Congratulations, you! If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve either just welcomed a new addition to your family or are planning on doing so pretty soon.
Welcoming a new baby into the family is an exciting time. Still, it can also bring about a mix of emotions for your older child, especially toddlers. It’s essential to navigate this transition with care and consideration to ensure a smooth adjustment for everyone involved, so today, let’s explore some strategies for introducing your new baby to your toddler and prepare you for some potential challenges that may lay in store.
Embrace a Little Bit of Jealousy:
Accepting that your toddler may experience feelings of jealousy is the first step toward fostering understanding and empathy. Don’t attempt to stifle or suppress these emotions. Acknowledge, validate, and reassure your toddler that their love and importance within your family unit haven’t diminished. Encourage open communication and be available to listen, really listen, to their concerns.
Set Clear Expectations:
Maintaining boundaries is essential during this transition period. Clearly communicate your expectations to your toddler, explaining the new dynamics and what is expected of them as an older sibling. Frame these expectations positively, emphasizing the importance of their role in welcoming and caring for the new baby. Encourage them to participate in age-appropriate activities, such as helping with diaper changes or selecting a toy for their sibling. Toddlers typically love the feeling of responsibility and maturity that comes from helping their parents with a new baby, so do what you can to nurture that older sibling relationship.
Prepare for Regression:
As your toddler adjusts to their new sibling, it’s common to witness some regression in sleep patterns, behaviour, and even potty training. Be patient and understanding during this phase, reinforce positive habits gently, and provide reassurance when setbacks occur, but remember, you set some expectations and communicated them to your toddler, so while it may be tempting to let them slide back into familiar routines, such as using diapers or sleeping in the crib, it’s important to maintain consistency and encourage growth.
Consistency is key when it comes to maintaining boundaries. While it may be tempting to give in to your toddler’s demands during this time of change, it’s essential to stand firm. Resist reverting to previous practices, such as allowing them to sleep in the crib or returning to diapers. Upholding these boundaries reinforces their role as an older sibling and helps create a sense of stability and routine.
Create Special One-on-One Time:
I get it; free time isn’t exactly in abundance after you bring a new baby into the house. But it’s essential to carve out moments of individual attention for your toddler. Set aside a little time every day for your older child to engage in activities they enjoy, such as reading a book together, going for a walk, playing a game, or whatever makes them happy. These shared experiences will help strengthen the bond between you and your toddler, reaffirming their importance in your life and reassuring them that the new baby isn’t a replacement for them. This is probably the single most important tip I can give you for preventing feelings of jealousy and resentment, so again, I know you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed, but make this a priority.
Obviously, introducing a sibling is a significant milestone for your family, but it’s particularly uncharted waters for your older child. It will require patience, understanding, and a lot of conscious effort on your part. But by familiarizing yourself with potential challenges, setting clear boundaries, and nurturing a positive sibling relationship, you can create an environment that fosters love, support, and harmony within your growing family.
Remember, with time, patience, and consistency, your toddler and new baby will forge a special bond that will last a lifetime.
Is your little one waking up in the middle of the night?
No, no, not like that. I mean, like really waking up. Waking up and staying up. For, like… hours.
If you’re the parent of a baby who’s dealing with segmented sleep, you know exactly what I’m talking about. This isn’t the middle of the night. “Go in and comfort baby for ten minutes until he gets back to sleep” wake up. This is a full-blown 3:00 a.m. dance party.
It’s got a few names. Segmented sleep, bifurcated sleep, split nights, and it describes a situation where your little one sleeps for a long stretch, then wakes up happy and energetic in the middle of the night and stays that way for an hour or more.
Slit Nights aren’t a new or unnatural phenomenon. Back before the widespread use of the electric light bulb, people would regularly sleep for a few hours, wake up for another hour or two, then go back to sleep.
They’d use the time to read, smoke, pray, and have sex (not necessarily all at once), and then after an hour or two, they’d get back into bed and sleep until morning. (Apparently, it was also a typical time for visiting one’s neighbours. Not to hate on the old days, but if my neighbours came over unannounced at three in the morning, oooohhh, things would get biblical.)
Nowadays, however, the vast majority of us go to sleep at night and, hopefully, close our eyes and sleep straight through until morning.
But let me guess… your baby didn’t get the memo?
Split nights are actually a pretty common issue. Baby goes down at 7:30 at night, wakes up at 3:00 in the morning, parties her ass off for an hour and a half, then goes back to sleep, apparently careless about the groggy, miserable day she’s set her parents up for.
So let’s take a quick look at why this happens, and then we’ll learn how to solve the problem.
Why Do Split Nights Happen?
There are two major drivers when it comes to sleep. First, there’s our circadian rhythm, which is our natural tendency to fall asleep when it’s dark and wake up when it’s light. Then there’s our homeostatic sleep drive, commonly known as sleep pressure, which builds up over the time we’re awake.
So ideally, over the course of the day, sleep pressure builds up, then at bedtime, when the pressure hits the sweet spot, baby puts her head down and goes to sleep. Then, as that sleep pressure begins to subside, circadian rhythm takes over, and baby stays asleep until morning.
In the case of a split night, we could be looking at one of two reasons why they’re waking up.
● Baby’s not getting to bed early enough, OR…
● Baby’s going to bed too early.
Now before you pitch your phone out the window at that seemingly paradoxical explanation, check this out.
How to Fix Split Nights?
