Congratulations! You’re expecting baby number two, or three, or four! Now the question might be where is the new baby going to sleep? For many families the impending arrival of a new little one means some rearranging; and most of us want to do so in a way that’s going to be the least disruptive and non- headache inducing. Here are our tips for making sure that making space does not mean making sleep problems for big brother or sister.
Rule #1 If your “older” child is under the age of three and in a crib DO NOT plan to use his crib for the new baby!
This is one I cannot stress enough. So often when we work with a child that is between the ages of two and three he or she is sleeping in a toddler bed. Sleeping in a big kid bed is a big responsibility. A child under the age of three simply does not have the cognitive ability to understand the boundaries that come with a bed so it is no wonder that sleep issues arise. More often than not mom and dad have switched their little one out of a crib and into a bed because they were expecting a new baby. Our recommendation is to keep your child in his crib until at least the age of three unless he is climbing out and safety becomes a concern. (Even then we have tips!) If he is happily sleeping in his crib then it’s important to remember that this is his safe place and likely all he has known since birth. Removing the crib is essentially like removing a sense of security. While I understand not wanting to purchase a second crib in my opinion, it’s totally worth the expense because who wants to be waking up with an infant AND a toddler?! Cribs today do not have to be expensive by any means. Any crib sold at a commercial store should pass certain standard requirements in order to be sold on the market in the United States. Here are some very cost-effective options. (Option 1-Amazon) (Option 2-Amazon) (Option 3– Ikea)
By ensuring that you have safe, age-appropriate sleep solutions for both of your children it will mean that everyone can continue to sleep where they are most comfortable and get the sleep they need.
SUCCESSFULLY SWITCHING ROOMS:
Some parents opt to keep their nursery as a nursery and move big sister to a new room. There is no issue with this! Ideally just like any other transition this would be done at a time when no other major transitions are taking place. Meaning, if she just started preschool you might want to wait a few weeks before introducing another big change. When you are ready to move your toddler to a new room there are several things you can do to make the transition as smooth as possible. First and foremost, I would talk to your child about the change. If she is over the age of two then she’s certainly old enough to sense change and have a conversation about it. It does not have to be a complicated conversation, just keep it simple and explain to her that sometimes people move houses and sometimes people move to a new bedroom. Tell her that she is still going to be a great sleeper, mom and dad will still always be close by, she can bring all the things that are special to her, and that she will be safe and cozy. Assuming that she knows she is going to be a big sister it would also be great to read some books about becoming a big sister.
This will certainly not be the only change that affects her in the coming months. Begin to talk about how a new baby will mean that some things will look a little bit different but many things will also stay the same. She will still have the same mom and dad, go to the same school, play with the same toys, read the same books etc. Most of her life will stay the same and it’s important to remind her of that. In addition, you can also read some books about moving. There are fewer options that specifically address changing bedrooms but even a book about moving to a new house would be a good conversation starter. You can discuss with her how people move to a new house just like she will move to a new room.
If she is old enough let her have some input. Maybe she can help you choose the paint color for the walls, or a new rug for her room or a new picture to hang on the wall. It doesn’t have to be anything big, fancy or expensive but just a way to get her involved and let her feel as though she’s making the new space her own. When it is time to switch bedrooms make sure to bring all of the things that she associates with sleep. If you are going to be leaving the crib in the old room to avoid taking it down and setting it back up that’s completely fine. But, grab the mattress and put it in her new room- it will feel familiar to her and she will feel more comfortable. Also bring any special blankets, stuffed animals, sound machines, a fan she’s used to sleeping with etc. You can certainly re-create her old room in the new space by making sure she has the things that are familiar to her just as you might do if you were traveling. Finally, make sure that the new room is as conducive to sleep as her old room. Make sure that it is plenty dark and plenty quiet enough.
Before the big move spend some time together in the new room. Whether that means he “helps” you paint the walls or you simply relax in there together reading books, just some way to familiarize your child with the new space and help him feel more comfortable in it. That way, when he’s expected to sleep there on night one it’s a space that he is already getting used to.
Children are typically fairly flexible and easily adapt when things are presented in the right way. They generally do better with slow change rather than abrupt change so take the time to make the transition gently. If you stay confident and upbeat your little one will feed off of that and be more apt to feel excited about the change too. After all, a new baby is quite exciting!
Lauren Stauffer is a Family Sleep Institute certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and owner of Well Rested Baby. She offers a host of services including in person, phone, email, and Skype/FaceTime consultations that can be tailored to meet any family’s needs and schedule. Please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation.