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What to do about child’s sleep to prepare him for new baby sibling joining the family?

Congratulations if you are expecting your next child to join your family!  If you have a young child or children that are about to become the older brothers or sisters, you have likely thought about the many upcoming changes and maybe have even begun preparing your child for the newest family member’s arrival.  One thing to consider while you are making these preparations is how is your child sleeping?  Your sleep will be interrupted with a newborn baby as newborn babies are not supposed to sleep for large amounts of time.   There is nothing that will cause you more stress than caring for your newborn baby while struggling to get your older child to sleep.

I am often called by parents very desperate and highly motivated to get their older child sleeping well when there is a new baby on the way.   Ideally this would happen many weeks before the new baby is born but I am sometimes called after the new baby is born because parents realize very quickly that two or maybe more children not sleeping well, makes it almost impossible to function well as a family.   If your older child is sleeping well, there are some things you can do to ensure that he remains a good sleeper.

  • Room Transitions:  If your older child will need to be moved into a different bedroom to make room for the new baby, do this before the new baby is born, ideally at least six weeks prior.  This will give your child plenty of time to adjust to his new bedroom before he has to adjust to life with a new sibling.
  • Bed Transitions:  Don’t move your child prematurely out of the crib just because you need the crib for the new baby.   A child typically makes the move from a crib to a big bed most successfully after he is 2.5 years old.  Before this age, most children lack the cognitive understanding of the responsibilities of being in a big bed.  I have had many parents move their child too early only to cause a lot of sleep issues that were not occurring before this move happened.   If your child is over 2.5 years old and you need to move your child out of the crib to a big bed, do so at least 6 weeks before the baby is born.
  • Bedtime Routine:  If you don’t already have a solid bedtime routine, establish one that is very consistent and predictable with a good consistent bedtime.  This will make your child feel safe and secure in his changing world after the baby comes home, it will also allow for grandparents or other family members to do the bedtime routine with your child with no difficulties.  You can even make a bedtime routine chart if you have struggles around bedtime so that everyone including your child knows what the bedtime routine looks like.  Again if this is necessary, do so about 6 weeks before the new baby is born.
  • Nap Time: Have a good consistent nap routine as well.  Make sure that if your child still needs a nap that you have a good established routine and that nap time is a smooth process.  If your child doesn’t need a nap, establish daily quiet time when you are home, so your child will be very familiar and comfortable with it and you can have some time each day that you can give to the new baby.
  • 1 to 1 quality time:  This is 15-20 minutes each day of quality time where your child would have you or your spouse’s undivided attention.  No phones, TV’s, computers, Ipads, or any other outside distractions.  Just time between you and your child doing something that connects the two of you.  It should not be done right before sleep time as it would be hard for your child to want to transition from this activity to sleep.   This is something that can lessen the need for negative attention seeking behavior right before nap time or bedtime thus causing problems going to sleep.

Finally, if your child is not sleeping well, please contact me and let me help you establish healthy sleep habits for he or she before the new baby arrives.  It is best to have at least 6 weeks to make sleep changes before the new baby comes.  It is normal to see some changes in young children’s behavior after the birth of a new sibling.  It is about a 6 month process for a family to get fully adjusted to having a new baby.   Be firm, consistent and have patience with your little one as you all adjust to the newest member of your family.

About the author

Shannon Glenn

Shannon Glenn is the owner and founder of Sleep Well Children Consulting and a Certified Pediatric Sleep Specialist. She is dedicated to helping parents assist their children and babies in developing healthy sleep habits. With a B.A. in Psychology, Shannon has worked extensively with children and their families for over 15 years in a variety of settings.  She has been offering sleep solutions for over six years.  

Why didn’t we try this sooner?! As we speak he is sound asleep in his crib – and has been since 7:15 pm.

Karianne Wanggaard

Sleep Well Sleep Specialists

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Working with Shannon, I went from 2-3 wake ups every night to 1 or 0. She aligned the plan with my preferred sleep cycle. She was always coaching, never judging. Shannon was great, I have referred MANY people to her! That's the best testament to her work that I can give.

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