How to juggle multiple bedtime routines
When you bring your new baby home, wondering how to juggle multiple bedtime routines is unlikely to be top of your mind! And that’s a good thing. Because I originally wanted to title this blog “how to juggle multiple bedtime routines with ease”. But let’s be honest, like most things parenting, it’s not always easy, at least, not straight away. However, at some point you will need to consider the logistics of multiple children and thus multiple bedtime routines.
Bringing a new baby into the house is an exciting, and sometimes terrifying, occasion, especially when you already have one or two children at home. And while you’re gloriously happy to welcome your newborn into the family, a new sibling can bring a whole lot of questions with them. How will your older child react to their new sibling? Are they going to embrace the role of older brother or sister? How will your toddler’s schedule fit in with newborn feeding and nap times? Will they become jealous and turn into a cling-on who needs constant attention and reassurance?
But for a parent who has worked to get their little one sleeping through the night, at some point the most concerning question may be: how is this going to affect the older child’s bedtime? Has that thought crossed your mind already?
If you’re not prepared for it, trying to juggle two or three different bedtime routines can be a tad mind-boggling. Trying to find fifteen minutes to breastfeed your newborn when you know you need to get your toddler out of the bath can be a logistical nightmare. And it’s at that very point that your toddler will know to play up. Toddlers… as much as we love them, they know when you’re unable to chase them down and enforce the law. And that’s when they’re most likely to exploit you.
Here I’ve given you are ten tips to save your sanity when you’re trying to juggle multiple bedtime routines. These tips are for all of you who have two or three balls in the air, childwise, and are struggling to find that bedtime groove.
Sanity savers for multiple bedtime routines
1 Have one bedtime for all children. A lot of parents I work with are surprised when I suggest that their 3 year-old should be going to bed at 7:00 at night, but even at that age, children still need between 10-12 hours of sleep a night. And that’s not including daytime naps. I’m talking strictly nighttime. So if your toddler needs to be up at 7:00 AM, a 7:00 PM bedtime is not unreasonable. There may be some tweaking to the daytime schedule, but it’s doable!
2 Find opportunities to multitask. As parent’s we’re the undisputed heavyweight champs of multitasking. Whether that be through talent or necessity, it’s a given that multi-tasking will have to happen at some stage. Trying to run through two or three completely separate bedtime routines is going to leave you exhausted, 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 the baby’s nappy, and so on. Wherever you can overlap things, you’re OK to milk that opportunity for all it’s worth!
3 Switch it up. If you’re one of the lucky ones with a partner who’s home to help you put the kids to bed – use that advantage. Put together a list of what needs to get done, split the tasks evenly, and then switch it up every other night. This will not only save you from feeling like you’ve got the short end of the stick, but it also gets your children accustomed to both parents putting them to bed. That means if one of you isn’t available on a given night, it won’t throw your little ones into a tailspin just because Mum or Dad isn’t home.
4 Methodically design and stick to a 20 to 30-minute bedtime routine. Bedtime routines are a vital component of helping your children sleep through the night. It’s not just a great way of keeping them on the clock, although that’s a huge benefit. It also serves as a cueing signal to their bodies and brains that bedtime is coming. This cue then stimulates melatonin production and winds them down to prepare for a long, rejuvenating night’s sleep. A bath is a great place to start the routine as it’s so noticeably different from everything else you children do during the day; it’s a strong signal that sleep is coming.
5 Exploit child labour. Yes, get them involved. Toddlers love structure and predictability, so giving your older child a helper position when you’re putting your younger one to bed is a great way to keep the older one/s occupied. It will also give them a feeling of accomplishment just before they head off to bed. Show them where the nappies and wipes are stored, and they can bring them to you as you’re getting your baby ready for bed. If you have more than one older child, give them each a specific role.
6 Save a special activity for bedtime. It’s typically the older child who’s capable of entertaining themselves for a little while as you’re busy finishing up with your youngest. So, come up with a non-screen-related activity that will keep your toddler quiet and entertained. Make it exclusive to the fifteen minutes or so that you need one-on-one time to put the baby down. But don’t make it too stimulating or you could end up in a skirmish because your child’s bedtime activity is just too much fun to put down. A special colouring book can be a great option when you juggle multiple bedtime routines.
7 Stick to your guns. Toddlers test boundaries in a constant, systematic fashion. If they know that “I’m not allowed to throw the baseball in the house” Then they might just go “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 let them get away with more than usual. That’s totally natural. But changing or bending the rules is likely to upset them more than if you kept the rules in place. As I’ll tell anyone with toddlers or older children, kids thrive on predictability and structure.
If your older child suddenly gets the feeling that the boundaries have moved, they will typically feel lost and confused. And that’s going to lead to MORE tantrums, not less. So, keep the routine and the expectations the same as the way they were before their sibling arrived, at least as much as possible.
8 Don’t let your child watch TV. No matter how bad it gets, no matter how much they love Doc McStuffins, no matter how tempted you might be, don’t put them in front of a screen. Yes, I know how quickly and effectively the TV or your phone will work to give you some peace and quiet. But it’s just not worth it. The entire time those screens are holding your child’s attention, they’re flooding their eyes with blue light. That might not seem like a bad trade-off for fifteen minutes of baby-tending time, but blue light stimulates cortisol production and inhibits melatonin. So those fifteen minutes of quiet could very easily cost you hours of trying to get your older child down for the night.
9 Accept the fact that it’s not always going to go smoothly. If things start to go off the rails a bit, you don’t need to consider it a failure on anyone’s part. Your children are going to have regressions, tough nights, and the occasional meltdown. That’s life. 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. And, yes, I know that’s easier said than done at times, especially when you have to juggle multiple bedtime routines.
10 Embrace the peace and quiet. Take at least five or ten minutes for you once you’ve got everyone in bed. That’s before you check your email, start a load of laundry, or catch up on whatever responsibilities you’ve got to tend to. Just let yourself unwind. I don’t need to tell you that this parenting lark can be stressful at times. So, when you get a moment to yourself, find a little zen in your life, and savour it. The moments right after the kids fall asleep are a prime opportunity to do just that. After all, you deserve to celebrate your achievements because there’s another night of potential challenges and rewards again tomorrow.
There you have it, ten tips to help you juggle multiple bedtime routines. Is there anything else that helps you keep all those balls in the air? I’d love to know.
And if the bedtime battle becomes too much, or you rarely get a chance to sit or sleep because your child fights it nightly. Please reach out. I may be able to help! Book a free initial call and let’s discuss what’s going on.