Children’s Book Blog: What do you mean I’m not the baby? Books for new or expectant siblings

[The “Book Blogs” are my love letter to children’s books.  My hope is to encourage parents to find joy in reading to their children.  I also want to promote the wonderful collection available through the Southborough Library.  These articles were my foray into My Southborough.  I’m still writing them for the Southborough Library website, and reprinting here with their permission.   For more of my book recommendations, click here.]

When I had my second child, people gave me books to read to my daughter. Some were good, but not all were appropriate for my family.

For instance, one made a big deal about the big sibling not being a baby who needs diapers. My daughter was still in diapers at the time. Another dealt with resentment towards the baby that my daughter wasn’t experiencing. (I generally don’t believe in introducing problems before they exist.)

It’s easy to find books on babies. What is less easy is finding ones right for your family and children. Hopefully, my descriptions below will help you find at least one.

For children who appear to be resentful of changes in the family, books may offer opportunities to discuss these feelings.

For jealous or disgruntled siblings of newborns:

  • The New Baby by Fred Rogers – Leave it to Mr. Rogers to take this subject head on with sensitivity to a young child’s feelings. This non-fiction book focuses on the fact that a new baby does take away from the attention the first child is used to getting. He explains that parents love you just as much as before. And he encourages children to express their feelings in words. The book is illustrated by wonderful photos of real infants and toddlers.
  • A Baby Sister for Frances by Russell Hoban – This story has very little to do with the baby. It’s the family changes that Frances reacts to. When the busy mother doesn’t have time to iron her favorite dress or buy raisins, Frances responds “things are not very good around here anymore.” Frances decides to run away – to under the dining room table. She returns after “overhearing” her parents say that it’s just not a family without her. The humor in the book may make it easier to talk about the subject unemotionally. (This one was great for my daughter. She wasn’t jealous of her brother. She adored the new baby. It was me she was angry at when I was “busy”.)
  • Deb Gliori’s Where Did That Baby Come From? – Older brother starts off with the complaint, “can we take it back? It wails and squeaks. Its diaper leaks.” Before the end, sentiment evolves to “I’ll keep you warm, and safe from harm, and help you fall asleep.”

For jealous siblings of babies old enough to interact. (The babies in this book provide relief to the jealousy by their interest in the older siblings. For children with babies too young to show that kind of positive feedback, the message may fall flat.)

  • You’re the Boss, Baby Duck! by Amy Hest – This is the story of a very resentful older sister. No longer the baby, Baby Duck feels ignored and jealous. She wishes the baby to go away and stay away forever. Her Grampa makes her feel understood and bolsters her confidence as a big girl. Later, Baby Duck discovers that the attention lacking from parents is made up for by the attention she gets from her new sister.
  • Baby Talk by Fred Hiatt – In this book, the middle sibling appears to have no interest in the new baby. That changes when the baby starts to make “baby talk”. He starts to talk baby back. He develops a strong connection to his new brother, when he believes that he understands him. He reads or sings to the baby at his apparent request.

General books for young children expecting or with a new baby. (These are semi-sorted by age appropriateness from toddlers to older children):

  • We Have a Baby by Cathryn Falwell – This is great for toddlers. The language is very simple. Each image is paired with text like, “A baby to dress”. Warm images show happy parents and toddler enjoying the new baby together. It covers the basic facts about how the family takes care of a baby (though no mention of the crying). In this book, the mother breast feeds the baby.
  • I Used to Be the Baby by Robin Ballard – In this story, the older brother experiences some of the less positive aspects of babies (crying fits, toy stealing and even book eating). Instead of getting upset, he helps make the baby happier by singing to him, giving him appropriate toys, or blowing bubbles for him to watch. It’s a good way to prepare children for what to expect in a positive light.
  • The New Baby by Mercer Mayer – In this story, Little Critter is surprised to find his new sister can’t really do anything yet. But he learns what he can do, including cuddling, giving a finger to grab, and pushing the baby in the stroller.
  • I’m a Big Sister/I’m a Big Brother by Joanna Cole – These books are about children proud to be big kids helping with the baby. (Warning: the children help bottle feed. If that won’t happen in your family, you may want to adjust that expectation.)
  • Hello Baby by Lizzy Rockwell – I was surprised by the helpful details about what to expect and how to handle a new baby. It includes the need to support the baby’s head when holding it, the soft spot on its head, and the scab on a newborn’s umbilical cord. (Warning: it also gives a detailed description and diagrams about where babies come from starting with fertilization. So be mentally prepared how to handle questions if they arise.)
  • Love That Baby by Kathryn Lasky – This non-fiction book offers an overall look at what to expect with babies. It also offers tips for older children on how they can play with infants as they get a little older, like peek-a-boo and toe games.
  • Supersister by Beth Cadena – The story follows a school girl eager to help her mother (tying her mother’s shoes and walking the dog). She keeps referring to herself as “supersister”, but we never see a sibling. In the end it becomes clear she is in training to be the “super sister” her very pregnant mother predicts she will be.

For children with babies now a couple months old through crawling:

  • My Baby & Me by Lynn Reiser is filled with delightful photos of toddlers and siblings interacting. Both baby and sibling should enjoy looking at this together.
  • Baby Knows Best by Kathy Henderson – This book celebrates the baby of the family from the bemused perspective of her brother. It’s filled with cute observations like an extensive list of her toys followed by “And what does she want to play with? The front door keys.”
  • Baby Can by Eve Bunting – The book shows adults marveling over every new change in the baby (rolling over, smiling, etc.) The brother responds with an “I can too, look at me”. Because the parents respond positively, the child never appears to feel neglected or resentful. In the end, when the baby is old enough to walk, he walks to his brother.

If you read all the way to the end of this article, I have to assume you are expecting or recently had a new baby. So, congratulations! And I hope you find a book your family enjoys.

As always, if you have any questions for me, feel free to e-mail mysouthborough@gmail.com. If you have any suggestions for other parents, you can post a comment below.

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Carol
8 years ago

Thanks, Beth, for sharing your list. I have passed it on to a niece in Maine, as she just delivered her second daughter at the beginning of this month. You always have wonderful selections.

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