If baby’s getting to bed too late, if too much sleep pressure has built up, the brain has this instinctive response that says, “Hey, you’re tired, but you’re not sleeping. I’m guessing that’s because there’s a carnivorous apex predator around, so we’d better get ready to make a break for it,” and then starts upping the cortisol levels.
The brain means well, but it’s a little behind the times on our need for lion alerts.
So this can make it tough for baby to get to sleep at bedtime since that cortisol’s got them a little bit jacked. It can also cause a full wake-up at the end of a sleep cycle, which commonly happens around 2 or 3 in the morning. Ugh.
If this is the case, you’re one of the lucky ones. Treat this like any other nighttime wake-up, reassure baby that it’s still bedtime, comfort her and let her get back to sleep on her own, and consider moving bedtime up a bit over the course of a few nights.
But then there’s the alternate scenario. What if baby gets to bed too early?
In a situation where baby’s getting lots of quality daytime sleep and going to bed early, it’s possible that there’s not enough sleep pressure built up to keep baby sleeping until their circadian rhythm takes over and helps them sleep through the rest of the night, so up they get.
And now that there isn’t as much sleep pressure, and their circadian rhythm doesn’t have the horsepower to get them to sleep on their own, suddenly they’re up and active for an hour (or three!) while that pressure builds back up.
Now, I’m all about early bedtimes. Too little sleep is a much bigger problem than too much. But suppose your baby’s experiencing this kind of split-night sleep. In that case, it’s worth looking at their schedule and doing a little fine-tuning to ensure that you’re hitting the optimum sleep pressure right at the same time that baby’s going to bed for the night.
I know plenty of situations can arise where you’ll want to get baby to bed a little early. For example, if she had a day of lousy naps and is clearly tired half an hour before bedtime, it’s the right move to get her to bed ahead of schedule.
But try to avoid putting baby to bed early, more than one or two nights in a row. We want to prevent over-tiredness, but we also don’t want them in the crib at night for more time than they’re actually capable of sleeping.
So if baby’s had a tough day and didn’t nap well, it’s fine to get her to bed a little early since that sleep pressure is likely already built up, but try to get her back onto the regular schedule starting the next morning, including her wake-up time.
I know that this can all start to sound like an immaculately choreographed ballet. In some ways, it can be pretty complicated. Still, the more you understand the nuances and know where to make those minor adjustments, the better your baby will sleep. The less they’ll run into these regressions, setbacks, and interruptions.
One final thing to consider if you’re getting ready to tackle this situation. This is not likely to be an overnight fix. Once baby has gotten into this habit, getting them out of it can take some time.
Like any attachment or dependency, overcoming it is an incremental process, and it’s likely to meet with some pushback, so if and when things get tough, remember your goal.
You’re giving your little one the skills they need to sleep soundly through the night, and that contributes to their well-being in so many different ways. So stay consistent, be patient, and before too long, you and your baby will both be enjoying full nights of deep, restful sleep.
Erin Neri - Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Owner of To The Moon and Back Sleep Consulting since 2016.
Bringing a new baby into the house is an incredible, exciting but also terrifying occasion, even more so when you have one or two children already. It can bring up a whole lot of questions.
How are the older children going to react to this new baby? Are they going to embrace the role of being an older sibling? Will they turn into jealous clingers who need constant attention? Will their schedule fit with your newborn's naps and feeding times? Most importantly, how is this going to affect the older child's bedtime?
Trying to juggle two or three different bedtime routines can be overwhelming if you're not ready for it. Trying to find fifteen minutes to feed your newborn while at the same time trying to get your toddler out of the bath can make you lose your mind. Toddlers just know that you're in a position where you're unable to chase them down and enforce the rules, so they are more likely to take advantage of that weakness.
So here are some strategies for those of you who have two or three little people, and are struggling to find a bedtime groove.
When I was expecting my first baby, I followed along in the books about every single stage of my pregnancy, I read about what to expect when baby arrives.
I learned about anything that I thought I would need to know for that first little bit of baby’s life; I read a lot!
Of course, I didn't think much about baby sleep until I realized that my precious little bundle of joy DID NOT KNOW HOW TO SLEEP!!
So, I read more and more about nothing except baby SLEEP!
What I wasn't prepared for was the sheer amount of information out there, and how much the "experts" contradicted each other!
Even among medical professionals, the number of times I must have read one person say that one thing was an absolute must, then to have another "expert" say that the first was wrong or harmful, was mind-boggling and extremely stressful!
As most parents do though, I took that information, analyzed it, filtered everything through a combination of common sense and personal beliefs, and came up with a strategy I was comfortable with.
But one thing I was never sure about, mainly because nobody seemed to have a clear answer, was whether I could sleep train while I was breastfeeding or how to sleep train while I was breastfeeding.
The primary argument against the idea, so far as I understood it, was that breast milk gets digested faster than formula, and therefore babies who are breastfed need to wake up several times a night to feed.
Otherwise, they'll feel hungry throughout the night, be unable to sleep, and potentially suffer from malnutrition.
Now, I know that there are different views on this matter, and whichever one you subscribe to, you're probably convinced that you're right. And you might be, assuming of course that you agree with me.
I'm kidding, of course. Like most things in parenting, there's not so much of a "right and wrong," as opposed to "right for your child."
But there are a few facts that you should know if you're breastfeeding and trying to decide whether or not to sleep train your child.
After all, what's the point of sleep training if your baby's nutrition needs prevent them from sleeping through the night?
So, here's an interesting fact.
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