Baby Plus One: Caring for a Baby and an Older Child

Adoptive SiblingsHaving your first child can feel like the most terrifying adventure of your lifetime. Every parent goes through their fears, doubts, and triumphs with each new milestone, always learning along the way. By the second or third, you may have just finally gained some confidence.

One of the more difficult quandaries of parenting, however, is how to manage your firstborn when the new baby comes into the picture. Balancing the needs of a newborn with those of a toddler can be tricky, but there are a few things you can do to make it easier.

Encourage Independence and Self-Sufficiency

A new baby is a great opportunity to foster your firstborn’s independence. It will be helpful for you if they become accustomed to being on their own more, and it will be positive for them as an important step in growing up. You can encourage their alone time a few ways. Set up a separate play area with books, toys, arts and crafts that will keep them busy while you tend to the baby. Start showing them little things that help them be more autonomous. For example, make their snacks easier for them to access and show them how to prepare their own snack time whenever they’re hungry. Small steps that give them more control can boost their self-esteem while providing you with a much-needed break.

Balance Your Attention

While you want to be nurturing your toddler’s newfound independence, you also want to show them that they still have your attention. Whenever possible, put their needs first to avoid triggering jealousy. It is easy to put all your focus on the baby, but you need to demonstrate to your firstborn that their needs do not come second just because of the new addition. Make a point to spend one-on-one time with them, as well. Giving them your full attention in small doses when you can, like when the baby is napping, is reassuring. It also helps to strengthen the bond with your firstborn.

Include Them and Talk About It

It is a good idea to get them directly and indirectly involved in the baby’s care. Remind them that they are an important facet of the family unit. You can do this by giving them simple tasks, like fetching a towel or holding a bottle during feeding. This further builds their sense of maturity and reinforces their sense of importance as the older child. By including them, they also won’t feel alone at times when you would otherwise be focused solely on the baby. Have conversations with them about the new baby and explain the ins and outs of care. Ask your toddler questions to get a better sense of how they are feeling about the new dynamic, and change your strategy as needed.


Parenting is about learning. Whether it is your first or your fifth, you will always be gaining new insight. Managing older children with their newborn siblings is mostly about balance. Supporting their self-sufficiency while still giving them your time and attention can set a strong foundation for their independence. Interacting with them on a more mature level and getting them involved in caring for their younger sister or brother can also establish a sense of confidence and responsibility.

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