You are either about to or you have recently had another baby, what a lovely and special time for your family!
If you have already been able to get their older sibling sleeping through the night and taking good naps in the day, congratulations on that too.
If this is the case, then you are probably REALLY worried about the new arrival may disrupt or undo all of the hard work that you have done in getting your eldest to sleep independently and on a good schedule.
Not to be the bearer of bad news but yes, you are in for a challenge. Usually bringing a new baby into your house WILL impact your older child’s sleep in one way or another.
The two main reasons why are:
1. Your newborn will wake up many times in the night and make a level of noise, which is most likely to wake up your eldest.
2. Your eldest is probably going to be jealous of the new baby.
There’s going to be a noise factor when your newborn wakes up crying for nighttime feeds. There’s very little that can be done about that, and even if there were, you probably wouldn’t want to. 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, so even if there were some way of muting the noise, it wouldn’t exactly be beneficial for your baby.
The best thing to do is keep the two children as far apart sleep wise as possible.
A white noise machine can also help to drown out the noise. Just make sure to keep the volume level under 85 dBA, 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.
Depending on their age and comprehension skills, it’s also a great idea to just have a conversation with your eldest 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.
Number two on the list is going to require a little more practice.
Unless you’re exceptionally lucky, your eldest is going to get jealous of their sibling. After all, newborns require a lot of attention, attention which was all directed at your eldest 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 only child. Such as…
● 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, 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.
Let me just say, 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?
Kids 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 eldest 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.
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 bedtime, same bedtime routine, same number of stories, same sleeping conditions. If you start moving boundaries, it’s only going to reinforce your eldest’s suspicion that things have changed, and that’s likely to bring on more insecurity.
During the day, however, I would suggest carving out a chunk of time reserved just for your eldest. 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.
Remember, when that sense of guilt starts to creep in, you’re not being a bad parent by refusing to bend to your eldest’s will. You’re doing what’s best for them, and 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 amazing parent is all about.
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