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the crib sheet

Sibling Rivalry and Sleep - sleep survival guide

Elizabeth Nalle

First of all, don't freak out, this will come together, and yes, you can and will get everyone sleeping again.  Easier said than done, right?  Here are some of our essential tips for preparing your toddler for his or her new baby brother/sister.

  • Work on building your older child's sleep independence.  This is essential before the new baby comes because if you have to lie with your 2 year old for him to fall asleep and he comes to your bed in the middle of the night, how is that going to work when the new baby comes?  Construct a bedtime plan that ends with you leaving the room before your older child is asleep.  Have a plan for what to do when he leaves the room or protests in anyway.  Make sure you have the timing right, maybe her long afternoon nap means she needs a later bedtime?  After you have your plan in place, get to work, be consistent, and diligent.  Work first on bedtime and then address any lingering middle of the night wake ups.  We also can help you with this!
  • If you plan to room share, then set a realistic time line.  You might have the infant with you for a few months and in that case it's not worth stressing about this now.  You will have a much better sense of what needs to happen, when you are ready to move the baby.  You can always have your infant/baby nap in the room he/she will eventually share with your older child.  Also don't take your older child out of his crib just yet.  It really is better to wait until he is older, and your infant will probably not need the crib for a while.
  • Now is a great time to have your partner take on some of your sleep load.  If you are the only one who can put your older child to bed, then begin to be out of the house every now and then at bedtime to allow your partner success at putting your older sleeper to bed.  Once he or she is good at this, then you can start to alternate bedtimes.
  • Let your older child tell you or show you when he wants to talk about the baby.  Have books around or baby dolls mixed in with his other toys.  It can be very overwhelming if you constantly bring it up.  
  • Decide how you will get help for the baby so you can give  your older child one on one attention after the baby is born.  Remember it is about quality not quantity.  An attachment theory expert once explained you really just need 20 minutes minimum of uninterrupted time.  Leave your phone in the kitchen, set a timer if you need, and then get down on the floor and play.
  • Finally the months before baby comes are far harder for you and your toddler than the months that follow.  It is all so abstract and quite simply impossible to understand for both you.  This unsettled feeling is at the root of a lot of your child's behavioral struggles.  Offer a good balance of structure, routine, and of course love and comfort.