It's truly exciting to watch your baby take off crawling or walking for the first time. Not only has she mastered a challenging new skill, but she’s also taken the first big step (or crawl!) towards her independence. This newfound mobility offers her the freedom to explore and discover a much larger world beyond her immediate sitting area.
But once the initial thrill wears off, an older sibling may not be quite as elated to see Baby moving freely around the house. This is exactly what happened in Rachel's Atlanta, Georgia, home when her younger daughter, 10-month-old Natasha, started crawling.
“Elizabeth [age two] is meaner to Natasha now that she is mobile because Natasha gets into her things," says Rachel. "She is very clear on what toys are hers and what toys are the baby’s. If Natasha even gets close to one of Elizabeth’s toys, she comes running in and takes it from her. It doesn’t matter if Elizabeth is playing with it or not—if Natasha gets near it, Elizabeth freaks out.”
Know the Stages of Sibling Adjustment
According to many pediatricians, it is very common for toddlers to treat a newly mobile sibling this way. “For the older sibling, there are a couple of stages of adjustment when there’s a new sibling in the home,” says Dr. Jason Homme, MD, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician.
- “The first is when the baby comes home from the hospital, and the older child has to share Mom and Dad,” he says.
- ”The next big adjustment is when the new sibling becomes mobile and can infringe upon their world in a different way. They can get into their stuff and their world rather than just let Mom or Dad carry them around.”
- Later, there’s more adjusting necessary. Dr. Karen Sadler, MD, a pediatrician in Boston, Massachusetts, notes that the older sibling may also be jealous of the extra attention the newly mobile baby may receive. “As new skills are mastered by the younger child, the skills gap closes for the older child, which means this is one less way the older child feels 'more accomplished,’” she says. “The pleasure of adults and attention the younger one gets in mastering an important milestone leaves the older feeling left out.”
Explain Baby’s Next Moves
Not only do parents of both a newly mobile baby and an older child have to deal with these sibling rivalry issues, but they also face some unique safety challenges. While this can be an extremely challenging stage, there are some steps you can take to minimize your older child’s jealousy and ensure your baby's safety. Here are a few tips to help you get through this difficult phase.
While most parents go to great measures to prepare their older child for the birth of their little brother or sister, they often forget to prepare their firstborn for the various stages following birth—including mobility. Dr. Homme says that preparing siblings for stages in a baby's development is important.