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Firstborn Jealous Over New Baby?

Katie Malinski


One night about 6 months after my second daughter was born, we were all sitting at the dinner table and the baby started tilting her head to the side and smiling.  It was so cute, and the grownups were all just smitten.  We cooed and fawned over her for several minutes, and then I looked at my 5 year old.  She tilted her head to the side, made the exact same smile, and it just about broke my heart.  My big girl needed some of that love and attention, too.  The thing is, it’s really hard to compete with a baby.  They are so darn cute, it’s just not a fair fight.

So what can parents do to help our older kids feel just as loved and not so jealous of the new baby?  Counter-intuitively, the first thing we need to do is to give them permission to feel upset or jealous.  Those feelings are normal and completely understandable.  We also need to acknowledge the truth about how many negative side effects a baby creates for an older sibling.  Yes, both things are true: babies=positive and negative changes!  We need to say things like:

  • I can totally understand why you would want to send her back right now.  It’s hard to be the big sister.
  • I know, he messed up your artwork and you’re really mad.  I would be mad, too.
  • I am so sorry that you have to wait so long for me.  I know it must seem like your brother is taking a lot of my time.

The other thing we need to do is to create experiences that balance out the negatives.  You can:

  • Point out how special it is that our older child can do things like bike or read or set the table.
  • Highlight how the baby looks up to the older siblings and is extra interested in them and extra entertained by them.
  • Give our big kids a break from the baby.  Schedule a special Mommy-big kid date to look forward to.  (Make it a treat for you, too!  Do something you’ll both enjoy.)

Validate and empathize with those upset feelings, and try to create plenty of good feelings—with and without the new baby—it will help!

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Katie Malinski

Katie Malinski LCSW is a licensed child and family therapist and parenting coach. In addition to her one-on-one work with families and children, she presents dynamic parenting workshops on a variety of topics, including: Beyond Birds and Bees, Parenting Through Divorce, Typical Parenting Conflicts, and many more. Learn more about Katie at