Brought a newborn home, and suddenly your older child started to act like a baby too? You aren’t alone if your toddler relapsed into babyhood after bringing the new baby home.
Many parents struggle with regressing toddlers when a new sibling arrives, and it’s totally normal. Even if you have fully prepared your toddler for the arrival of their new sibling!
But knowing that doesn’t make your life any easier, right? You must be wondering, ‘How do I get my toddler to sleep with a new baby? Or ‘How long does toddler sleep regression last?
Let me give you some good news first.
Sleep regressions are temporary, and your toddler’s sleep pattern should go back to normal pretty soon (in a week or two on average).
Keep reading to find out why your peaceful little sleeper is going through sleep regression and what you can do about it.
Why Your Toddler Is Going Through Sleep Regression Now Your New Baby Is Here
While sleep regression is normal in toddlers when they hit developmental milestones like a growth spurt or teething, big external changes like bringing a new sibling home can cause it too.
So, even if your toddler was a great sleeper before becoming an older sibling, they might:
- start fighting their bedtime routine,
- wake up at all hours of the night,
- struggle to go back to sleep once they’re up and want to sleep with you,
- display attention-seeking behaviors at bedtime,
- wakes up crying after sleeping.
After bringing the baby home. Sleep regression can happen when your toddler forgets how to soothe themselves due to anxiety. They need to relearn their sleep skills now. Why’d that happen after bringing their baby brother/sister home?
Well, your older child suddenly has to play the role of a big sibling, which is a huge change. No matter how excited they were about becoming a big sibling before the baby’s birth, they’d need some time and your help to adjust to the new family dynamics.
Also, after bringing the newborn home, disruptions in your toddler’s daily routine may make them stressed and upset. They might feel displaced by the new baby and experience separation anxiety.
This anxiety then induces sleep regression or nightmares.
Transitioning from the crib to a new toddler bed or a twin-sized bed can trigger sleep regression too. Most toddlers tend to experience sleep regression when moved to a bed to make space for the new baby.
As your toddler might not have the self-regulatory skills to stay in bed in their own room throughout the night, they’ll leave the bed whenever they wake up and come looking for you.
New Sibling Toddler Sleep Regression? Here Are 10 Things You Can Do About It
Here are 10 tips on how you can handle the toddler sleep regression after a new sibling arrives:
1. Schedule one-on-one time with your toddler
As excited as your toddler may be to become a big brother or big sister, they may feel overwhelmed as well. They now have to share you with someone who stole the spotlight of everyone who comes to visit. Before the new baby came home, everyone used to gush about how cute your toddler was.
That’s when you need to show them how important they still are by spending some alone time interacting with your toddler. Put your newborn down and do something that your toddler loves, even if it’s for only a few minutes.
This will make them feel special, and bringing a new baby home won’t feel like that big of a disaster anymore.
2. Don’t Dismiss Your Toddler’s Emotions
It’s normal for toddlers to experience a wide array of emotions after bringing a baby brother or sister home. It’s a big change, and on top of that, they aren’t getting the same attention and time as the new baby. That’s why it’s important to acknowledge their feelings instead of dismissing them.
It’s hard to deal with bedtime battles when you’re running on fumes. But snapping at your toddler or scolding them will make them fight for your attention even more. Ask them how they’re feeling and reassure them, saying how much you love them. Ask if they’d like to get a hug or kiss.
Let them know that you still have time to pick them up or read a story but not when the baby needs you.
3. Hold off the Transition to Bed
Planning to move your toddler to a bed and use the crib for the new baby? It’s a good idea to make the transition at least 6 months before the new baby arrives. But what if you brought the newborn home already before you could move your toddler to their bed and now don’t have space for a second crib?
Instead of kicking your toddler out of the crib right away, hold off the transition for at least 4 months. Get a sidecar co-sleeper or a bassinet for your newborn for the time being.
4. Take a Gradual Approach
Your toddler has to move to the bed at some point but make the transition slowly. Buy the toddler bed and set that up but don’t make your toddler switch to that bed yet. Keep it around and let your toddler adjust to the idea of moving to it.
Keep their favorite toys and stuffed animals on the new bed, talk about how great the new bed is, and let them take a nap there one day. Wait till they’re ready to let go of the crib and start falling in love with their new bed.
Give them as much time as they need. Be patient with your toddler.
Your toddler is feeling displaced already, don’t add to the frustration by making them feel like their new sibling stole their crib. A smooth transition can lessen the sleep impact on your toddler and the whole family.
5. Make Your Toddler’s Bedtime Routine Non-negotiable
Following a consistent bedtime routine is crucial in sleep training. Every night you need to do the same things in the same order so your toddler knows it’s bedtime and starts to wind down. They need to know that bedtimes are non-negotiable.
If your toddler asks for more attention at bedtime, you can move the bedtime earlier to give them extra time to wind down. You can make the baby part of your toddler’s bedtime routine by reading them a story while you nurse the baby.
Give them a little extra love and attention before bedtime to make them feel special. Make sure they’re feeling sleepy before putting them down but don’t let them become overtired because that’ll make it harder for them to fall asleep.
6. Avoid Creating a New Sleep Crutch
If you try to help your toddler’s sleep regression by rocking them to sleep, holding their hand while they fall asleep, or letting them sleep with your partner while you sleep with the new baby, you’re unknowingly creating a new sleep crutch that can be hard to break later on.
Your newborn might wake up a few times crying, which in turn will wake your older child as well. While you can use a white noise machine to cancel out the baby’s screaming, you don’t need to soundproof your toddler’s room. Let them get used to it.
If they ask why the baby’s crying, reassure them that everything is okay and the baby’s just hungry. Soon they’ll grow up and sleep through the night just like their big sibling.
7. Make Your Older Child Feel Important
Sleep regressions happen when your older child feels like they’ve been displaced by their new sibling. Let them know that that didn’t happen, and if anything, they’ve become even more special after becoming the big kid.
Give them some jobs to do to help the baby. Tell them the baby loves their older sibling and will soon become their playmate. Thank them for being your little helper and give them lots of positive attention and praise for a job well done.
8. Don’t Scold Them
Once you’ve moved the older sibling into their own bed, they might get out of their bed in the middle of the night and wants to sleep with you. Don’t get angry. Scolding them will only make them more resentful to their new sibling. Instead, take them to their bed calmly and tuck them in again.
Don’t grant any requests, and don’t argue with them. Tell them that you expect them to stay in bed and set up a reward system to keep them there. Lots of positive attention during the day and keeping your calm every single night will start to keep them in the bed.
9. Limit Screen Time
While it’s okay for your toddler to have some daily screen time and watch age-appropriate high-quality shows or play a fun game, don’t let them get addicted to it. Limit screen time during the day and don’t allow them to watch anything before bedtime.
Because the blue light emitted by screens suppresses the melatonin secretion(a hormone that influences the body’s internal clock) and makes it hard for your toddler to unwind and fall asleep.
10. Be patient and consistent.
Restoring your toddler’s sleep pattern might feel impossible at the moment. But let me assure you that with consistency and patience, you can help your toddler settle into a new sleep pattern and sleep through the night.
Test different bedtime routines or sleep rules until you figure out what works for your toddler and your family. Once you set the rules that meet your toddler’s needs, stick to them. No matter how difficult it seems, being consistent will save the day(and your sanity).
Dealing with a newborn and a toddler who’s fighting bedtime can be frustrating. But like everything else in parenting, sleep regressions will eventually pass too.
Meanwhile, be open to taking help from anybody, starting from your friends, family, a sleep consultant, or even a child and family therapist if necessary.
You got this.