Sibling Rivalry: Ryan’s adjustment to Rebecca

Oh boy. I wasn’t prepared for sibling rivalry. Sure, I had heard that older siblings may have a hard time adjusting to a new baby in the house, but I told myself Ryan would be fine. I mean, he was sooo excited about getting a sister! He’d rub my belly, say her name, talk to her, help me set up her bedroom… and he loved the idea of being “big brother.” I’d heard older kids would either revert to being a baby or would embrace the “big brother” role. I thought Ryan would be the latter. (Edit: Ryan is 2 years old… he’ll be 27 months old on March 27… so him and Rebecca are 26 months apart)

Then Rebecca actually arrived.

When Ryan first met her, he exclaimed over and over, “She came out!!”

A few days later, he told me to put her back in.

He really does adore her though. He still loves his big brother shirts (and the one that says “bodyguard to my little sister), he always wants to hold her and “pat her” and even tries to nurse her, haha. He says, “don’t cry Rebecca, I’m here!”

But when I hold her? When I nurse her? Oh boy. Meltdown city.

Ryan has reverted to tantrums–and ones much worse than I had ever seen before. He will start whining or crying or screaming about nothing at all. “Noooo, don’t put my cup there! AhhhHHHHHHhhhhHH!” He doesn’t like to listen or cooperate. It’s like we’re back to when he was ~1.5 years old (his early “terrible twos”).

Oh, and he asks to nurse 15 times a day. And sometimes, when Rebecca is nursing, he climbs on top of us and either tries to pull off the other side of my shirt so he can nurse at the same time, pull my breast out of Rebecca’s mouth, or pull Rebecca’s head back and off my breast. GAH! I’ve tried playing a game with him or reading a book while nursing Rebecca, but he has no interest.

I know, it will just take time. Patience, patience, patience.

Easier said than done, sometimes.

I try to remind myself why he’s acting out. I try to spend alone time with him. I let him nurse (not every time, but more than he was before). I try to reassure him over and over that I love him and he’s my baby boy. I try to stay calm and quiet during tantrums. But… it’s not always easy… like during the 5th tantrum that day or when he wakes up Rebecca and then they’re BOTH crying.

And I need to point out that it’s not ALWAYS like this… as I said, Ryan does adore her and there are a lot of moments like this:

And Rebecca is such a great sleeper during the day, that I DO get a lot of alone time with Ryan. But even that doesn’t seem to help. I feel so bad for the kid–like this is really weighing heavily on his mind all the time. He has started getting up in the middle of the night multiple times too–I’m sure he’s upset about Rebecca getting to sleep in Mommy’s room 🙁

I know with TIME it will all get better. But… any suggestions? Tips? Especially with the nursing stuff… I don’t mind nursing Ryan, I just don’t think he needs to nurse 5+ times a day–I’d love to have it back down to 1-2, like it was before Rebecca was born. But just telling him no or getting him a cup instead isn’t as easy as it used to be–it results in a full tantrum or Ryan crying, “I want Mommy, I want Mommy” and it breaks my heart!

And if your solution is simply TIME…. how long? lol.

10 comments to Sibling Rivalry: Ryan’s adjustment to Rebecca

  • Heather

    I don’t know! Seems he’s not jealous of her but of your time and attention. I’m sure there is a mom out there who knows a gentle trick!


  • So adorable together! Okay, I don’t have experience w/ two but I did have a thought: I know you want to be sensitive about the adjustment he is going through, but I was wondering if you’re still being clear about setting boundaries? I have a difficult time setting limits, but I do notice that Amber responds much better if I’m clear about them, even if it means a (brief) meltdown if I tell her no. So I would imagine that w/ having a newborn & wanting to be sensitive to the impact, I would be less strict about rules or behaviour (like when she’s ill). I think most toddlers crave predictability & routine and a new baby disrupts this quite a bit (I would imagine). So what I usually do when i find myself feeling a little out of boundaries, I really think about what i find important to set limits about (say, dinner at the table, no hitting, etc.) and then commit to them.

    Okay TL;DR but maybe now’s a good time to think about how you’d like the situation to be and what would be appropriate for his age, and incorporate these new “rules” into the extra attention you’ve also been giving him individually. So maybe if you say he can have a morning feed (after breakfast, or while in bed) and one before bed then he may object in the beginning but once it’s clear you’re not budging he’ll maybe back down on the barging in on you & rebecca nursing. You’ll need to give him a good explanation why – say, babies can’t eat anything else, whilst he can, so they need more milk.

