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In the near future, there will be a new baby in the home. From previous experience, sleep is highly disrupted.

I'm wondering what effect this will have on my son and his sleep quality, and how it may affect him during the day.

Some facts:

  • We live in a very small apartment. The bedrooms share a wall. Noise travels easily: We can hear our son breathing when everyone is in bed.
  • The new baby will start off in our room, but may have to share a room with our other son once we switch from a bassinet to the crib, because we have no other free space.
  • Our son is 2, and will be about 27 months when his brother arrives.

Is there anything that we can do to help make this transition easier on our son? It doesn't have to necessarily be before the baby arrives, so suggestions for what to do afterwards are acceptable.

Should I even be concerned? I completely expected the impact a child would have on my sleep patterns, but it's only recently that I've wondered how it will affect a young child.

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    Some children are able to sleep through almost anything, but others wake up at the slightest provocation -- would you say your oldest is a light sleeper or not? – Acire Mar 31 '15 at 11:42
  • Does your son go to daycare, or stay at home with mom/dad/grandma/etc., or something else? – Joe Mar 31 '15 at 14:17
  • He stays at home, no daycare. Aside from school, I only work part time so I'm around often. I'm not sure if he's a deep sleeper or not, it seems to depend on the day. Sometimes he'll wake up at the slightest sounds, like a door opening. Other nights he'll sleep through us watching a loud action movie after he's in bed. Lately, he's had congestion that makes him more restless. I know that if he gets extremely exhausted, like around nap time on days he didn't get enough sleep, it's almost impossible to wake him. That sort of sleep only lasts a couple hours. – user11394 Mar 31 '15 at 15:11
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    This is note for you to be aware of. Our oldest was 50/50 slept in his own bed, our bed before his brother was born. After, 100% our bed. He did not want to be 'left out', I think. however, he is a very sound sleeper, was not disrupted by baby's night wakings. So much depends on how your family sleep, how you prefer to sleep (co-sleeping for us is OK, but not sought out by parents), how yous son's personality is... just be prepared for change. – Ida Mar 31 '15 at 20:14
  • @Ida We did cosleeping for awhile with our oldest, but had to stop when it was impairing my sleep quality. We'll still do it when he's sick, but he's such a squirmy guy now that we try to avoid it. I always end up getting smacked and kicked in the face! I do think he may end up feeling "left out", now that you say that, based on his personality. We'll have to take that into account. – user11394 Mar 31 '15 at 20:24
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This is one of those areas where daycare is a big help. Daycare kids - particularly 'center' daycare with 40-50 kids of different ages in different classes running about at all times - in my experience can sleep through anything. My two both had absolutely no problems sleeping with each other (and they're in a room together, and have been since the younger was about 4-5 months old; before that the younger was in our room). If you can sleep at daycare, you learn to sleep through anything.

For kids not in daycare, the noise is an issue. Can they sleep when you vacuum? Pets crawling on their bed? If he's okay with those sorts of things, he'll be okay with the baby.

I would generally say that the first ~30 minutes of sleep is key to your oldest sleeping through baby waking up later on. In the first 15-30 minutes you wake much more easily, typically; after 30 minutes usually you hit deeper sleep and can sleep through more noise. For that, try to time your oldest's and youngest's bedtimes so that they're not quite simultaneous; the youngest should go to bed first and the oldest second, by 30 minutes or so. Especially true if the oldest is a problem bedtime child like mine (ie, will cry or complain). This 30 minute difference actually works out pretty well, in our experience at least: put youngest baby to bed, then start bedtime routine with youngest - probably will take about 30 minutes, right? (If it takes more than 30 minutes to do the routine, possibly have one parent start early.)

That said, it varies by child how easily they wake up. If your eldest will wake up to relatively little noise, or regularly wakes up at night, you will need to determine what the 'come to Mommy's bed' policy is. That definitely increased when our oldest was about 3; not sure if that's age related or younger brother related. I don't think it was due to being sad about younger brother and attention, it seemed to be solely based on waking from dreams or nightmares. It's mostly stopped now (by 3 1/2).

Overall, most of what you do is going to be based on what happens; you can't really effectively prepare for everything because you don't know how the two will interact, nor how each will sleep necessarily. Other than some white noise or music to sleep to (which is a good idea regardless of baby!), or perhaps trying to vacuum more, it's unlikely anything you do in the last couple of months will really make much of a difference, physiologically.

Instead, talk to your son about what's going to happen, and perhaps talk through the bedtime routine. He's old enough to understand most of what you tell him. Let him ask you questions and encourage them. Getting him on board with the changes will do more than anything else.

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  • I think the earlier bedtime for baby is a good idea. I'm pretty sure that's how it's going to have to happen, now that I think about it. Our oldest has a pretty hard time going to bed when he knows we're still "up", and there's a good chance he'll feel the same about his brother. I think, "Shh, the baby's sleeping!" will help him out, too. – user11394 Apr 1 '15 at 20:26
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Getting your child used to sleeping with a fairly constant white noise (eg: a loud fan or air purifier, humidifier, etc) can help a bit with being able to sleep through some of the more erratic noises like screaming baby siblings. I know that helped me in college with sleeping through having a roommate noise and I've oft heard it repeated for helping improve baby sleep as well. Though, sometimes (at least this seemed to be the case for my kid) they will justsomehow learn to sleep more soundly with no extra training.

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  • Great idea. We have an air purifier in his room already, but we leave in on low. We have time now to slowly increase it's setting, and thus volume. – user11394 Apr 1 '15 at 6:02
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    Proximity can help too...moving it closer to his bed may make it seem louder while he sleeps without actually increasing the noise level – Jessica Brown Apr 1 '15 at 15:20
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Try to get your toddler on as regular a sleep and nap schedule as you can during this time. Experiment with different types of noise. We have a soundscape gadget with about 6 different sound patterns to choose from.

You can elevate the head of the bed to help with congestion, and also put an anti-dust mite cover on the mattress. If you can find one that's not too noisy for the pillow, great, otherwise, put the pillow in the freezer for a couple of hours every few weeks to kill the dust mites. Many, many people are allergic to dust mites without realizing it.

By the way, I would not watch action movies without headphones. A child sometimes hears violent stuff on the parents' television and this can be frightening.

You know, you can put your baby to sleep in a stroller, and then move him/her around the apartment without disturbing him/her! Of course, you don't want to do this all night every night -- but you might find this gives you a little extra flexibility at times!

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    While all these things are different sleeping tips, I don't see how any but the first paragraph actually attempt to answer my question. – user11394 Apr 3 '15 at 13:25
  • I just re-read your original post. I think I misinterpreted "From previous experience, sleep is highly disrupted" and thought you were saying that your toddler's sleep has already had some problems. I guess I must have been pretty sleepy when I read your post! Sorry for the irrelevant tips. Okay, on to your real question. In my experience (two children), small children sleep very solidly once they're asleep. – aparente001 Apr 4 '15 at 19:24
  • Yeah, that particular line was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. Of course having a newborn disrupts your sleep! ;) – user11394 Apr 4 '15 at 19:43

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