By Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns ~~~
I remember the days of trying to coordinate my older children’s bedtime routines with the non-schedule of my new baby. I remember how hard bedtime was when the baby needed my attention, and the other two thought that bedtime meant playtime.
Coordinating sibling sleep routines can seem like a monumental task, but the key to it is planning. Simply going with the flow every night will not help anyone. The kids will be running in different directions, you’ll be stressed, and your kids will be staying up too late.
The first place to start is setting up with a plan. Consider each child’s individual needs, think about your own needs, and then keep in mind that this initial plan is just a starting point. You will likely need to make some adjustments as you go along and discover what is working and what is not.
Children are unique in many ways, and these different needs become a challenge when biological bedtimes and tendencies differ from child to child. Many families find that juggling a few different bedtimes is too difficult and time-consuming and ends up turning the entire evening from dinner to bedtime into a challenge. It may be helpful to choose one bedtime that comes close to meeting all your children’s biological clocks. Then, arrange naptimes and mealtimes to coordinate with that chosen bedtime. This helps because you can consolidate your efforts – I did everything in sets of three – I made snacks for three, put on three pairs of pajamas, brushed three mouthfuls of teeth (two plus gums), and read bedtime stories with one nursing on my lap and the others on either side.
Some families might not want to coordinate like this, and instead prefer to put one child to bed at a time. That’s another option to consider, and one I used when a few years later baby number four entered our family – but the siblings were a bit older and coordination didn’t make sense. Then, it was easier to put the baby down first while letting the other child play quietly or watch a movie. Using this plan, you might be able to tag-team with your partner and each take on one child’s bedtime routine.
Regardless of which method you choose, take the time to think through it, plan, and then follow through with it!
But… nothing is forever in parenting, which means that you may need to vary your plan from time to time, to align with what works best for your family at any time. Some nights will go better than others, but overall you should see a peaceful bedtime routine.
No matter what, it does help to keep your sense of humor, keep your eye on the important things in life, enjoy the time you spend with your children, and . . . grab a nap when you can.
Elizabeth Pantley is a mother of four, grandmother, and author of the bestselling book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns plus 8 other books in the No-Cry Solution Series, which helps Moms and Dads through all key stages of parenting. Visit her at nocrysolution.com