Toddler regression is often a reaction to a change in your toddler’s life, such as the arrival of a new sibling. Here’s how to deal with regressions, late-night battles, and raising two children at once.
Have you just welcomed a second baby into your family? I bet there is a reasonably high chance that you started dealing with sleep regression, refusal to go to sleep, and increased whining.
I’ve been there! When my younger daughter was born, my 3-year-old toddler started fighting bedtime and waking up at odd night hours. We went back from peaceful nights of sleep to nights of terror.
Now I know that what we were experiencing with our older child was toddler regression and that it happens to most parents.
I want to offer a few tips and strategies for dealing with toddler regression and the changes a new baby can bring to your home.
Do toddlers get jealous of the new baby?
Toddlers don’t possess the verbal and cognitive skills to express their jealousy or frustration. Instead, they start acting out.
They see a baby who is wearing diapers, drinks from a bottle and is getting all the attention. Instinctively, they believe that they will get the same dose of attention if they do the same.
So, you can expect your potty-taught toddler to start having accidents, fight going to sleep, or refuse to drink from the Sippy cup.
This type of behavior is perfectly normal, especially for children between 18 months and three years. A child of this age has his whole world revolving around his parents, and the new baby has caused disturbances in his world.
In a way, the toddler will feel like he’s lost you, and acting out is his way of saying that he wants your attention back.
How to help your toddler cope
Here are ways to deal with toddler regression when a new baby arrives:
Don’t get angry
Instead of getting angry, try to empathize with your toddler. Don’t punish him for wearing diapers or refusing to drink from the Sippy cup. When he has an accident while peeing, don’t overreact.
Understand that this is a difficult time for your older child and that he’s hurting.
A negative reaction will give him the attention he seeks and encourage his behavior.
Simply say, “Oh, it seems like you had a little accident. It’s okay, you’ll remember how to use the potty next time.”
Help your child understand what’s going on
Sit down with him and explain the new situation. Say, “It used to be you, Dad and me. Now we’re four. Now you have a younger sister, and just like we took care of you while you were little, it’s now time to do the same for her. I know it’s hard for you, but it’s hard for us too. We love spending time with you. When your sister grows up, the two of you will have plenty of time to play and have fun together.”
Give him responsibilities
Make your older child feel important and included by giving him responsibilities around the baby. You can tell him to bring you clean wipes or give the baby her toy.
Another thing that may help is to buy him his own doll, preferably the same gender as your baby. Tell them that just like you take care of your baby, he will have to look after his own baby.
Don’t skip telling him how helpful he is and how you could not have done it without him.
Stick to his regular routine
Put yourself in your toddler’s shoes. For some time, everything was normal. He would wake up in the morning, have breakfast, go for a walk, sit down for lunch, have his day nap, and then a nice bath at night.
All of a sudden, his mom is gone to some place called “the hospital,” and comes back in a few days carrying a new child with her.
What is going on?
To help avoid toddler regression, try to maintain some sense of normalcy into your child’s routine. If he used to have a bedtime routine, or go on playdates, stick to his regular schedule.
Have 1-on-1 time
Now that your baby is here, your older child may feel like he needs to share you and that his younger sibling is getting all the attention.
That’s why it is so important to have 1-on-1 time with him as much as you can. By doing so, you’ll reassure him that he’s still important to you.
Try to have at least 20 minutes of 1-on-1 time every day with him. You can play with him, go for a walk, watch a cartoon, or read a book. It would be a great way to bond and let him know that there’s time for him and time for her.
Give him time to adjust
It’s perfectly normal for your toddler to act out in response to a new situation in the home. In many toddlers, this behavior soon normalizes as they adjust to their new way of life. With enough support and love from you, he will overcome this challenging period in no time. If he goes to daycare, get in touch with the daycare provider, and discuss his behavior. Find out if his behavior at day school is normal or when it returns to normal.
Begin toddler sleep training
If taking care of two crying children at the same time is starting to feel overwhelming, it might be time for you to sleep train your toddler.
The sleep training method you’ll choose will depend on your toddler’s sleeping history. If he was a great sleeper before the new baby’s arrival, you might try a quick technique like the Ferber method.
If your toddler was a bad sleeper before the baby arrived, then you may want to try a gentler sleep training technique, such as the Camping Method or the Fading Method.
Merge them together
If your baby starts sleeping through the night after six months, you may want to consider merging your baby and toddler to sleep together in the same room.
The best period to merge a younger and older sibling together is when the baby is between 6 and 9 months old.
Having them share a room can encourage independent sleep, and you’ll have two good sleepers who go to sleep and wake up at the same time.
Should we transition the older sibling into a toddler bed?
There is nothing more irritating than getting a fussy newborn that suffers from sleep regression to fall asleep, only to have your toddler come into your room crying because he wants to sleep with you.
So, if your toddler is somewhere between 2.5 and 3 years of age, consider transitioning him from a crib to a toddler bed. To make things easier for you as a parent of two, transition to a new bed at least six months before the baby is born or wait until about four months after.
Make the move all about him. Say, “Oh, you’re such a big boy. You’re going to get a big bed.” Talking positively about his new bed will help get him on-board with the idea of transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed.
Keep in mind that it will not be easy with some kids. Get ready for room escapes, falling asleep in the corner, and coming to mommy’s room for co-sleeping time. Every time this happens, remain calm and return your child to his room.
If he resists giving up his baby crib, don’t force him. Let him continue sleeping in his crib and bring up the idea of sleeping in a toddler bed every 15 to 30 days.
We learned that toddler regression is a normal part of a toddler’s life that happens when a significant change occurs in the household.
If you recently welcomed a new baby to your home and your toddler started acting out, this is the reason why.
Don’t despair! Try the tips and strategies I mentioned above to help him deal with the change and re-incorporate healthy sleep habits.