Expecting a second (or third, or fourth!) baby? Congrats! Here are a few tips on how to prepare and manage your eldest’s jealousy.


You are excited about the new life growing inside your belly, but also a bit apprehensive. How will my eldest react? Will they play together? Will my oldest feel neglected during the first few months? Will they get jealous?

Sibling jealousy is a common concern. Let’s discuss what steps you can take for the transition to be smoother for your oldest child(ren).

Before the birth

Communicate the news

Tell your child about the baby in your tummy. There is no specific time when to do this but take into consideration the child’s age and ability to understand. Typically, a few months in advance when you start showing is a good time. Remind them often that there is a baby coming and share your excitement!


Read to your child a few books about the arrival of a new sibling so they know what to expect. For example, that mommy will spend a few days at the hospital while grandparents stay over. Since births can be unpredictable you can start reading these books around the time you tell them about the baby in your tummy.


You may want to engage your child in play (with a doll or teddy) so they can practice having a baby. But be clear that a baby will be able to move, cry, and will need to be handled gently.

Involve your oldest

A few weeks before the birth, bring your oldest along at the store to pick out an outfit or a toy for their new sibling. It can help them feel more excited and feel included in the process.

After the birth

Purchase a toy

Your oldest might be very excited to meet their new sibling. However, they might see the baby getting showered with new gifts. Consider purchasing a small gift to give your oldest in the first few days after the birth.

Quality time

Once the baby is born, make time every day for one-on-one quality with your oldest, this will reduce the likelihood of jealousy. Also make sure to include lots of hugs and physical contact as this is comforting and reassuring to children.

Involve your oldest

If your oldest appears interested, involve them in taking care of the baby. This can include fetching items like diapers and toys or helping at bath time.

Do not reprimand harshly

Allow them to touch the baby. Do not scold or reprimand if they are rough, instead show then how you would like them to be gentle. Your oldest might also want to play with the baby’s toys. Allow them to do this, they will eventually get bored and move back to their own.

Creative play

Your oldest might be impatient to play with the baby. Think of some games that require no participation from the baby, like playing peek-a-boo and singing to the baby.

Providing opportunities to be a ‘big boy’ or ‘big girl’

Sometimes the baby can appear to have a lot of new and fun things (new toys, special chair, etc.) which can make your oldest jealous. Providing opportunities for activities or things that ‘are not for the baby and only for big boys/girls’ can create a sense of balance. Your oldest will feel like they have something special too.

Behavioural regression

It is expected that the older child(ren) will experience some level of adjustment to their new sibling. After all, their routine has changed, relatives and parents might be spending less time with them, there might be physical changes in the home and the baby’s cries and needs might be annoying to them.

Signs of behavioural regression can include:

  • Asking to wear a diaper again despite being potty trained.
  • Soiling their clothes or wetting the bed in a child that was previously potty trained.
  • Asking to be helped with eating and getting dressed when they did this independently.
  • Asking for a pacifier
  • Wanting to be held constantly or ride the stroller (if they stopped doing this)
  • Not being able to play alone.

In other words, anything that makes them more baby-like.

What should you do about behavioural regressions?

The number one thing is to arm yourself with patience. This can be hard if you are also contending with lack of sleep and a needy baby.

Do not get angry or react intensely to these behaviours. Acknowledge that they might want to do like the baby but that they are no longer a baby. If you want to indulge them a little bit at first, that’s ok (e.g., letting them taste the baby food). But then gently encourage them to go back to what they were doing previously.

Children innately want to grow up and be more independent and they will eventually give up their baby-like behaviours once they see no value in them. Providing opportunities to be a ‘big boy’ or ‘big girl’ can help some kids move along, for others it can simply be a question of time.

Dr. Leon is a skilled pediatric psychologist who works with children and parents on a range of behaviours, including sibling jealousy. If you are concerned about the transition for your eldest child, a parent consultation might be the best place to start.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I see signs of jealousy or regression as soon as I bring my new baby home?

Probably not. For most kids, there will be an initial period of excitement. Then, once the novelty wears off (this can take days to weeks or even months) you might see these signs.

Do all older siblings get jealous?

No, not necessarily. Whether your oldest gets jealous usually depends a bit on their personality and on how much they feel the baby is taking away from your attention and time. It can also depend on the oldest child’ age. By using the tips above, you can reduce the chances of your oldest getting overly jealous.

What do I do if my oldest starts asking to wear a diaper or use a pacifier again?

It is normal for older siblings (particularly in the toddler years) to experience behavioural regression when a new baby arrives. Do not scold or reprimand them, instead highlight the disadvantages of being a baby (e.g., going to bed earlier, not being able to eat snacks) and advantages of being independent.  

Preparing your toddler for a new sibling involves discussing the upcoming changes positively and emphasizing their role as a big brother or sister, encouraging their involvement in baby-related tasks to foster a sense of inclusion and importance. Reading books about new siblings, spending quality time together, and addressing their concerns or questions can help ease the transition, ensuring they feel loved and secure during this significant family change.

Dr. Stephanie Leon

Dr. Leon is a clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist practicing in the province of Ontario and Quebec. She works with children, teens, and their parents to address emotional, behavioural, and cognitive difficulties. Dr. Leon offers online psychology services through the Leon Psychology Clinic.

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