Development FAQ: 24+ months – Other

Night time waking at 25mths. Is it due to recent potty training or new baby brother?

My 25 month old toddler has always been an excellent sleeper. Luca slept from 7-7 since he was 11 weeks old, with a 1-3 pm nap after lunch. He attends nursery from 9-5 each day which he loves. Since his baby brother arrived 4 months ago, he has had sleep difficulties. This problem has only occurred occasionally until this week when he has had difficulties sleeping every night. We began potty training 7 days ago and it has been a huge success. However, the nights are disturbed for the whole family as he will call or scream for Mama incessantly either just after being put down (now closer to 8pm) for up to 1 hour, or at 5am for up to 2 hours or at night (12 or 1) for up to 2 hours. On the few occasions where I went in to check him, there was never anything wrong. I wonder if he is being woken by his own need to wee and his confusion about wearing his nappy at night. Please help.

The reality about his baby brother being very much part of the family is now beginning to register with Luca. As his sleep problems have only started since his brother’s arrival, it is more likely that this is the cause for for his waking and unsettled bedtimes. It is good that he has taken to potty training so well but I would doubt his need to wee is waking him. As these events begin as soon as Luca is put down, it is more likely his concern regards the changes in his life.

Older siblings especially those around this age often become aware that the baby may be still downstairs and receiving attention after they are in bed. To help with this, make a special issue of them helping to put the baby to bed. This includes giving the baby a goodnight kiss on the head and being beside you as you tuck the baby up. Finding a special or favourite toy to put at the end of the baby’s cot is the older siblings job. Then quietly bid the baby goodnight, turn off the light and leave the room together. There have been occasions when you might need to go back into the baby’s room and take him back out to finish a feed or wind him as soon as the older child is busy listening to stories in bed. But in the older child’s mind the baby has gone to bed before him. Luca may have heard his brother crying in the night whilst in a light sleep and begun to realise that the baby gets more attention in the night, although by now we would like to assume that his brother is sleeping between 11pm and 7am.

Giving Luca more individual time at the end of the day may help. Although I appreciate getting two boys of this age to bed is not easy, Luca must have plenty of one-to-one attention which he had without question before his brother’s arrival. Possibly start your whole routine a little earlier so there is no rush to put him down and he can enjoy plenty of cuddles and stories after his brother has gone down to sleep.

Put him in his nappy just as he gets into bed so he has the chance to have a final wee before going to sleep. If he still has a large drink of milk around bedtime, consider giving it to him slightly earlier, possibly before his bath so you know he will not be disturbed by a need to wee before he falls asleep.
When Luca does wake in the night, I suggest you leave him 10-15 minutes and then go in using a very quiet calm voice and the saying the same words every time: “Luca it’s night time; everyone is sleeping; see you in the morning”. Then leave before any discussion can take place. You may have to repeat this a few times to begin with but he will know that all is well with everyone and be reassured. At 5am you may just change it to “It’s not daytime yet Luca; go back to sleep” and again leave without discussion. If Luca realises that he is not missing out on anything, he should get back to his old sleeping habits within a few weeks. Often the reality that a new sibling is here to stay is not realised for the first few months but once the excitement has worn off, he will realize what it means to him.