Welcoming a new sibling

Introducing a new baby can come with a solid mix of joy and stress for you and your family. It’s a big change, and like any change, this comes with some amazing things as well as some challenges.

If you’re feeling some worries about this next phase in your parenting journey, this is normal! 

Parenthood is a juggling act at times and it can be overwhelming to try and navigate it all. Here’s the good news, the fact you’re thinking ahead is a great start and there are some things you can do to prepare yourself and help your child adjust to becoming a sibling. 

Welcoming a new sibling

Common concerns when introducing sibling to baby

Some common things parents share about introducing a new sibling include: 

  • stress about losing connection with existing children
  • fears around jealousy/negative sibling dynamics
  • a lack of ability to manage tricky behaviours while caring for a baby 
  • struggle to balance existing children’s needs with the demands of a newborn
  • regressions: potty, sleep, behaviour…

It can also be helpful to know that some of the things you might have heard about or are anticipating are not always a sign that things won’t go well. Your child’s behaviour might be a reflection of their feelings around the changes in routine, differences in consistency and predictability and trying to navigate all of this at an age and stage where their emotional regulation skills aren’t yet developed.

In other words, you might see some temporary changes in behaviour, but once you find your new rhythm things should start to even out. You might also find by doing some pre-planning things go much better than you expect.

How and when to tell your child:

Different families will choose to share about the growing baby at different stages. Ultimately there is a theme to preparing children for change. Doing some thinking ahead of time about when, how and what will be a great tool in supporting you as you navigate all kinds of changes, including this one! 

A great book to support you with having a conversation:

“What Makes a Baby” by Cory Silverberg & illustrated by Fiona Smyth

What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth


In terms of the big picture, the sooner you start to share with your child about their new sibling, the more time they will have to process and build skills. It’s also helpful to support your child’s awareness for what pregnancy looks like (both the visible and invisible pieces.) 

These are some of the things that can start to affect your relationship before the baby is born and sharing some of the why’s helps them be more understanding instead of taking things personally. It also gives you space to be more aware and compassionate with yourself. 

Common challenges that are helpful to share in age appropriate ways: fatigue, morning sickness/illness, lack of patience, mood changes, etc.

A great book to support you in having this conversation:

“Mama’s Belly” by Kate Hosford and Illustrations by Abigail Halpin

“Mama’s Belly by Kate Hosford and Illustrations by Abigail Halpin

A note about your child’s reactions to the news:

A child’s initial reaction or reactions is not an indicator of how they will receive their new sibling or the relationship they will develop. It’s very hard for children to understand something they haven’t yet experienced, so as much as we can prepare them, nothing will quite make the same impact as the real experience. 

It can be really hard as a parent, but try not to read into their reactions beyond how they are experiencing them in that moment. In some cases they will be looking for your reaction to their reaction. Be patient, realistic and supportive without trying to over-convince them about the positive pieces.

A great book to support you with having this conversation:

“You Were the First” by Patricia MacLachlan & Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

“You Were the First” by Patricia MacLachlan & Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

Some Practical Strategies to Prepare Your Child for a New Sibling

Big Changes & Transitions 

Children are awesome and intuitive, but they aren’t super flexible thinkers. They tend to do better when they know what to expect, when routines are predictable and their world is reasonably consistent. Now, these are all things that are affected when you introduce a new sibling. The goal is to see if there are some things you can start doing ahead of time to minimize the number of changes that happen within a short period of time.

Aim to make sure big transitions are completed 2-3 months before the new baby’s arrival. 

Things to consider: potty training, transitioning out of crib, switching rooms at daycare, moving bedrooms, moving houses, car seat, high chair switches, nanny/caregiver support changes, etcetera.

Some changes are unavoidable and some of the things you wish you could control will not be within your ability to do so. This is okay, focus on what you can control.

Types of Changes You Can Control:

  1. Start sharing what babies are like. Both the fun and practical aspects. Babies cry because they can’t talk yet, they sleep a lot and need a lot of adult contact, they don’t know how to use the potty so have diapers. They are cute and cuddly, but need gentle hands because they are fragile.
  • Helpful tip: use a doll to teach your child how to hold their new sibling. Talk about neck support and gentle touch. This can help them build and practice a skill before the baby arrives.

A great book to support you in having this conversation:

“Everywhere Babies” by Susan Meyers & Illustrated by Marla Frazee

“Everywhere Babies” by Susan Meyers & Illustrated by Marla Frazee

1. Different care opportunities. Often a birth plan involves a child spending time with family, friends or a care provider. It can be helpful for your child to have regular opportunities to spend time with those people before the birthing day so this is not a new experience for them.

2. Sleep routines. Do a little inventory of who is putting your child to bed. Where possible, balance roles so that your child isn’t reliant or expecting one person or parent to do this.

  • Helpful tip: Some nights let one person do the whole routine so that when you are not available at bedtime this is not your child’s first experience.

Accepting that Change is Full of Feelings for You and Your Child

Part of your child’s acceptance of the changing family dynamics is a reflection of how you feel about the changes and how confident you are in your parenting. 

This does not mean you need to put on a brave face and pretend you don’t have feelings, quite the opposite. 

Having age-appropriate conversations about change and our different feelings about change is a great way to share that you also have some big feelings about the upcoming change and you can navigate those together.


A great book to support you with having this conversation:

“Little Tree” by Loren Long and “You Were the First” by Patricia MacLachlan & Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

Little Tree by Loren Long

Parent With Confidence and Connection

An important part of transitioning to managing multiple children is feeling supported and confident in your current parenting and parenting decisions. 

To avoid the overwhelm and challenges of supporting your child with tricky situations and managing any difficult behaviours while caring for a new baby,  it can be helpful to build your parenting toolbox. When you do this before your new baby arrives you have clear action plans and strategies in place. This will help reduce your stress and improve your confidence and connection.

In the age of information overwhelm, it can be easy to get caught trying to sort through advice. A great resource to support you with this is our parenting educator Tara Gratto. In addition to her wealth and knowledge about children, in her role as a preschool owner she supported a number of parents with adding a sibling to their family.


Research Notes: 

Preparing your child for a new sibling. Child Mind Institute. (2023, January 29).  https://childmind.org/article/preparing-child-new-sibling/

Nesi, Jaqueline. Preparing for baby #2: A Research-Backed Guide. 


Volling, B. L. (2012, May). Family transitions following the birth of a sibling: An empirical review of changes in the Firstborn’s adjustment. Psychological bulletin. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341504/?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email

Volling BL;Bae Y;Rosenberg L;Beyers-Carlson EEA;Tolman RM;Swain JE; (2022, October 1). Firstborn children’s reactions to mother-doll interaction do not predict their jealousy of a newborn sibling: A longitudinal pilot study. The Journal of perinatal education. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36277228/

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Tara Gratto, Parenting Educator and Consultant | Oona Wellness Group | Toronto and Newmarket

Tara Gratto (she/her)Parenting Educator and Consultant (Online-Only)

Tara Gratto M.S.Ed, MA, OCT is a parenting educator and consultant with expertise in child development and social emotional well-being. Her experience includes working in schools as a teacher, guidance counsellor and administrator. Tara also successfully ran an outdoor & play based preschool for several years. Outside of work you can find Tara grabbing moments...

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