Guest Post: Helping Children Sleep After a New Baby

I just had a baby and now my older child won’t sleep – Help!!

You knew you would lose sleep with a newborn, but you may
not have been expecting your older child to suddenly need your attention in the
middle of the night.  This is however a
problem I see quite often, especially if at one time your older child did have
some sleep difficulties.

What is going on?

If your child previously slept with you or in your room,
they may not understand why the brand new baby is now getting to sleep in your
room.  After all, you may have told them
that your room is just for Mommy and Daddy if you were transitioning them out
of it.  They may start waking in the
middle of the night trying to get in bed with you, or may start giving you a
hard time about going to sleep at bedtime. 
Even if your child did not sleep with you, just the change of having a
new brother or sister may cause them a slight amount of stress, which could
affect their sleep.  All the changes going
on could also be causing their bedtime to be later.  If children are overtired at bedtime, they
are more likely to wake during the night and earlier in the morning.

Having Patience

The first step in solving your child’s behavior is to first
have (or try to have!) patience and realize where they are coming from.  If your older child was an only child before
the baby came, they were used to getting all the attention.  Now, not only is the baby getting some of
their attention, the baby probably gets to stay up later with Mom and Dad and
gets to spend all night in their room. 
How fair is that?!  It is a good
idea to spend some extra one on one time with your older child during the
day.  You should be totally focused on
them (no cell phones or television) and this should last for at least 20
minutes.  Each parent should try to do
this every day.

Bedtime

You may need to factor in a little extra relaxing time
before sleep time at night.  Your child
may need a couple of extra books or some extra songs.  Decide before hand what you will add, and do
not let your child dictate what you do. 
If you tell them you will read an extra book, stop at that extra book.  If they beg and cry for another one and you
give in, you will have taught them to keep begging and crying even if you say
no.
If your child is really upset at bedtime, you may think
about sitting in their room with them while they fall asleep, then every
several days moving further and further away from them or come check on them
every 5 or 7 minutes for extra reassurance.

Middle of the Night Wake-Ups

If your child is waking in the middle of the night, discuss
with your partner during the day how you want to handle it.  Being consistent is essential in changing a
behavior.  So if you do not want your
older child coming into bed with you, do not let them do that, even once.  This is especially important if your newborn
is sleeping in bed with you – your older child may not be as aware of the baby
and could roll on them or crawl over them.  
If you are okay with your older child coming into your room
at night if they do not wake you or your baby, you could make a bed for them on
the floor.  You could put a crib mattress
or sleeping bag on your floor.  You will
need to give your child rules – if they sleep in this bed, they need to come
into the room quietly and not wake anyone. 
This is probably a better idea for a child at least three years old and
one that has not shown any jealousy issues toward the newborn.

It Will Get Better

Remember that it will get better, especially if you handle
the behavior consistently and with as much patience as you can have being a
sleep deprived parent!  Your child may
need a little extra reassurance now, but will once again start sleeping
well.  And by that time, your newborn may
be sleeping better too!
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About the Author:
Michelle Winters, of SleepWell Sleep Solutions is a
certified Gentle Sleep Coach and Greenproofer based in Northern Virginia. Michelle
provides sleep consultations for children up to 6 years old in which she
assists parents in creating a gentle, respectful plan to get their children
sleeping.  She can also assist parents
who are trying to conceive, who are pregnant, and who already have children
identify and remove toxins in their environment.  Michelle conducts in person consultations in
the Washington DC Metro area and can also conduct consultations over Skype or
phone for clients outside the area.  She
is also available to conduct workshops and group talks to businesses, parents’
groups and preschools.
This post is provided by SleepWell Sleep Solutions.