Congratulations! You’ve either just welcomed a new baby into the house, or you’re about to shortly.
Among the many MANY things you are thinking of right now, wondering how your older child’s sleep will be affected is likely bubbling up for you.
In my experience and opinion, transitioning from 1-2 kids was harder than 0-1 kids. BUT every family and every kid is different so perhaps you will be the unicorn – I hope so!
A Few Generic Recommendations
Depending on the age of your older child, being in a crib could be helpful (this is huge if your kiddo is under 3 – read more here). You’re likely going to have an easier time of this if your toddler’s still in a crib as opposed to a big kid bed as you might get a case of the Wandering Toddler Syndrome.
Depending on their age and comprehension skills, it’s also a great idea to just have a conversation with your toddler about the fact that their sibling is going to wake up crying in the night sometimes, and let them know it’s nothing to worry about. It’s just something that newborn babies do and they don’t need to be concerned if they wake up and hear their baby brother or sister making a fuss. This is especially important if the kids will be sharing a room (read more here).
Noise - There’s going to be a noise factor when your newborn wakes up crying for nighttime feeds. If we have worked together, your older child has the skills to wake up and go back to sleep. This is FABULOUS news – you don’t need to worry too much about your sleep trained kiddo. Keep the white noise machine in your child’s room and just do your best!
If your older kiddo is still struggling at night: Let’s talk! Seriously, we can get your toddler on track before the baby comes.
Jealousy - Your toddler may get jealous of their new sibling. After all, newborns require a lot of attention, attention which was all directed at your toddler up until their brother or sister came along. Jealousy is likely going to cause a regression, prompting your toddler to crave the comforts they enjoyed when they were the new kid on the block. Such as…
● More requests for cuddles
● If they’re in a big kid bed, they may ask to go back into the crib
● They might want to sleep in your bed or in your room
● Neediness and clinginess during the bedtime routine
The most common reason this can affect sleep is because one or both of the parents start feeling guilty about the fact that they don’t have the time and energy to dedicate to both children, so they try to compensate by making concessions, and those concessions frequently show up around bedtime. Extra stories, longer cuddles, getting into bed with them, and so on.
I get it! Parental guilt is a powerful motivator, and we’ll do almost anything to ensure our kids know that they’re loved, cherished, and secure. If a couple of extra stories at bedtime will help ensure our babies that they’re still #1 in our hearts, why wouldn’t we accommodate them?
Toddlers are like little night watchmen. They go around checking all the doors, but don’t really want to find any of them open.
Kids of this age test boundaries almost incessantly, but they don’t test them in the hopes that they’ve moved, they test them to ensure that they’re still in place. It gives them a sense of security to know that the rules and expectations surrounding them are constant and predictable.
I know it doesn’t feel that way sometimes, but I can assure you that the more you give in to those demands, the more they’ll ask for. It often gets to the point where your toddler feels like they’re running the show, and that can actually be very distressing for them. They feel much more secure and relaxed with the confidence that their parents are in control.
How to Handle This
Routine is King here. Be sure to keep everything around bedtime exactly as it was before the new baby arrived. Same bedtime, same bedtime routine, same number of stories, same sleeping conditions. If you start moving boundaries, it’s only going to reinforce your toddler’s suspicion that things have changed, and that’s likely to bring on more insecurity.
During the day, I would suggest carving out a chunk of time reserved just for your toddler. It doesn’t have to be long, even 10-15 minutes is great, but make sure that your attention is focused solely on them. Let them decide what they want to do with the time and feel free to just smother them with love and attention.
This “you-and-me” time works wonders in reassuring your older child that they’re still at the center of your universe, even if they’re sometimes sharing the space with someone else. Do this every day, make it a priority – I find it helpful to schedule it at the same time each day, put it on the schedule and calendar.
This is such an exciting time – welcome a new baby into your family and introducing your older child(ren) to the new member of the family, wow!!
It will be great, hard, wonderful, exhausting, all of it. Consistency is the name of the game here, again. Stay consistent with your toddler’s bed routines and there will be fewer new baby regressions. And, frankly, keeping that structure is also good for you too – something that is consistent and familiar!!
And, just so it’s out there, there is no shame in feeling that you need help. I struggled much more with my second than I did with my first. If you begin to feel a deeper level or sadness or anxiety, talk to your doctor about PPD or PPA. I work with an amazing group of women who specialize in post-partum support and I would love to get you in touch with them (Megan MacCutcheon, LPC, PMH-C; Perinatal Place) if you should want or need it. Sending love, mama - you go this!