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From One to Two: Sibling Sleep Strategies for a Smooth Transition

From One to Two: Sibling Sleep Strategies for a Smooth Transition

When it comes to welcoming a new addition to your family it’s both a thrilling and daunting experience!

I am going to walk you through some practical steps for preparing for a new babies arrival with your firstborn and adapting for life with baby number two!

Preparing for their arrival together

Before babies arrival it can be a good idea to prepare your eldest, day and night, so that they have time to process and prepare for the shift too!

It's a big transition for all of you.


Here are my tips for preparing

  • Dust off your child’s dolls and get playing! Alongside lots of conversations about the baby on its way, it can be wonderful to role play with dolls, demonstrating what it might be like having a baby around the house. When we think of this in a sleep context we might include baby in the bedtime routine. Maybe baby joins you in the bathroom for bath time laid on a blanket, gets changed and reads stories with you during your eldest's normal routine. Depending on the developmental stage, children can practice transference, a skill which helps them learn to care for something or someone else. It can be really cathartic for them. Chat about what they can do with baby, like singing songs or stroking their arms.

  • Read bedtime stories relating to family and transitions. This can really help children to understand and be exposed to change before it happens!

  • Keep things normal. Try to make changes to sleep gradually and responsively. Keep boundaries and routines relatively familiar, as this helps children feel secure. It might be a good time to consult with a holistic sleep expert who could advise you on topics you need clarity on before your little one arrives.

Bedtime Once They Arrive

When your little one is finally here you are now going to be doing not one but probably two bedtimes!

Staggered bedtimes:

In the newborn stage, this won’t be quite such a long bedtime. It might look a little like dim lights, a change, and some milk, maybe paired with some lullabies. An older child may be bathing, having stories, and having a little chat before they go to sleep.

It is probably best for the first few months to stagger this bedtime, putting your eldest down first.

Youngest, latest:

This may seem counterintuitive, but a newborn's bedtime can be later than the elder childs as this then hopefully provides you some time to sleep before waking for their first feed. As they both get older their may be a period where this balance shifts and the youngest sleeps earlier until they may both work on the same schedule.

You may find in some cases you can balance naps to adapt their schedules to be more aligned!

The enviroment:

In both sleep spaces you want to create a sleep-inducing space; think darkness using blackout blinds and white noise to create a sound barrier, these are brilliant foundations.

Navigating nights:

Nights can be very long with a newborn, and even longer if you have a toddler who also wakes up in the night!

My tips for managing nights with 2 children…

  • The "Quiet Time" Toolbox: Stock the older child's room with quiet activities like books, stuffed animals, or a special nightlight. This gives them something to do if they wake up before the baby.

  • Telling the time: Learning to tell the time can also be a wonderful way to help children to understand when its daytime and when it’s still time to sleep.

  • The Handoff Plan: If there is more than one caregiver in your home, decide who will handle which child's nighttime wakings. This can help avoid confusion and ensure someone gets to each child promptly.

Bedroom passes: For an older child who frequently leaves their room at bedtime and throughout the night, consider using bedtime passes or tickets. You need to ensure your child is developmentally ready for this strategy but it can be a brilliant way to encourage them to stay in their rooms if you find this problematic. This method uses home-crafted tokens to help children stay in bed. Make decorated tokens together and explain they allow getting out of bed. Start with more than needed. If your child gets up, take a token and calmly return them to bed. Unused tokens earn a reward in the morning. Gradually reduce the tokens over time to encourage staying in bed all night.

Managing Mornings

Tag Team: If the older child is a natural early riser, try to have some quiet activities prepped for them, like puzzles or colouring books. This allows you to attend to the baby if they need a morning feed or change. It might be that you & your partner agree to get the children up one morning a week and let the other have a lay-in or have a bit of time spent doing a self-care activity. Maybe one of you tag teams the coffee machine while the other gets the children up. Balancing the morning tasks and also prioritising adult needs can be really helpful for keeping things moving!

The Shhh Signal: Teaching a toddler to be quiet is no mean feat! But adding a signal or code word as a gentle way to signal the baby is still sleeping can help avoid some sticky moments. Instead of making this about what they can’t do, like, not make any noise or play with certain toys, try to make it connected time where they can do something special. Perhaps you play farms together or make some snacks in the kitchen. A newborn is pretty good at sleeping in lots of noisy environments so your eldest doesn’t have to be silent by any means, but some more relaxed activities or quality time can be a great way to spend naps.


Flexibility is Key: Things won't always go according to plan. Be prepared to adjust your approach based on your children's needs and what works best for your family.

Communication is key: Talk to your children, partner and family about family life and explain why things might be a little different now, don’t be afraid to adapt and try new things. Keeping each other in the loop can really help balance needs so no one starts to feel too much burden.

Patience is a Virtue: Adjusting to a new sleep dynamic takes time. Be patient with yourself and your children as you find a new rhythm.


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