By: Joleen Dilk Salyn
When you become a new mother, your life faces many challenges that center around your baby. But over time you adapt and adjust to find your groove. Eventually, some of us then feel ready to have another child. And while having gone through the process of rearing one child allows us to learn immensely, when you have multiple children to look after, new challenges can begin to present themselves that previously weren’t encountered or even thought about.
As with most sleep-related issues, I have experience both on a professional and personal level, and trying to get two (or more) kids to bed as easily as possibly is no different. As a sleep consultant and mother, I understand that what should be a calming and soothing time, can easily become chaotic and stressful, especially when trying to get multiple children into bed.
I believe healthy sleep routines should be respected, encouraged and made a priority for every family, so here are some tips for making bedtime less stressful. This way everyone (including the parents!) can look forward to bedtime, and get the sleep their bodies need to be healthy.
All children love and flourish on a consistent routine. If you’re the type of parent that is more go-with-the-flow, this may be hard for you, but it will truly benefit your children and make your life easier. Your children will be happier and more agreeable if they wake up, eat, nap and go to bed about the same time every day. The only exception to this will be a baby under 4 months whose eating and sleeping routines may still be erratic.
Once you know how your daily routine looks, you then know when your children are generally going to bed (likely anywhere between 6-8pm for children in elementary school or younger) and you can begin to formulate a plan of attack for bedtime.
Write It Down
Write out everyone’s routine so that it is clearly visible and easy to follow. It can be fancy or plain, and include printed or hand drawn pictures for additional reading ease. While your baby won’t be looking and following it, your toddler or preschooler will love to see the visual cues. If you have elementary-aged children, they can also use this chart to monitor themselves and help keep the younger ones on track. In addition, this will also help you to see what can be done together as a family such as bathing and bedtime stories and what you need to individualize such as nursing and rocking baby.
This takes a little bit of work, but the preparation is well worth the investment.
Before implementing any changes, pre-plan activities that that will keep whichever child is not going to bed first, occupied. Select, gather and assembly supplies so that everything is ready to go when the time comes.
If you have another adult to help, then it’s much easier to tag-team off and have one person supervise and entertain the other children. But if you’re on your own for bedtime duties, then let Pinterest be your best friend. There are countless “Quiet Activities” on the internet or Pinterest; from felt boards to audio books and to help you further, I have collected quite a few suggestions on the Baby Sleep 101 Pinterest board HERE.
If you need to leave one child unattended, it’s important that the area is safe. A baby or young toddler that can’t be trusted to be by themselves, may need to be occupied in a crib with some new books or toys while you tend to a preschooler who has just dropped his nap and needs to go to bed early.
Likewise, if the baby is going to bed first, it may be better to bring your toddler into their room and a put up a baby gate with a quiet activity so they are close at hand but still out of range from disturbing their younger siblings.
Short and Sweet
When children are tired, the last thing we want to do is keep them up longer. Therefore, keep all bedtime routines simple and brief. You will have to decide if you want to spend alone time with each child, or more time altogether, but whichever you choose, keep an eye on the clock so that each child is still getting to bed on time and receiving a full night’s sleep.
Putting more than one child down for bed can be challenging, but with a routine and planning in place, it can be a smooth and easy process.
Joleen Dilk Salyn is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and founder of Baby Sleep 101. She helps tired parents get their children sleeping through the night by working with the science of sleep and healthy sleep best practices. She is a member of the International Association of Child Sleep Consultants and in addition to her certification as a sleep consultant, also holds a Bachelor of Education, and Post Baccalaureate in Education. Joleen is also a mother to two wonderful children.