Balancing Bedtime with Multiple Kids
Juggling bedtime routines with more than one child can be a tricky endeavor, especially if you’re solo parenting. So, in honor of National Sibling Day, here are my tips if you have to tackle multiple bedtimes alone:
Adjust the schedule
If you have a young infant and a toddler who both need very different things in their bedtime routine, it might not be possible to have bedtimes that land at the same time on the clock. If that’s the case, I’d recommend manipulating one’s schedule so that you can more easily stagger bedtimes.
It’s usually easier to adjust a young infant’s schedule (especially one on multiple naps) so experiment with capping your child’s daytime sleep at a certain time to have them in bed a bit earlier than your toddler. Alternatively, you can allow their last nap to go a little longer (or add in an extra 20-minute cat nap) and plan to put your toddler to bed first.
Staggering bedtimes will give you dedicated time to focus on the needs of each child and get them off to bed with less chaos.
Involve the sibling
Unless you have an older child who can safely occupy themselves, you may not be able to leave one child alone while you put the other to bed.
If your infant needs to go to bed first, involve your toddler by asking them to be a special helper. They can pick out baby’s PJs, lay out the diaper, choose which stories you read (or even “read” one themselves) and give bedtime kisses. Your toddler will feel like such a big kid helping to put their little sibling to bed!
If your toddler is the first to go to bed, baby-wearing your infant or keeping them close by in a bouncer can help them stay calm and quiet while you’re moving through your toddler’s routine. Older children with new siblings can sometimes feel jealousy when your attention is split, so do your best to focus as much of your attention on your toddler during their bedtime. If your infant starts fussing, try saying something like, “I know you’re getting hungry but right now I’m reading to your brother. When we’re finished here, I’ll make you a bottle.” This lets your toddler know that they are not only important to you, but the priority at the moment.
Having children who are independent sleepers makes staggering bedtimes a lot easier! I’ve worked with families who have had to lay with their toddler in the dark for over an hour & nurse their infant to sleep in the toddler’s room before sneaking out to put the infant down. If your children are able to fall asleep independently, it’s much easier to involve one in the other’s bedtime routine.
If you are currently feeding your infant in the dark of your toddler’s room waiting for them to fall asleep (or just want to help your little one become a better sleeper), I’d recommend browsing my coaching & course options to see if they might be a good fit for your family.
Offer a special distraction
If you have an older child who can safely play independently, you can set them up with a quiet & safe activity that you save especially for situations like solo bedtimes. If you need to have your child close by, having a special bin of toys that only come out when you’re getting the baby ready for bed can be helpful. You can set this up either in the same room that you’re doing bedtime with the baby or in the hallway right outside. Try to make the toy options non-stimulating/noisy and avoid using screens if possible (as the blue light can inhibit the production of melatonin and make bedtime more difficult for your older child).
Synchronize & conquer
Once your children are at an age that they can go to bed around the same time and need similar things during their routines, you can sync up their bedtime routines and get two kids in bed for the “price” of one. Do bath time together and then choose one bedroom to do PJs and books. After most of the bedtime routine is complete, spend 3-5 minutes with each child either reading an extra book or talking about their day, and then tucking them in for the night.
Once you’re at the stage where you can sync up the bedtime routines, it will make everything much more streamlined and give you some extra “me time” in the evenings.
If you’re exhausted, totally overwhelmed by your child’s sleep habits, or looking for answers to the sleep questions that keep you up at night (literally), then you’ve come to the right place. I’m Jamie, founder of Oh Baby Consulting, and my goal is to help your family get the sleep you need to not just survive, but thrive!