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Juggling Bedtime Routines With Multiple Children

Having a new baby in the family is a wonderful, exciting albeit terrifying occasion, especially when you have children already, and it can leave parent’s with lots of new questions.

Will the other children respond positively to their new sibling? Will they love their new role as a brother or sister? Will they become jealous? Will they become clingy and need lots of reassurance? How can you manage schedules around a newborn? How will the newborn waking in the night affect their siblings? Attempting to juggle two or three different bedtimes can feel overwhelming, especially if you do not prepare for it. Trying to squeeze in time to feed your newborn at the same time that you are wrangling toddler’s into pajamas can be a task that you just don’t feel you can undertake.

Here are some tips for all of you who are spinning plates when it comes to bedtime and are struggling to find a bedtime that works.

1. Have one set bedtime for all the children in the house

So many parents I work with are surprised when I recommend that their 3 year-old should be going to bed at 7pm at night, but even at that age, children still need between 10-12 hours of sleep a night. That’s not including daytime naps. If your toddler needs to be up at 7am, a 7pm bedtime is not at all unreasonable. If the idea of doing two or three bedtime routines simultaneously seems terrifying, just keep reading. I’ve got you!

2. Team up

If you lucky enough to have a partner who is at home and available to help in getting the kids to bed, I would recommend that you team up and split the responsibilities. Make a list of what needs to be done and split the tasks in half. I would also suggest that you switch things up and ensure that parents do bedtime with a different child every night. This will mean that the children will become accustomed to different people doing bedtime and the pressure is not always on one parent.

3. Look for ways to multitask

As parents we become really good at multi-tasking pretty quickly within our parenting journeys. Trying to quickly do two or three completely separate bedtime routines is going to leave you overwhelmed and probably won’t fit the schedule, so double up when you can. Put the kids in a bath together, feed your newborn while you read your eldest a bedtime story, sing songs together as you are changing the baby’s nappy. Wherever you can overlap, do it.. you will thank me later!

4. Stick to a 15-30 minute bedtime routine.

Bedtime routines are essential when getting your kids sleeping through the night. It’s not only a way of keeping them on a schedule, it also serves as a signal to their brains and bodies that bedtime is approaching which stimulates melatonin production and dials things down internally to prepare for a long, rejuvenating night’s sleep. A bath is an ideal place to start due the fact that it is so noticeably different from everything else children do during the day. It is a strong signal that sleep is just around the corner.

5. Use a special activity at bedtime

Usually it is the older child who is capable of entertaining themselves for a little while as you are busy dealing with your youngest. It won’t always be the case that it is the eldest. So, whomever is able to self entertain for a few minutes I would come up with a non-screen related activity that will keep them occupied whilst you put the baby down. I would not make the activity overly stimulating, a special colouring book is a good option.

6. Let the other children help

Toddlers adore structure and predictability and by giving them a helper position when you’re putting your younger child to bed is a great way to keep them occupied and give them a feeling of accomplishment. You can ask them to fetch items for the baby, do simple tasks that not only keep them occupied but also help you a little.

7. Be firm Toddlers test boundaries daily and they will attempt to do this at bedtime routinely. Especially now that you’re splitting your attention between them and a new baby. You may also feel guilty for the new baby and pulling your time away, so you allow them to do things that you would not normally allow. This is completely understandable but will always end up with more tantrums. I would recommend that you keep the routine as well as what is expected of them as close as possible to how things were before the new baby arrived.

8. No matter how hard it gets, no matter how tempted are, do not let your toddler watch TV I totally understand how putting your child in front of the TV or handing them your phone can buy you a few minutes of peace and quiet, but screens are the ultimate night time no no. Although they are holding their attention, they are also flooding their brains with blue light. On the surface this may not sound like a bad trade off for those extra 10-15 minutes needed. However, blue light stimulates cortisol production and inhibits melatonin, so those 15 minutes of peace and quiet could very easily cost you hours of trying to get your overtired child to settle down for the night.

9. It won’t always go smoothly, accept that

We have to remember we are talking about young children, so if things start to go off the rails slightly, just remember that this is normal and nobody’s fault. Children are going to have regressions, bad nights, and meltdowns. Staying calm and level-headed is the best thing you can do to avoid making these situations escalate.

10. Enjoy the quiet When all the kids are in bed, I would recommend that you just take a little bit of time to yourself before you get caught up in evening chores like checking emails, doing the washing up. It is important that you let yourself unwind. Parenting is stressful and we need to take time to recenter ourselves.


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