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How to keep sleep training on track when a new sibling arrives?



Congratulations on your new, or soon-to-be new, arrival! And congratulations on getting your older child sleeping well through the night and taking long, soothing naps in the day! You're already killing it in the parenting department!

If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re worried your newborn’s arrival will interfere with yours and your older child’s diligent efforts to fall asleep independently. And you’re probably right.

In my experience, there are two ways your older child’s sleep could be disturbed. The first is because of the extra noise your newborn makes. The second stems from the jealousy of having to share you with a sibling, which leads to your older child stalling through bedtime put down.

1. Your newborn will cry a few times through the night, which may wake your older child

At this juncture, there's not much you can do about the crying, and even if you could, you wouldn’t as newborns cry for a reason- they’re signaling a need.

The best workaround for this is to keep your newborn in your room and put your older child in his/her own room down a hallway as distant from your newborn's resting space as possible. If your older child is still able to sleep in a cot, rather than in a big kid bed, that would also minimize you toggling between the siblings, since a kid in a cot won’t show up at 2 am by your bedside.

White noise machines can likewise drown out your newborn’s cries. Be sure to check the manual’s operating instructions for an appropriate decibel level and distance from your toddler's ears.

You should also consider preparing your older child for the reality that their baby sibling is going to wake up crying in the middle of the night from time to time. Reassure him/her that it's not something to be worried about. Crying is just something that newborns do, and they needn’t be anxious, as you will be attending to their sibling’s needs.

That was the simple one. Number two will require somewhat greater skill.

2. Your newborn will make your older child jealous.

The truth is: newborns demand a lot of care. So whether you like it or not, your attention will have to be split across two kids. This might take some adjustment for your firstborn. Envy could trigger a regression, which could show up in the following ways:

  • Asking for more cuddles.

  • Asking to get back to the crib on the off chance that he/she is already in a big kid bed.

  • Demanding to sleep in your bed or in your room.

  • Asking for more stories, more water, and on the whole displaying more clingy behavior through the bedtime routine, such that the entire affair gets prolonged.

Whilst this behavior is understandable, sleep starts to suffer when parents start giving in and compromising on boundaries they had previously set.

Believe me, I understand. Parental guilt is a powerful motivator, and we'd go to great lengths to ensure that our children feel loved, valued, and safe. But, as a seasoned parent, you probably already know this from experience: the more you yield to your child’s requests, the more the boundaries are stretched. It's never just one story. It starts morphing into more.

And the irony is, by giving your child the power and control, you’re not helping them feel more safe or secure. In contrast, kids feel safest when they know their parents are in control.

So if and when this situation arises, I suggest you keep up with the same sleep habits you had before your newborn arrived. This means similar sleep time, sleep schedule, the number of stories, and sleeping conditions.

Also, make time for your older child during the day. It doesn't need to be long; 10-15 minutes is enough. During these precious moments, ensure your whole attention is on him/her. Allow your older child to pick how to spend that alone time with you. Go ahead and show love and consideration. This "you-and-me" time will go the distance in consoling your older child that he/she’s still important to you, even with the newborn’s arrival.

Finally, remind yourself that denying your child’s demands does not make you a bad parent. Your guilt might tell you otherwise, but the truth is: being firm and abiding by the usual rules is the best way to help your child feel secure about the transitions he/she is going through.

Interested to find out more or going through regression with your older child’s sleep? We offer sibling programs for both big kids and newborns, that you can enquire about.


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