First off, congratulations. You’ve either just welcomed a new baby into the house, or you’re about to shortly. What wonderful news!
In addition, you’ve likely recently done the hard yards to having your older child sleeping soundly through the night and possibly taking long, rejuvenating naps during the day as well, depending on age.
Look at you, absolutely killing it at this parenting thing.
Naturally, you are now concerned that this new arrival might upend all of the hard work you’ve done with your older child’s sleep habits.
The truth is, you are definitely in for a challenge!
I’m not saying it’s 100% for certain that bringing a new baby into the house will impact your older child’s sleep habits, but there is a very big chance it will. In one way or another.
There are three big reasons why.
1. Your newborn is going to wake up numerous times a night and make some noise, which can potentially wake up your toddler
2. Your toddler is likely going to be jealous of the new baby (and it often won’t be obvious)
3. A change in routine can throw toddlers off. No toddler likes change to their routines… This is a big one.
So let’s look at number one first.
There’s going to be a noise factor when your newborn wakes up crying for nighttime feeds, and there isn’t a lot you going do about that. Newborns cry for a reason most of the time, and most of the time it’s their way of letting you know they’re hungry.
Your best bet here, if possible, is to keep your newborn in a room separate from your toddler.
In addition, if your toddler is under 3 years of age, a cot is the best place for him.
Regardless of whether or not there’s a new baby in the picture, I recommend keeping kids in the cot as long as it’s safe to do so.
A white noise machine can also help to drown out the noise.
Make sure to keep the volume level under 85 dBA (I tend to go 60dBA max) and keep the machine a minimum of 30 cm away from your little one’s ears. The obvious goal being to keep your toddler from being woken up by the sound of their sibling stirring in the night. I do however, recommend white noise for both the new baby and the toddler.
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.
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.
That’s the easy one. Number two and three are going to require a little more finesse.
Unless you’re exceptionally lucky, your toddler is going to get jealous of their 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 and change to routine will likely cause a regression. Prompting your toddler to crave the comforts they enjoyed when they were the new kid on the block.
- More requests for cuddles
- If they’re in a big kid bed, they may ask to go back into the cot
- 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. We try to compensate by making concessions. Those concessions frequently show up around bedtime. Extra stories, longer cuddles, getting into bed with them, and so on.
Let me just say with three boys, 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. So 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?
Here’s one of my favourite quotes about toddlers. If you have worked with me I have probably said this to you:
“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. 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. If you continue to give in to those demands, however, the more these demands will stick around.
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 the ones guiding a situation.
So if and when this situation comes up, I would recommend that you keep everything around bedtime. Exactly as it was before the new baby showed up.
Same lights out time and bedtime routine. Two books as usual; and same sleeping conditions.
If you start moving boundaries, it’s only going to reinforce your toddler’s suspicion that things have changed. That’s likely to bring on more insecurity.
During the day, try to carve out a chunk of time reserved just for your toddler.
It doesn’t have to be long, even 10-15 minutes is great. Make sure that your attention is focused solely on them. Let them decide what they want to do with the time. Smother them with love and attention.
This “you-and-me” time works wonders in reassuring your older child that they’re still at the centre of your universe. Even if they’re sometimes sharing the space with someone else.
Remember, when that sense of guilt starts to creep in, you’re not being a bad parent by refusing to bend to your toddler’s will. You are doing what’s best for them. Staying firm and sticking to the rules is the secret to a happy, secure, firmly-attached child, even if your gut tells you otherwise in the moment. Making those tough calls for the good of your kids is what being an awesome parent is all about.
For personalised help to teach your little one to fall asleep independently, please reach out.