How to Survive Juggling Sleep with a Baby and a Toddler
Jun 25, 2022
One of the scariest things about becoming a mom of two was figuring out how I was going to juggle a newborn and a toddler when it came to nap time. When my oldest was a newborn, naps were so difficult that I literally had to have family come over during their lunch breaks so I could take a shower or get ready for the day because Lily wouldn’t nap on her own for more than 5-10 minutes without level-5 screaming. It was exhausting and heartbreaking!
Fast forward a year and a half, I was in a much better position; confident in sleep and my abilities as a mom. This was partly thanks to it being my second child and partly due to the fact that I became a certified sleep consultant but still, those fears of an overtired and cranky baby still lingered under the surface. I was so anxious about naptime but as I continued on, nap after nap, putting my knowledge into practice, things got easier.
If you’re feeling anxious about sleep when you have multiple children, unsure of how it’s going to work or what you should do when it comes to navigating naps for both a toddler and a baby; here’s some tips that are going to help you through:
- Work on creating a strong sleep routine for your baby and your older children. This will help both of them go to sleep easier even if it seems like things are crazy when it comes to put your kids to sleep.
- Create a safe space for both your baby and toddler for when you're putting them down to sleep and for where you'll leave the other child when trying to put one child down to sleep. Remove any risks from this space.
- Prepare what you need for the bedtime routine before starting the routine. Lay everything out together so that everything that you need will be right there when you need it.
- Include your toddler in the routine. They can't interrupt the routine if they are the routine, right? 😉 Some options could be getting them to pick your other child's sleepsack, pj's, bringing over diapers, "reading" the book or singing a song...etc.
- Get your child or toddler to put their own baby down to sleep. Grab a doll, a crib (a shoebox works great if you don't have a toy one!) and even an old swaddle or sleep sack for your little one to "put to sleep". It will help them feel ownership over the process, keep them busy and give them a reason to be quiet too, they don't want to wake their baby either!!
- Strap your toddler in to their highchair and provide a safe solo activity. Ensure that the activity you're providing is safe, that there won't be any choking or strangulation risks. Some ideas include giving them favorite toys, finger painting, sensory activities (ie. foam, jello "dig", taping toys to the tray...etc.)
- Prepare your older toddler(s) or child(ren) for having another baby around. Assure them about what is going to happen, read books about what a baby needs, practice with dolls, do something special with your older child or children. Help them understand that just because you're spending time tending to the new baby, doesn't mean you don't love them still.
- Give all of your little ones some 1:1 quality time with you. No cell phones, no tv or other screens, no adult conversations, just full attention on your little one and what they want to do. "Filling their bucket" can help them feel okay with some more independent time while you're helping your other child get to sleep.
- Figure out your kids individual sleep needs. Don't try to fit your children onto a certain schedule that doesn't work with their biological needs, it'll just create more of a struggle and will not be fun for anyone! Respect each child's ideal bedtimes, total sleep needs, nap timing and compare them to each other.
- Adjust as your kids grow and their sleep needs change. It can be easy to get stuck in patterns even if your kids have outgrown them. Make sure that you're reassessing their sleep needs to make sure you're adapting if needed, especially if thins suddenly seem harder than they were before.
- Keep your expectations low. Things are not going to work every time, sleep will be disrupted, your kids will get overtired. It’s just part of life and it's not going to be perfect every time (and that's ok!).
- Keep your cool. Your calmness will help bring your kids down to meet you in your calmness. If you're relaxed about it, it will help your kids not get worked up.
As with everything else in parenting, it’s just a phase. In the moment, it seems like forever but I’ve learnt that as your little one grows, as their wake windows extend and they have less naps, and your toddler gets older and more patient, things do get easier! At some point their naps might even line up and you can have a second to yourself to drink that hot coffee, take a shower or nap or let’s be honest, binge that show!
If that sounds great but you need some help now, reach out here to chat about how I can help you!
Here’s to successfully, or at least confidently, juggling naptimes for all of your little ones!
Your Sleep Coach