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Preparing Your Child's Sleep for a New Sibling: A Sleep Guide

big sister with her newborn brother

Welcoming a new addition to the family is an exciting time, but it will also bring about some changes, especially in sleep routines. If you're expecting a new baby and already have a little one at home, helping your older child keep their current routines, including sleep routines, is key to maintaining harmony in your household. With some preparation and patience, your newly appointed big sibling can continue to be well rested with minimal disruption.

Prepare Your Big Kid

Include your child in preparations for the new baby. Let them help choose items for the nursery or pick out clothes. Talking about what the baby may do (sleep, eat, cry, want to be held, etc.) will help your little one know what to expect. Books about becoming a big sibling are my favorite way to do this. The involvement fosters a sense of excitement and inclusion, rather than feelings of being left out or replaced.

mother and toddler preparing for new baby

A common worry is that your big kid may hear the baby cry at night. Talk about it during the day. Assure them that the baby is ok and you will help the baby when they cry. Explain that they can hug their lovey, roll over, and continue sleeping. Try using an extra sound machine in the hallway to block out loud noises from your newborn.. Kids surprisingly tend to do pretty well with sleeping through their siblings’ cries!

Start with a Strong Sleep Foundation

If your child already has sleep challenges, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, address them before the new baby arrives. Having a strong sleep foundation will allow for a more peaceful transition. Even if a regression happens, your little one will get back to sleeping through the night more quickly if they already have the skills to do so. If possible, work on this in the first half of your pregnancy so you have more stamina to make it through. And as a bonus, you’ll then only have your pregnancy keeping you up at night, not your little one!

Maintain Consistency

A new baby will bring a great deal of changes. This is inevitable and expected. In time, your big kid will learn the new patterns of the household. But try to stick to your child's regular bedtime and nap schedule as much as possible. Stick to your routines for sleep, even if your new little one ends up being along for the ride. Maintaining consistency helps your big kid feel secure, even among all of the changes that come with a new baby.

If your child is already sleeping well, avoid creating new sleep associations like rocking your child to sleep, or laying with them until they fall asleep. Continue your healthy sleep habits while acknowledging that sleep may be more difficult for the time. Your big kid will feel secure when you remain consistent about expectations while still supporting their big feelings.

Decrease Other Changes

Avoid making significant changes to your child’s sleep routine right before or after the baby arrives. If you’re thinking of transitioning your little one to a big kid bed, start at least three months before the baby is due, or at least three months after the baby arrives. This length is an estimate, but the idea is to avoid associating the change with the arrival of the sibling, or adding stress to the family. This usually also means not transitioning your big kid to a bigger bed just because the newborn needs the crib.

mom and child spending time together

Create Special Time

Set aside special one-on-one time with your child each day, even if it's just for a few minutes. This reinforces their importance and helps them feel secure amidst the changes. Try to let your child lead the play—they can set the agenda and you can follow along.

Oftentimes caregivers divide bedtime routines and one caregiver spends time with the big kid, and the other caregiver handles the newborn. Be aware of this and make an effort to swap bedtimes sometimes so your big kid gets to spend one-on-one time with both caregivers.

Practice Patience and Understanding

Understand that your child may experience a range of emotions as they adjust to the new sibling, including jealousy, excitement, and anxiety. Be patient and offer reassurance. Validate their feelings while emphasizing your love for them. Acknowledge that things have changed—for them and you. Things are different and that’s ok. Validate this difference and know that it may take some time for everyone to adjust.

Seek Support

Don't hesitate to reach out for support if you're feeling overwhelmed or unsure of how to navigate the transition. Whether it's from friends, family, or a professional, having a support system in place can make a world of difference. The postpartum period can be intense and challenging. Lean on others to get through this time.

The Bottom Line

By approaching the arrival of a new sibling with preparation, patience, and understanding, you can help ensure a smooth transition for your child from a sleep perspective. Remember to prioritize their emotional well-being throughout the process, fostering a loving and supportive environment for the entire family. Also remember to take care of yourself through this process. Have patience with yourself! It’s a big adjustment for the whole family. 

Need help with your little one before a new baby arrives? Book a call now!

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