. We only see each other about once a year, since we live across the country from each other. It’s always fun! I checked in on them earlier this week to see how they were recovering, since both mamas had babies within the past month. I found out that while things are going mostly well, they are feeling a bit overwhelmed by helping their big kids adapt to a new sibling. Here are my tips, some of which work especially well for helping a 2 year old adjust to a new baby.

Looking for all your tips on helping older siblings transition to a new baby! My big kid is easier to melt down and needing much more attention!

–  Frazzled in Franklin

I second the topic request of behavior challenges after a new baby! Right now, my big kid has FOMO, won’t go to bed, and comes into our room twice a night.

– Heavy-Eyed in Hatboro

adjusting to a new sibling

Mama Manages Says THIS about helping a 2 year old adjust to a new baby…

First, know this: you’re absolutely in the worst of it right now. It WILL get better, and probably very soon. It’s only been one month since the older sibling has experienced a pretty earth-shattering event. Yet, the newness and excitement of being a big sibling has worn off. Now, they’re just left with a lot of doubt, change, and separation anxiety. Adjusting to a new sibling is big-time difficult.

Try seeing it from their perspective: that little squishy baby isn’t terribly lovable in their current state. This new critter takes tons of attention, cries a lot, and won’t interact or play with them. It’s not what they expected at all! But this chaos is short-lived. Even if none of my ideas or tips work, have peace in your heart, knowing it won’t last. 

In order to survive the emotional weight of helping a 2 year old adjust to a new baby, it helps to know it won’t be forever.


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    Assess the Severity of Routine Disruptions

    When Chicken Patty was becoming a big brother, we suspected it would go badly. We were trying to help a 2 year old adjust to a new baby, and it went predictably bad. He was also less verbal than his older sister, and has never handled schedule disruptions well. We tried to protect his routine, but I was in the hospital for three days, Grandma and Birdie were helping out at home, and different people were dropping him off and picking him up at daycare.

    Not long after that, we pulled him from daycare due to Covid 19, and my husband and I alternated bedtime stories and potty breaks because of nursing. This was not well-received, friends. 

    So, what is the temperament of your older kiddos? Do they tend to struggle with schedule changes or disruptions to routines? Have changes taken place – even slight ones? If so, realize that’s likely a big contributing factor – not that they dislike the new baby. If you CAN assess the number of changes and start to restore some of their old normalcy, do so!

    Helping a 2 year old adjust to a new baby means lots of tantrums. Let your child lose it.

    There are times when you can’t go back to their old routines and schedules. And then, it’s just gonna be hard for some kids. All you can do is love on the big kid when possible, have compassion for them, and let them have their meltdowns. Becoming a big sibling is a huge, scary thing for some kids. 

    I have a confession. When Turkey Burger was 2 and would have epic meltdowns, I would send her to her room. I thought not “letting her have an audience” would teach her that throwing a fit was unacceptable. It kind of worked for her. 

    That same thing doesn’t work for Chicken Patty at all. I used to try the same old trick on him, and instead he would become inconsolable, hurt, and would scream even louder until I was afraid he would be sick. He won every dang time. It didn’t feel healthy when I tried it with him. It was breaking my mama heart, and I think for good reason. 

    Sometimes kids have big feelings, and we gotta let them safely experience them. I’ve been listening to Janet Lansbury’s podcast Unruffled, and she has lots to say on that topic. I gotta say, it makes tons of sense to me and I’ve been trying to be more compassionate toward Chicken Patty’s outbursts. Now, when he totally melts down, I just sit in his presence. I offer a hug, but he often doesn’t want one. He just needs to know it’s okay to totally meltdown in my presence, and I won’t love him any less for his big feelings. 

    When little kids are having to adjust to a new sibling, big feelings are all but guaranteed. Try not to panic when they’re freaking out. I mean, we’re all freaking out a little bit right? We adults just have better manners.

    adjusting to new sibling

    As for the Sleep Problems…

    The main thing is to not create any long-term sleep problems by creating new bad habits during this transition period. If you’re not cool with older siblings in the room (can’t blame ya), then don’t let that become a habit. This scary phase of helping a 2 year old adjust to a new baby is short-term, but untenable sleep habits can continue. 

    I happen to know your situation well enough to know that you’ve got a partner to help out. If you’re the one getting up with the baby, Mama, (pumping, nursing, feeding bottles, changing diapers) don’t be afraid to ask your Hubs for help with the big kid.

    Even though it’s exhausting, someone needs to be walking big sister back to bed over and over again until she finally settles back down, confident that mom and dad still love her. She may be seeking extra night-time attention if she’s feeling neglected during the day. I mean, she’s not right to feel neglected, but we all have irrational fears. If necessary, that same someone might have to sleep in her room on a blow up mattress for a little while, assuming several trips back to her room doesn’t do the trick. 

    In the daytime, pamper her as much as possible without losing your own sanity or further disrupting her routine, until she starts to feel more secure. This will pass!

    Enlist Friends and Family for Big Brother or Sister

    If you’ve got lots of support nearby, this is the time to be honest and ask for help. It’s hard to do. Usually, there’s a flurry of helpers in the first few days after a birth, and then they all disappear. That’s especially true if it’s not your first baby. Covid-19 adds an extra layer of messiness to all this.

    Nevertheless, this is a great time to bring back some of the older sibling fun. When the baby was first born, they probably got a couple new toys or books from friends and family. That’s probably dissipated by now.

    There’s no good substitute for Mama’s love, and they’ll still feel jealous of the new baby. But if someone can take them for a hike, or for some drive-through ice cream, or play pretend with them for a bit, that might go a long way toward wearing them out. Don’t forget that physical activity for kids can settle their brains down and has a calming effect.

    Pick up the phone and be real with someone who loves you guys! You’re all having to adjust to a new sibling, and it’s not going to be pretty if you’re feeling alone.

    enlist help from a family member or friend

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