Easy Ways to Juggle Bedtime Routines
Bringing a new baby into the house is a glorious, exciting, terrifying occasion, especially when you have one or two already, and it can bring up a whole lot of questions.
How are the older children going to react to their new sibling? How will their schedule fit in with your newborn’s naps and feeding times? And maybe most concerning for anyone who’s clawed and scraped to get their little one sleeping through the night, how is this going to affect the older child’s bedtime?
The Challenge is REAL
Trying to juggle two or three different bedtime routines can be absolutely mind-boggling if you’re not prepared for it. Trying to find 15 minutes to breastfeed your newborn at the same time you’re trying to get your toddler out of the bath can drive you right out of your mind. And let's not pretend toddlers don't know…they know that you’re in a position where you’re unable to chase them down and enforce the law, so they have a real tendency to exploit that weakness.
So today, I have some tips for all of you who are juggling and struggling to find a bedtime groove.
Tip #1 - Have kids on the same bedtime
A lot of parents I work with are surprised when I suggest that their 3 year-olds should be going to bed at 7:00 at night. Even at that age, kids still need between 10-12 hours of sleep a night. That’s not including daytime naps. So if your toddler needs to be up at 7:00 AM, a 7:00 PM bedtime is not at all unreasonable. If the idea of running through 2-3 simultaneous bedtime routine seems daunting, keep scrolling through my tips.
Tip #2 - Team up and switch off
If you’re among the lucky ones who has a partner who’s home and available to help you get the kids to bed, put together a list of what needs to get done, split the tasks evenly, and then switch off every other night. That will prevent either of you from feeling like you’ve got the short end of the stick, but it also gets your kids accustomed to either parent putting them to bed. This way, if one of you isn’t available on a given night, it won’t throw your little ones into a tailspin just because things are a little different.
Tip #3 - Find moments to multitask
As parents, multitasking can't be new to you, right? Trying to run through 2-3 completely independent bedtime routines is going to leave you exhausted and probably won’t fit the itinerary. So double up wherever you can. Let the kids take a bath together, feed your newborn while you read your toddler a bedtime story, sing songs together while you change baby’s diaper, and so on. Wherever you can overlap tasks..
Tip #4 - Stick to a 15-30 minute bedtime routine.
Bedtime routines are absolutely vital to getting your kids sleeping through the night. It’s not just a great way of keeping them on a clock, although that's a huge benefit, but it also serves as a signal to their brains and bodies that sleep is around the corner. This stimulates melatonin production and dials things down internally to prepare for a long, rejuvenating night’s sleep. Keep the bedtime routine the same every night and try not to give into any stalling tactics which pushes bedtime back, resulting in overtired children.
Tip #5 - Save a special activity for bedtime
Sometimes an older child is capable of entertaining themselves for a little while as you’re busy finishing up with your youngest. But it’s not always the case. Come up with a non-screen-related activity that you can pull out to keep your toddler entertained and quiet for 15-minutes. This way, you can give the baby 1-1 time and be put to bed. Don’t make it too stimulating or open-ended, otherwise the activity may be too much fun to put down before bed. A special coloring book or stickers is a great option.
Tip #6 - Embrace your child's help
Toddlers love structure and predictability, so giving them a helper position when you’re putting your younger child to bed is a great way to keep them occupied and feeling accomplished. Show them where the diapers and baby cream are stored and have them bring you the goods as you’re getting your baby ready for bedtime. They can choose the book you read to baby or even help choose baby's jammies. Whatever it is, commend your child for their help and cooperation.
Tip #8 - Stick to your guns
Toddlers test boundaries in a constant, systematic fashion. “I’m not allowed to throw the baseball in the house? OK. Let’s see if I’m allowed to throw the tennis ball in the house!” And now that you’re splitting your attention between them and a new baby, you might feel a little frazzled. That’s totally natural, but changing or bending the rules will likely confuse them more, not less. As I mentioned previously, kids thrive on predictability and structure. If they suddenly get the feeling like the fences are down, they typically feel a little lost and that’s going to lead to more tantrums, not fewer. So keep the routine and the expectations as close as possible to the way they were before their sibling arrived.
Tip #9 - Screens off
I know how quickly and effectively the TV or your mobile can buy you a few minutes of peace and quiet, but screens are the ultimate swindler. No matter how bad it gets, no matter how tempted you might be, don’t let your toddler get screen time before bedtime. Because the entire time that they’re holding your child’s attention, they’re flooding their eyes with blue light. That might not seem like a bad tradeoff for 15 minutes of time to tend to your baby, but blue light stimulates cortisol production and inhibits melatonin. So those fifteen minutes of peace and quiet could very easily cost you hours of trying to get your now overtired child to settle down for the night.
Tip #10 - Accept the fact that it’s not always going to go smoothly
These are, after all, young children we’re dealing with, so if things start to go off the rails a bit, don’t look at it as a failure on anyone’s part. They’re going to have regressions, tough nights, and the occasional meltdown. But staying calm and level-headed is the best thing you can do to avoid escalating those situations into something more frustrating and upsetting for everyone involved.
Tip #11 - Embrace the peace and quiet
Once you’ve got everyone in bed, take at least five or ten minutes before you start a load of laundry, or catch up on whatever responsibilities you’ve got to tend to, and just let yourself unwind. I don’t need to tell you that this parenting thing is a stressful gig, so when you get a moment to pat yourself on the back and find a little zen in your life, you should fall face-first into it. What better moment to do just that than right after the kids fall asleep. So celebrate the superhero that is you. There’s another night of challenges and rewards for the whole family coming up again tomorrow.
If you're wondering how I've coached parents into having angel sleepers, come chat with me. I can fill you in. And if you're not convinced, check out what my clients have attested to themselves using this link.