The arrival of a sibling
The arrival of a new sibling is an exciting and joyous event for many families. However, it can also be a disruptive and challenging time for children, particularly in terms of their sleep. In this blog post, we'll explore some of the ways in which the arrival of a new sibling can impact a child's sleep, as well as strategies parents can use to help their child adjust to these changes.
Sleep is essential for children's development, and disruptions to their sleep patterns can have a significant impact on their physical and emotional health. When a new sibling is born, your toddler's routine may be disrupted, leading to difficulty falling asleep, frequent night wakings, and early waking. These changes can be attributed to several factors.
Firstly, the new baby's needs may require attention during the night, causing disturbances to your toddler's sleep. For example, a newborn may need to be fed every few hours, which can cause disturbances to your toddler's sleep if they share a room with the baby. Similarly, the baby's crying may wake your toddler, causing them to have difficulty falling back to sleep.
One of the most significant ways in which a new sibling can disrupt a child's sleep is by creating changes in their routine. With a new baby in the house, parents may need to adjust their schedules, which can mean changes to meal times, bath times, and bedtime routines. These changes can be unsettling for your toddler, who thrives on routine and predictability. Additionally, the presence of a new baby in the home can create noise and disruptions during the night, further impacting your toddler’s ability to sleep.
Another way in which a new sibling can disrupt a child's sleep is by creating feelings of jealousy and anxiety. For many children, the arrival of a new sibling can be a difficult adjustment. They may feel that they are no longer the center of their parents' attention or that they are being replaced in some way. They may feel neglected or displaced and struggle to adjust to the changes in their routine. These feelings can manifest in a variety of ways, including acting out or regressing to earlier developmental stages. These behaviors can be distressing for parents and can make it even more challenging for children to settle down at bedtime and can lead to sleep disturbances as the child struggles to settle down and fall asleep.
So, what can you do to help your toddler adjust to the arrival of a new sibling and mitigate the disruption to their sleep? Here are some strategies to consider:
- Maintain a consistent routine: While some changes to the family routine may be unavoidable, it's important to maintain as much consistency as possible. Stick to established meal times, bath times, and bedtime routines as much as possible. This can help provide your toddler with a sense of stability and predictability during a time of upheaval.
- Involve your toddler in caring for their new sibling: Encourage older children to help with the baby in age-appropriate ways. This can help them feel like an important part of the family and can reduce feelings of jealousy and anxiety.
- Try not to "blame the baby" for example, by saying "I can't right now, I'm feeding the baby" instead phrase it positively "as soon as I'm finished feeding the baby we can play that game".
- Create a special time for your toddler: Set aside special one-on-one time with older children, even if it's just a few minutes at a time every day. This can help them feel valued and loved and can provide them with an opportunity to talk about any concerns or fears they may have.
- Fill their cup before bedtime: Dedicate 20-30 minutes before bed, that is time with JUST your toddler, put the phone away and do some quiet play - a puzzle, building blocks, barbies (whatever your toddler is into that’s quiet!) to reconnect with them. This can be challenging for solo parents, or parents with a shift working partner. But if it’s possible, it’s powerful!
- Be patient: Remember that the arrival of a new sibling is a significant adjustment for everyone in the family, including toddlers and older children. Be patient and understanding as your child navigates this transition.
- Seek help if needed: If your child's sleep disruptions persist or if you're concerned about their adjustment to the new baby, don't hesitate to reach out to a professional for guidance and support.
The arrival of a new sibling can be a challenging time for children, particularly in terms of their sleep. However, by maintaining a consistent routine, involving older children in caring for the baby, creating special time for older children, being patient, and seeking help if needed, parents can help their toddler adjust to this new chapter in their family's life. With time, patience, and understanding, the entire family can settle into a new routine that works for everyone.