    And then for the other things like tantrums about things: time, and being clear about your limits & what is acceptable should clear them up.


  • Sherry

    Sounds like my life every time we add another baby to our family. We have 3 girls (9, 4, and 16 months) with baby #4 due in May. It takes patience and distractions to get through the first couple months for us. Books, snacks, and crafts for the siblings to keep busy while I feed the baby. It gets easier over time but how long will depend on their temperament. Giving your son a routine of feedings that your comfortable with and saying no at the other times is going to have to happen. He may not like it but remember temper tantrums are just a way of expressing his feelings, your doing great and it won’t hurt him if he is upset. It seems like you are doing everything right already!


  • Ryan sounds exactly like my Wee Man in terms of his behaviour!

    I found it difficult at first two, but there have been a couple of things that have worked a bit.

    Firstly, I make us all a nest on the floor, and make sure we have an interesting game or some books nearby. I start off getting Wee Man involved in whatever game we are playing or book we are reading, and then start feeding Bubby D. Often this works, especially now Bubby D is a little older.

    I’ve also found talking about what we are going to do after Bubby D has finished feeding helps sometimes – something like ‘if we let Bubby D have a feed now, then afterwards we will be able to go to the park, and I will push you on the swings’. He likes talking about what is going to happen later.

    Otherwise, I’ve taken to feeding Bubby D in the Babasling, standing up, so she’s too high for him to pull around. Not always the most relaxing position for me but at least she is safe!


  • I wish I had some advice for you. I think I lucked out that my daughter stopped nursing while I was pregnant so I didn’t have the sibling fight over it but there was definitely some jealousy. I think that’s why she’s closer to dad with me spending so much time with her baby sister. Maybe you could get him an activity set/toy … something special that he really, really wants and can only play with while you’re nursing your daughter.


  • Do you have any tandem-nursing friends? Maybe you could pick up some advice at LLL. I never tandem-nursed myself, but my mom did with all my younger siblings (each for a few months with the next-younger). Though she hadn’t planned to nurse both at once, it ended up being something that worked well for her. It really cut down the jealousy — in fact, the tandem-nursing siblings had virtually no jealousy at all and each pair is still close. The toddler would hold hands with the baby or stroke them while nursing. Yes, my mother felt really smothered by nursing two at once. It was awkward. But it was only for a few weeks that the older child wanted to “nurse like a newborn” before the appeal wore off and it went back to a couple-times-a-day kind of thing. And she heartily recommended tandem-nursing to me, though like I said I haven’t done it myself.

    Here’s hoping Ryan feels better soon!


  • It seems so long ago that I had a 3 year old and a newborn. Sam was my escape artist so when I would nurse the baby I would do it in the same room with Sam, and I would talk and read stories to her to keep her entertained while I nursed. She would forget about the baby and had my attention. Even if I was on the couch or bed it was me talking to her, and giving her as much attention as I could. She was over the new baby jealousy within a month. Then all she wanted to do was “play” with the baby.


  • I too had trouble with my 22 month old daughter when our second daughter was born. Things are finally starting to get better almost 4 months later. Before #2 came I knew there would be some adjusting but I didn’t know how hard it would be and how long it would take. We still have our bad days but it is getting better.
    I totally understand about not being able to keep your cool all the time. I definitely have the same problem!
    I have had people tell me to make sure to spend time with the older one without the baby in the room. it seemed to help but was still difficult because she would be crabby and anything I did was the wrong thing and not what she wanted.
    Hang in there! It does get better – or a different kind of crazy. 🙂


    Marie Johnson Reply:

    Sorry I don’t have much help with the nursing thing since we weaned at 9 months when my first wouldn’t stop biting. My good friend Pam may have some advice. You can find her at


  • Audre

    Does he have his own baby doll? Sometimes if Gabriel see’s me with another baby he does the same things… And I am anticipating the same and worse when Simon gets here… But sometimes a doll will distract him. You could tell ryan his baby needs to eat when sissy eats and get excited about how he is taking care of his very own baby!. That or get him a puppy! Lol. I hope you find something that works quickly!


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