Toddler Behavior After a New Baby Arrives

by Liza Blau

    Your new baby has stirred up unexpected feelings in your toddler, creating behavior that's often difficult to handle. If he was an only child, it's an even bigger shock that he'll have to begin sharing Mommy's and Daddy's love and attention with a sibling. But with patience and appropriate parenting, your toddler will no longer view the baby as a threat, but a much loved and welcomed little brother or sister.

    Shyness and Withdrawal

    Instead of sharing the family's excitement over the baby, your toddler is busy dealing with confusing and often overwhelming feelings. He may appear indifferent, shy, apprehensive or withdrawn, even refusing to have anything to do with her. To help allay his anxiety, you might say, “You used to be as small as your little sister!" or "Do you remember when I used to nurse you?" or "Don't be afraid to kiss your little sister." Including your toddler in parenting duties can ease him into engaging with his new sibling. Ask him to apply a little moisturizer on the baby while you're changing her diaper or help you hold the bottle during feeding time.

    Acting Out

    Your newborn requires most of your time, which could cause your toddler to feel jealous, neglected, angry or hostile. Temper tantrums are often attempts to gain your attention when he's feeling left out. Show him that he's equally loved by sharing your time and attention. While feeding the baby or when she's sleeping, engage with your toddler by playing with him, reading a book together or cuddling him in your lap. Always tell him how loved, special and appreciated he is. When your toddler begins acting out to gain your attention, you might say "After I finish nursing your little sister, we can finish the puzzle."

    Regression

    After the baby arrives, your toddler might mimic her and regress to an infantile state, hoping to win your attention. Don't be surprised if he begins speaking in baby talk, asks for a bottle, sucks his thumb or even has "accidents," even though he's potty trained. Instead of reprimanding him or ordering him to "act your age," keep talking about all the benefits of being an older child. You might say, "Big boys can enjoy candy, but little sisters can't" or "Big boys can play in the back yard" or "I'm glad I have a big boy to talk to after a long day." Soon, your toddler will realize how good he has it.

    Preparing Your Toddler for the Stork

    Preparing your toddler in advance can help make the arrival of a baby easier, because he'll know what to expect. During the pregnancy, place his hand on your belly when the baby kicks and say, "This is your new sibling." You can help him further understand where babies come from by telling him that he, too, once lived in your tummy and what a wonderful experience it was giving birth to him. When you go for prenatal checkups, take your toddler along and allow him to view the ultrasound images and hear the baby's heartbeat.

    About the Author

    Liza Blau received a B.A. in English from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in fiction anthologies from Penguin Press, W.W. Norton, NYU Press and others. After healing her own life-threatening asthma by switching to a whole, natural foods diet, she founded the NYC Asthma Wellness Center. Blau counsels individuals on healing their own asthma and allergies with dietary and lifestyle changes.

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