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Siblings: Adding a New Baby to the Family – Your Sleep Questions Answered

Mom with a baby and a toddler hugging the new baby.

Is there anything more exciting than bringing home a new baby? Your family has been waiting for your new addition but it can also feel overwhelming to everyone in the family. With your first child you had one set of questions when it comes to sleep, and you made it through. But this time there are a whole new set of questions that you did not have before. Adding a new baby into the family can feel a lot more complicated.

We aim to answer your top sleep questions when adding a new baby to the family:

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Should we move our older child out of the crib to give the crib to the baby?

Pause

It can be tempting to move your older child out of the crib to make the crib available for the new baby. But pause for a minute and let us consider a few things first. You will find the best success if you wait until your child is between 2.5-3 or even after to make the move out of the crib. 

Keep in mind that the crib is likely the only sleep space that your child has known. The move to a big kid bed can feel daunting to your child. It can also cause sleep struggles as the freedom of access to their room and the house is a new responsibility for your child. 

If your child is sleeping well in their crib, it may be best not to rock the boat at this time when so many other changes are taking place in their world. Keeping their sleep space consistent will be one less thing that he or she needs to adjust to with the new baby coming. It will likely be worth the effort and cost of buying another crib. 

If buying another crib is not in the cards for you, consider moving your older child out of their crib either 6 months before baby arrives or 4 months after baby arrives. Stay careful not to attach the move to a big kid bed to the need for baby to have their crib. It is best to approach this move with a great plan for healthy sleep boundaries that your child will be able to understand. 

Hint: A visual chart for bedtime routine and sleep rules will go a long way in helping your child to understand the new expectations for sleep as it pertains to a big kid bed.

Will my toddler’s sleep be disrupted? 

Adjusting to a new baby in the home is a change for all. Your toddler’s adjustment will be no different and it could show up in unexpected night wakings or interruptions in their naps. We suggest treating these disruptions as you would any other sleep regression, as the best thing that we can do to help is to stay consistent and make up for the lost sleep. If you see a disruption in their sleep, make up for it with an earlier bedtime.

Consider too that your child was used to having ALL your attention and now they need to share it. It would be helpful to ensure that you spend some special one-on-one time with your older child. A great time to do this is when the baby sleeps. Get down on the floor and play with them. Give them tons of eye contact and cuddles. This can go a long way to filling their attachment bucket and help to get over any potential sleep regression associated with the new baby.

How do I manage bedtime routine with multiple kids?

It is quite possible to have enjoyable and relaxing bedtime routines even after the second comes around! A great bedtime routine is one piece of the sleep puzzle. It is an important communication to our little one’s bodies that sleep is coming.  You want it to be soothing and relaxing.  It is time that we finally get to slow down and really enjoy being with our kids.  So how do we protect that, especially when bedtimes are close together?

Prepare:

With multiple kids, things tend to take more time. HA! Everything takes more time.  It can be immensely helpful to set out pj’s, diapers and anything else you need ahead of time.  You can even go so far as to run the tub, draw the shades, and turn on the white noise machine before starting our routine. 

Consolidate:

If bedtimes are at the same time or close together, it can be extremely helpful to have the kids take a bath together, read books together. If one child is going to bed a bit later, you can always give them something to do in their room, a few books, or some quiet toys, while they wait for you to finish the routine with your other child.  

There may also be a period where your newborn is going to bed later than your older child. My personal trick for this was to keep a bouncer / swing in the hallway between the bathroom and bedroom so that I could tend to my older child’s bedtime while keeping an eye on the baby. 

Stick To the Plan:

No matter if bedtimes are at the same time or different times, we recommend sticking to the same bedtime routine order. Not only is it a great communication to our kids and their bodies that sleep is coming, but there is also great comfort in predictability.  A set bedtime routine helps when your toddler reaches that age that they want to do things their way! If you have always done things the same way and you continue to do so, it just is what it is. 

Relax:

There will be times where things will not go exactly as you imagine.  It happens, sometimes there is nothing we can do about that toddler who is supposed to be reading books coming to bang on the baby’s door as you are laying the baby down for bed. You may be surprised to find that your second may end up a bit more flexible. Perhaps because they need to be. They go with the flow just a bit better. 

Enjoy the bedtime routine.  It is a special time of day to connect with our littles.     

How can I honor the baby’s need to sleep while honoring my older child’s need to get out?

This is ALL about flexibility and planning. As you may have noticed, babies need a lot of sleep – A LOT!  When they are newborns, they can sleep anywhere and seem not to be disturbed by noise or light.  This starts to change as they get a bit older and you work with them on their sleep. A sleep conducive environment becomes more important.  BUT they still need a lot of sleep. But how can we find that balance where they get the rest that they need, and we can get our older kids out a bit?

Ensure that your baby is getting the rest they need:

Here is the deal; a baby will bounce back a lot faster from naps on the run or skipped naps if they are getting the rest that they need. So, first and foremost, establish a set nap schedule based on your child’s needs for their age.  For example, a baby 4-8 months, likely needs 2-3 naps a day with an early bedtime.  If you have got a well-rested child to start with you are in a better place to make exceptions to the routine. 

Make exceptions:

Yup, once you have a well-rested baby, you can and should make exceptions now and then. They need to explore life a bit and we need it for our sanity, right?  So, how do you do that? It is simple, just keep 80/20 in your mind. 80% of the time you want to stick to the schedule and honor your baby’s sleep in a sleep conducive environment and 20% of the time you can skip naps, do later bedtimes or take naps on the run.  The one thing to remember here is that you want to make up for the lost sleep with an earlier bedtime. 

Good news: The 3rd nap can be taken on the run! 

Prepare:

On those 80% days, you can still get out between naps.  Maximize your time by preparing all that you need for yourself and for your baby when they are napping.  This means, pack the diaper bag, and throw it in the car.  Even prepare their lunch or dinner and have a meal on the run.  

This way, you can just get them up and go. You can also stick to the schedule somewhere else.  As an example, if you can set up a portable crib at a friend’s or grandma’s house, you are still sticking to the plan.  Good news, right? 

Know this is temporary:

This is the truth.  Before you know it, your baby will drop the morning nap and your days will feel much more free than they do now. Hang in there! You are giving your child a great gift by honoring the sleep that they need.  

Soon your whole family will adjust to your new addition, and you will find a new rhythm when it comes to sleep. Remember too, that if you struggle with sleep, the Good Night Sleep Site team is always here to help. 

Jennie Clarke
Jennie Clarke
Jennie Clarke is a Certified Sleep Consultant in Orlando, FL with Good Night Sleep Site and mother to two boys. Jennie became certified through the Family Sleep Institute after having worked with a Good Night Sleep Site consultant for her first child. After seeing great results, Jennie decided to share her new found passion about sleep with other families to help them see the same successes that she did. Jennie can help families reach their sleep goals in Central Florida and beyond. When not helping families Jennie enjoys spending time with all three of the boys in her life.
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