Toddler Sleep Regression After a New Baby

Written By

Shannon Wassenaar
January 8, 2024

This article has been reviewed by Nurtured First’s team of child development experts.

Has your toddler struggled with sleep since you brought a new baby home?

Bringing home a new baby is an exciting time for families, but it can also be an enormous adjustment for an older sibling, especially a toddler. Many parents are surprised to find their solid sleeper waking frequently throughout the night and struggling at bedtime after the new baby arrives home. A sleep regression is when a child has been sleeping well but begins having frequent night wakings again. 

For a toddler who was previously the only child, having a new baby brother or sister in the home can be a huge change to their daily life and routine. From the toddler’s perspective, everything’s changed. It’s understandable that these big adjustments can cause toddlers to have trouble feeling secure and resting at night. Regressions in sleep are one of the ways toddlers show they are having a hard time adapting to all the changes that come with a new sibling.

Read this blog to learn why this may be happening and what you can do about it. 

Common Toddler Sleep Struggles After a New Baby

When a new baby joins the family, it’s very common for toddlers to experience sleep disturbances, struggles, and regressions. Here are a few common issues parents might notice during this time. 

  • Increased Night Wakings: Toddlers who previously slept through the night may start waking more frequently, asking for comfort from parents. 
  • Refusing Naps: Your toddler might resist or take shorter naps than normal. 
  • Taking Longer to Fall Asleep: Bedtime stalling tactics like requests for extra stories or water and wanting to play.
  • Early Wakings: Toddlers who previously slept later may start waking very early. 

Use our FREE checklist to help identify why your child struggles with sleep!

Why Your Toddler Is Struggling With Sleep After a New Baby

Toddler sleep regressions after a new baby arrives are often caused by one or more of the following factors:

1. Separation Anxiety 

Sleep often signals separation for our little ones. Being away from parents provokes anxiety in many toddlers after a new sibling arrives, especially if they haven’t had as much connection time. They may cry, cling, and show distress when parents leave, refuse to go to bed, or wake frequently throughout the night for extra connection. 

Toddlers who are experiencing separation anxiety at bedtime or throughout the night might be thinking:

“Why does the baby get to stay awake with mommy?”
“If I go to sleep, I won’t get to see my daddy. So I need to stay awake to keep him close!”

Related Post: Why Won’t My Child Let Me Leave at Bedtime? Here Are 3 Common Reasons.

2. Development Leaps or Changes 

Many parents will think a toddler’s sleep regression is due to a new baby when, in fact, their child is simply going through a growth spurt or developmental milestones. These changes will often affect a child’s sleep even when there isn’t a new baby! Here are some common development changes that might be contributing to a toddler’s sleep struggles:

  • Learning new words and language skills. 
  • Learning to walk, climb, or jump.
  • Developing a growing imagination. 
  • Cutting new teeth.

Toddlers may wake in the night to practice a skill, seek comfort from the pain of teething, or because their growing imagination makes the shadows on the wall appear spooky. 

Related Post: Why Are Kids Afraid at Bedtime? 3 Reasons Behind Nighttime Fears.

3. Changes to Sleep Schedule & Environment 

Having a new baby in the home can make it more challenging to maintain a consistent sleep schedule for a toddler. Between feeding, changing, and getting acquainted with the new baby, it makes sense that parents lose track of time and push their toddler’s nap later into the day, for example. This build-up of extra sleep pressure can make a toddler overtired, making it harder for their bodies to settle to sleep. 

The sleep environment also plays an important role in toddler sleep. When a new baby arrives, it’s common for a toddler’s sleep environment to change. This might look like physical changes, such as transitioning your toddler to a “big bed” to free up the crib for the new baby, or sensory changes, such as the new baby crying in close proximity.

Related Post: Why Won’t My Child Calm Down at Bedtime? Let’s Talk About Sleep Pressure.

4. Overstimulation or Understimulation 

Toddlers often have distinct “sensory personalities” – this means things like sounds, sight, smell, touch and taste affect each toddler uniquely. Toddlers are either sensory seeking, sensory avoiding, or a combination of both. Your toddler’s sensory needs influence their sleep

If you have a sensory-seeking toddler, they often have a quota of movement to meet throughout the day to help their bodies settle for sleep. If you have a sensory-seeking toddler who’s struggling with sleep after the arrival of a new baby, here are a few questions to consider:  

  • Is your toddler spending more time in front of screens?
  • Is your toddler spending more time indoors?
  • Are there enough opportunities throughout the day for movement?

