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Baby Sleep Regressions: Questions Answered

Another Case of New Sibling Sleep Regression

By Amalah

Dear Amalah,

I had my second child a couple months ago, and since then my 3-year-old’s been really acting out. He’s not listening to us, and naptime and sleeptime is a battle. He used to sleep great: would go through his routine, go down awake with no arguing.

Now, he’s constantly calling us back into his room to adjust the lights, door, covers. He also started saying he’s afraid of the dark and of monsters. We got him a soothing nightlight but he still says he’s afraid.

I’ve talked to him about monsters not existing, done shadow puppets, and added the nightlight to no avail. The only way he’ll sleep is if one of us sleeps in the room with him.

My son is still in the crib by the way. My husband recently let him lay down in the twin-sized bed in his room, so now he also asks to sleep there. But he just runs out of the room every time.

We tried 5-minute checks and that backfired.

Any advice? Between him and the newborn, we’re not getting much sleep!! And I have to return to work soon.

Thanks,
D

The good news is that your son’s behavior is pretty much TEXTBOOK sibling regression — new baby arrives, attention-seeking behavior begins, and previously established skills and routines (potty training, sleep, food preferences, etc.) go completely haywire.

The bad news is that in a lot of cases, the only way through it is…well, through. Eventually, your child will lose interest in whatever battle they’ve chosen to fight, provided that you remain super consistent and super diligent about not rewarding the behavior with attention. Positive OR negative — a toddler adjusting to a new baby will 100% take any form of attention from you, even if it’s scolding or timeouts or whatever.

He might really have developed a fear of the dark and monsters — that’s certainly a common issue for kids his age, but the timing is certainly conveniently suspicious. He might  have talked himself into the fear because he needed more reasons to draw out bedtime and get more attention from you. And it sounds like (up to this point) you’ve played into his hands with lots of extra checks and comforting and giving into his demand that you sleep in his room.

All that needs to stop.

Here’s what to do to help your toddler through this new sibling sleep regression: 

1. Let him sleep with the lights on if you have to, but once you say goodnight, it is time. For. Goodnight. If he acts up, offer him nothing more than a reminder that it’s time for sleep — said from the doorway, from the other side of the door, or even through a baby monitor. He wants you to come back in and be his sleep crutch — you want to get as much sleep as possible and NOT let the current antics become a permanent thing. So it’s okay to be a little tough here, since you’ll all be better off in the long run by refusing to indulge or engage here.

2. And then counteract the tough love with lots of extra “easy” love during the day. HEAP the attention on him in positive ways (like literally praise him for anything and everything he does well), offer him lots of extra affection and try to schedule some one-on-one time without the baby. (Dad needs to do this too.)

More thoughts:

I personally found that the new sibling regression stage peaked around three months post-baby and fizzed out within six. Probably because I was so damn exhausted and dazed at first to realize what was going on with my toddler (I swore I like, broke my firstborn after my second was born) and to realize I was getting straight-up playyyyyyyyed in their quests for more attention.

Get consistent and extra-loving and attention-y during the day. Get consistent and tough at night — no grown-up is ever sleeping in his room again! You say goodnight one time and that is it! Remove yourself from the sleep equation! You cannot make him sleep anyway, so do not let it rattle you if he chooses to stand in his crib singing the Sesame Street song for three hours after bedtime! He’s your monkey but his sleep does not have to be your circus.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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