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A new baby in the family

Coping with two children is very different from coping with one and it can be tough at first, especially if your first child isn’t very old. So far as the baby goes, you’ve got more experience and probably more confidence, which helps. But the work more than doubles, and dividing your time and attention can be a strain.

It’s not unusual for the birth of a second baby to alter your feelings towards your first child. It would be strange if it didn’t. At first you may feel that you’re somehow not loving your first one as much or enough.

Some parents say they feel very protective towards the baby and ‘go off’ the older one for a while.It simply takes time to adjust to being a bigger family and loving more than one child. Your older child, no matter what his or her age, has to adjust too. You can probably help with this, and that will help you.

  • Try to keep as many of the old routines and activities as you can, like going to playgroup, going to visit friends, telling a bedtime story. This may not be easy in the early weeks, but it gives reassurance.

  • Don’t expect your older child to be pleased with the baby or to feel the way you do. It’s lovely if the pleasure is shared, but best not to expect it.

  • Do expect an older child to be more demanding and to want more and need more of you. Someone like a grandparent can often help by giving the older one time. But try to give some special attention yourself, and have some time alone together, so your older child doesn’t feel pushed out.
  • Older children don’t always find babies very lovable, but they often find them interesting. You may be able to encourage this. There’s a lot you can say and explain about babies, and children like to be given facts. Talk about what your older one was like and did as a baby. Get out the old toys and photos. And try to make looking after and playing with the baby a good game, without expecting too much.
  • Feeds are often difficult. An older child may well feel left out and jealous. Find something for him or her to do, or make feeds a time for a story or a chat.
  • Be prepared for your older child to go back to baby behaviour for a time – wanting a bottle, wetting pants, wanting to be carried. It’s hard, but don’t always refuse requests, and try not to get angry.
  • There’ll be jealousy and resentment, shown one way or another, sooner or later. You can only do so much. If you and your partner, or you and a grandparent or friend, can sometimes give each other time alone with each child, you won’t feel so constantly pulled in different directions.

We are indebted to Health Promotion England for their help in compiling this section.