Q&A: 2-year-old waking up after new baby arrives

Jo-Ann writes:

"I am a WOHM of a two boys who are 2 years old and a 5 month old. Things with the baby are great.  I have been so lucky that he has been a great sleeper since he was born. We cosleep and he might wake up once to nurse but sometimes he doesn’t wake at all.

My two year old is having the issues. He is having major issues in daycare. He is acting out and testing constantly. He was home with me for over half of my maternity leave and we had the best summer ever. He has now been back in daycare for almost 3 months and is still acting out. The daycare have been working with him and things seem to be getting somewhat better.

I nursed him throughout my pregnancy and in late September he decided to wean in the evening and now we are just nursing before nap on the weekend. We have replaced his evening nurse with reading books for closeness. He seems to be ok with nursing on weekends and only asks to
nurse then.

Now his problem has become night waking. He has always been a pretty good sleeper and for the last 7 months he has gone to sleep at about 8pm and has woken up at about 6 – 6:30 am.  The past week he has gotten up at midnight, 2,3,4, and up for the day 5:30am.  Each time he wakes and yells and screams for Mommy and Daddy. One of us goes to him.  He is easily calmed and goes back to bed.

To say the least I am a walking zombie.  What is funny is that people expect I’d be sleep deprived from the baby but I am not.

Any ideas would be appreciated!"

Geez does this sound familiar. Only my older one was 3 when his brother was born, and I don’t WOH. But other than that it’s the same story. Mine went through a period of acting out a ton (eased when my husband was home to run around with him all summer) and then a long stretch of waking up every night. It was a different thing every night–sometimes having to pee, sometimes having wet the bed, sometimes having a bad dream, sometimes hearing noises, etc. I sooo identify with being sleep deprived from the big one but not the little one. It also happened exactly this way when a friend of mine had her second (they were 17 months apart)–the baby slept like a champ but her toddler was up 6 times a night some nights.

It has eased* for us in the past few months, though. I don’t think we did anything. I think it was just the passage of time and his process adjusting to the New Normal. The little one has been here for almost 8 months, so El Chico may just be getting used to him and to not being the only kid in the family.

But I honestly have no idea. Readers? What do you say?

I’d really like to hear from some parents who have younger kids older than, say, a year, who can tell us whether this is something all olders seem to go through or not. And any parents of three or more, did this happen every time there was a new baby?  If there was a gap of more than 4 years between the older and younger was there still this acting out and sleep disruption? In hindsight do you think there’s anything that can be done about it (aside from the obvious trick of spending as much time with the older as possible)?

*By "eased" I mean that El Chico’s sleeping better. El Pequeño now seems to be heading into the 8-9-month sleep regression. Ha. Ha ha. Hahahahahahahaha. Sigh.