This doesn’t mean you can’t build screens, sitting, and indoor time into your toddler’s schedule when you have a new baby, but it does help to get curious about these questions to get to the root of your toddler’s sleep struggles. 

If your toddler is sensitive to sensory input and easily overstimulated, consider the new input their nervous systems are receiving with a new baby in the house – these inputs could include the sound of crying, a less tidy space, a full house of guests visiting the baby, or smelly diapers. Too much sensory stimulation can make sensory-avoiding toddlers struggle to settle at bedtime. 

Related Post: How Your Child’s Sensory Needs Affect Their Bedtime Routine

Use our FREE checklist to help identify why your child struggles with sleep!

How to Help Your Toddler With Their Sleep Regression

There are two key components to consider when supporting a toddler through a sleep regression after a baby joins the family. 

1. Consistency 

Toddlers thrive on predictability and consistency. It makes sense that the arrival of a new baby comes with many changes to a toddler’s environment, routine, schedule, and time with parents. 

Do your best to focus on building consistency where you can. This can look like:

  • Offering naps at the same time every day. Set a timer on your phone to stay on track. If you have access to outside support, assign another trusted adult to care for the new baby while you perform the nap routine with your toddler. 
  • Following a visual bedtime routine each night.
  • Dimming the lights and using white noise for naps and bedtime to initiate sleep cues.
  • Focusing on ending the routine with a focus on the next point of contact. “I can’t wait to see you in the morning! I will have snuggles waiting for you when you wake up!”

Keeping regular routines and consistent sleep schedules can provide comfort and make it easier for a toddler to settle to sleep. If you’re struggling to stay on track because of the business of caring for a newborn, set a timer on your phone for half an hour before your toddler’s bedtime, to serve as a helpful reminder. 

2. Connection 

When a new baby arrives, toddlers have to navigate the big feelings that come with these changes. When our toddlers’ “connection cups” are full, they are better equipped to cope with the waves of emotions that come during life transitions because your connection signals to them that they are cared for, loved, and safe amid the change. Here are a few ways to boost connection during the bedtime routine:

  • Post family pictures on the wall beside your little one’s bed to keep your little one connected to you while they sleep. 
  • Draw a heart on your hand and your child’s hand to show how you are connected even when apart. 
  • Tell them a story about how an invisible string keeps you connected to each other throughout the night. 

These examples are here to show you that extra connection doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. In fact, boosting connection during the bedtime routine can save you time fighting a little one to stay in their bed or go back to sleep. When a toddler’s “connection cup” is overflowing with love, separation and sleep feel less threatening for them. 

How Long Do Toddler Sleep Regressions Last?

It often takes lots of repetition before noticing shifts in your toddler’s sleep. On average, sleep regressions typically last from two-six weeks, but this number varies depending on your family’s unique circumstances. If there is a development leap or underlying medical condition, it can often take over six weeks for toddlers to return to their “normal” sleep. 

The key is to remain patient and consistent with your toddler’s routine during this adjustment period. Regressions are temporary, and keeping a steady schedule will help your toddler feel secure. Over time, the regression should resolve as your toddler adapts to their new sibling. Consistency from parents is crucial in supporting the toddler through changes in sleep.

If sleep disruptions persist beyond six-eight weeks, it can help to reach out for extra support from a pediatrician or sleep consultant. 

More Sleep Support

The arrival of a new baby is a huge change! With consistency and extra connection with your toddler, you can anticipate better sleep to come! 

If you’d like more bedtime tools for your toddler, check out our Solving Bedtime Battles course

This course has easy-to-digest lessons packed with tools to help you find sleep AND feel connected with your kids! We cover everything from setting up bedtime for success, transitioning from co-sleeping to independent sleeping, dropping the nap, sibling room sharing, separation anxiety at night, nightmares, peeing in the night, and so much more!

Grab the course here!

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    Article By

    Shannon Wassenaar
    Shannon is a Registered Psychotherapist, Content Specialist, and Highly Sensitive Parent with a passion for understanding, and promoting human relationships. Shannon holds a Bachelors degree in Psychology, and a Masters degree in Psychotherapy. She began her professional career as a trauma therapist, and continues to support families from a trauma-informed perspective. Shannon uses her knowledge and experience to create educational content for parents, and treatment plans to help families flourish. In her spare time she enjoys taking long walks, playing recreational sports, and sipping a hot latte at a local cafe.