Lots of factors influence our young children’s sleep and with toddler-sleep highly complex in nature, then naturally it is not unusual for parents to report regressions in their toddlers sleep especially when there are significant life changes happening.
It is not unusual for a toddler to learn that they are going to be big brother or sister and although naturally exciting, it may also be emotionally conflicting for them and they may struggle to fully understand the complete overhaul of the family dynamic that is afoot Many parents of toddlers will report that as soon as it was obvious that Mum was expecting another baby, the mood and behaviour shifted and also the characteristically solid sleeper, started to wake more frequently and look for parental input. Other parents suggest that within a few months of new baby’s arrival a struggle at bedtime began to emerge and/ or frequent night time activity become a regular occurrence.
The impending birth or arrival of a new baby creates an emotional shift in the family dynamic that also may come at a time when your toddler is starting to have a greater sense of self, an increasing mobility and better command of language; all of which may contribute on their own, to the possible “regression” that you might experience. It would not be unusual for a routinely happy, contented sleeper to begin to resist naps and bedtime, wake more often, climb out of the cot, demand additional associations such as drinks overnight or to share your bed at this time. Obviously if you have just had a baby you will be stressed and anxious about the situation, firstly be prepared and consider the following.
- Before your new baby is born, make sure that you have done your best to establish positive sleep associations-potential sleep independence, defined sleep spaces and consolidated, uninterrupted sleep in the main, so that you don’t have far to fall-ensure that your child is getting enough sleep and at the right time for their body, this will mean that you enter the possible regression period from a strong position. Using my suggested timings from my book The Baby Sleep Solution will be a very good starting point
- Most toddlers, up to 3 years+, will require a day time sleep of 1-2 hours with somewhere between 10-12 hours overnight. When your young child is age appropriately no longer napping then they will still have a sleep need between 10-14 hours overnight.
- Make sure that your nap is centred in the day and not too early (so ideally not before 1pm. Try to maintain a wake period of no more than 4-5 hours between the nap finish and in bed asleep.
- To that end the “ideal” day is a nap from 1pm-3 pm and in bed asleep for 7-8pm. Following my magic number line here at bedtime is helpful to get you started
- Resist the urge to panic and eliminate the day time sleep in an effort to improve matters. If your child’s mood and behaviour deteriorates, as the day unfold, without a nap, then typically the nap would still be a necessity.
- When you initially have your baby, avoid your toddler having too many missed naps and / or later than usual bedtimes and also avoid too many schedule changes along with a variety of care- givers.
- The more you can keep his typical schedule in place the easier the adjustment. Have Granny stay in your house when she is minding him rather than sending him for a sleep over, unless this is something that your child does on a regular basis.
- If your child is extra clingy and demanding of attention, do your best to provide this during the day-make a specific allocation of time for you to play together-without interruptions from baby, phones and visitors. Allocating 20 minutes per day can really help with connection and separation anxiety. Make sure that it is face to face, rather than side by side and also that you let your child lead the play, so they feel in control, heard and seen
- Add extra time to your original bedtime routine. Put another 10-15 minutes onto the process. Allow for plenty physical and eye contact with your older child so that you help them to understand that they are loved safe and secure and still important in this new family layout.
If necessary use my stay and support approach at bedtime and overnight
- Don’t deny him your positive attention and try to avoid losing your temper as you all discover how to be a larger family.
- Above, all take time to adjust, don’t worry about bad habits and things you think that you “shouldn’t” do, and as the weeks pass, everyone will settle into being your new enlarged family unit.