When my second daughter, Ruby, was born, I was worried that her 5-year-old sister, Ella, would manhandle her, make her cry, or, heaven forbid, wake her from a nap. But I should have been arranging for more together time. "Research shows that having an older sibling around -- someone with advanced language, cognition, imagination, and play skills -- can offer a lot of benefits to a baby," says Sarah Berger, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the College of Staten Island, in New York. We'll tell you exactly what brotherly (or sisterly) love can do.
Your Baby May Move Sooner In one study, Dr. Berger found that more than 60 percent of second kids walked earlier than their older siblings. The reason? Babies often learn by watching. Plus, older siblings make effective coaches. E. G. Sebastian, a father of three from Beaufort, South Carolina, says his youngest started walking at 8 months because her older sister and brother, then ages 12 and 10, assisted her literally every step of the way.
Your Baby Gets More Attention It's the birth-order predicament: A firstborn naturally gets more of his parents' undivided time and focus than other siblings do, so parents worry and often feel guilty about shortchanging the next child. But don't forget: The baby also gets doted on by his big sister or brother. "I realized that my second child was getting lots of attention from this whole other, exciting little person my firstborn didn't have around," says Jennifer Bingham Hull, a mother of two girls and author of Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life.
Your Baby Learns to Calm Herself Don't worry if she has to fuss for a few minutes while you grab your older kid's lunch. It's actually a good lesson in patience and she'll be more likely to learn to self-soothe, which will make her more resilient in the long run.