It is normal to start to worry about how you will handle newborn and toddler sleep schedules at the same time. The transition from one child to two can be a little bit daunting, but the truth is you can do it! You already have the skills to parent one child, so you can absolutely parent two! My oldest was 21 months when my newborn arrived (3 weeks early I might add) so I’ve been there and done that.
Birth to 3 Months.
It is really important to have your toddler’s sleep routine, schedule and any potential sleep problems addressed before your newborn arrives. The last thing you want is to be waking constantly overnight from a newborn and a toddler as well. Lack of sleep is hard enough during the newborn stage that you don’t want to be any more sleep-deprived than you need to be. If you are unsure of how to address your toddler’s sleep, then consider engaging a certified child sleep consultant.
If you work hard to lay a good foundation for your toddler and have good bedtime and naptime routines in place this can really help. Your toddler will have the capacity to put himself to sleep and give you the opportunity to get back to the baby. In general, you will find that your newborn will go to bed later than your toddler, so you can handle one bedtime routine and then the other. If need be, you can even be nursing or bottle-feeding your newborn while you read to your toddler or sing them their lullaby before bed. There is no reason why you can’t incorporate your newborn into the bedtime and naptime routines.
During the day newborns are generally quite flexible with their sleep. They sleep often and are quite portable with where they sleep – crib, bassinette or carrier will work quite nicely. You won’t exactly be timing your newborn’s sleep with your toddlers because you can’t, they sleep a lot but it can be quite irregular with the longest period of sleep happening during the day or night. From around 6 weeks old your baby might start to sleep for their longest period overnight, but it won’t be until between the 3rd and 4th month where they begin to start regulating their nap schedules.
From around 6-8 weeks onwards you will start putting your baby to bed earlier and you may find that your toddler and baby have their bedtimes roughly in sync. This is where you might want to have a group bedtime routine, which they participate in together before you pop them both into their respective sleep spaces.
If your toddler and baby share a room then you might want to consider a white noise machine. It can help make it easier for your older child to sleep through the night wake-ups that your newborn has. The white noise machine should be on the lowest setting.
4 to 12 months.
Once your baby hits 4 months you might start to see that their naps are becoming more regular and they are only waking once or twice for a feed overnight. Your baby is also now less portable and needs to sleep in a consistent sleep-friendly space to have good restorative naps instead of taking them out and about with you to the park or playground.
If you started putting your baby down drowsy but awake and had a consistent nap and bedtime routine from early on, then you will be able to put your baby down for their nap or at bedtime and not have to spend ages rocking, patting or nursing to sleep. Starting early on with teaching self-soothing skills is really useful for the second child!
Once your baby is around the 4-month mark and you start to see them lengthening their naps and taking them at predictable times then you can start implementing a consistent daily sleep schedule. Babies (4 months and up) and toddlers have times on the clock where they are ready to nap and fall asleep faster and sleep longer. The great thing is that your baby’s midday nap and your toddler’s one nap should be pretty much at the same time (around 12:30/1 pm). This means that you can put them together and have space to relax, nap or get some much-needed chores done.
When it comes to the afternoon catnap I encourage parents to not feel chained to their house. This nap, for your baby, is really designed to bridge the gap between the midday nap and bedtime. Feel free to have that nap happen in a carrier or stroller. This means that you can get out of the house and run off your toddler’s energy at a playground or have an afternoon play date with your friends.
Generally speaking, when it comes to bedtime, you will likely be putting your baby down first. Get your toddler involved in your baby’s bedtime routine. He can help or join in with bath time, or he can get out the diapers and pajamas and sing the lullaby. If their bedtimes are close to each other, this routine can be both of their bedtime routines and you put the baby down and then do a little something extra with your toddler before putting them to bed.
I hope this helps give you an idea of how you can handle the competing schedules of your newborn baby and toddler. It can sound daunting to manage 2 little people, but you’ll soon get into the swing of things. If you need further 1:1 help with your children, please do not hesitate to reach out. I can even provide a specialized package just for you to work on both your children’s sleep troubles at once. Just contact me to enquire. I look forward to helping you improve your child’s sleep!