I got to be the lucky parent of two little boys that just seem to have a knack for breaking the baby book. What do I mean? Well, they both like to do things not so common. Not so common enough to be included in those trusty, expensive and apparently useless if you’re me, baby books. Today’s not in the baby book topic, newborn second-child jealousy. Having an older first born child that is jealous of a new baby is common, but my second son has shown jealously towards his older brother seemingly since birth.
What causes second born jealousy?
Once upon a time experts didn’t think babies felt complex learned emotions such as jealousy, but newer research finds babies as young as 3 months old can display obvious signs of jealousy. I personally would suggest they can feel jealous from birth. Jealousy in infants doesn’t so much spur from envy or a desire to have what another has, more a fear of losing their primary caregivers’ care. The same way a newborn is fearful when left alone. Naturally, since a pre-existing older child would require some of a parent’s time jealousy can develop not only on the older sibling’s side, but on the infants. First child jealously is more common because older children have a more complex understanding of jealousy. They do often view it with a sense of envy.
What can you do about second born jealousy?
Sadly, not a lot. Unlike with a case of first born jealousy you cannot rationalize and explain things to an infant. Well, you can but it won’t do much good. They aren’t going to understand even the most eloquently worded speech about how you have enough love for both of them. What I found worked best was making a steady effort to show both children attention at all times. I engage them both as much as possible when together and then show individual attention when only one is present. For example, while the older child is occupied eating lunch I may sit and breastfeed the infant bonding and giving full attention. While the younger child naps (often thankfully) I do one on one activities with my toddler son such as coloring. However when both are awake and paying attention to mom the attention is 50/50 unless a boo-boo is involved. I also make an effort to show them they can have fun together and don’t even need mom or dad’s attention all the time. It’s a tricky balance to combat second child jealousy that requires equal portions of family time, one on one time and independent play.
I wouldn’t say this method has eliminated the jealousy but it sure has helped. It’s important parents planning on having more children that may have found this article researching first-born jealousy and how to introduce their older child to their new baby recognize that jealously may be present in both kids, and that the only real solution is time consuming. I’d say the saying, “never have more children than you have time for” applies well to the closing of this article.
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Babies as young as 3 months old feel jealousy