When it came time to sleep train my twins my biggest struggle was incorporating my eldest daughter's schedule, then 4, into their new sleep routine. I was ready start a routine, stay consistent, and stay strong. But wait a minute; won’t the babies wake her up at night? Was it possible to remain consistent in my day-to-day routine of sleep training when I had her home as well? How could I work her schedule into the babies new one? These are common questions I’m asked by parents as many parents of multiple children experience the same sleep training issue.
How do I sleep train my baby when I have a toddler at home?
Most of us are worried that any crying at night will wake the entire house. Unfortunately this could happen but I always say short-term pain for long-term gain. Yes, the first week of training can result in everyone getting less sleep but it’s a means to an end. Once your little one is sleeping through the night, everyone will be sleeping more soundly and getting the healthy sleep you all need. There are a few things though that you can do to make the week go as easily as possible.
If your eldest is old enough to understand, communicate to them what is going on. Tell them that you are trying to teach the baby how to sleep and for them to just to go back to bed. When they understand what’s going on they tend to worry less and fall back to sleep easier.
White noise doesn’t just work in the nursery. It could also be used in your toddlers’ room to mask the sounds that can cause middle of the night wakings. Please note that the volume does not need to be at the maximum level and right beside the child to be effective. You want to place it against the wall that separates your eldest room from baby’s.
In those first few weeks of sleep training consistency is everything and staying consistent will help speed up the process. This can prove to be difficult when you are struggling to fit in both children’s routine. Your toddler is probably down to one nap in the afternoon, while your baby will be having two or three per day.
So how do you stay consistent while also keeping your eldest happy and busy?
The BEST thing I did was hire our 15 year-old babysitter 2 mornings a week during the summer. She would come over for a few hours in the morning and hang out with my daughter. She’d play with her in the backyard or take her to the park and my daughter had a blast. If you can hire a sitter or even better recruit Grandma or Grandpa for free, work them into your weekly schedule. Your child will love it and you’ll be reassured knowing you’re able to provide both engagement for your older child and naptime for your baby.
You may think I’m crazy by telling you to invite more children to your house but it actually works well. This way you don’t have to physically go anywhere, pack up the kids and mess with the new routine. She is having fun playing with her friends and chances are they will keep each other busy and out of your hair. Win win!
Your community will have seasonal programs perfect for your little ones active needs. If it’s tough to get out, see if you can sign them up with a buddy and arrange carpooling with the other parent. Can the Grandparents drop off and pick up? Even if it’s just one morning a week, she will love it!
Use your time alone together in the mornings to bond and have some quality time together. This is a great opportunity to focus all of your attention on her when normally that can be tough to do when baby is awake. Bring out the crafts or have some cuddly storybook time. This time is all about you two, make the most of it.
Sometimes all it takes is a little organizing and a lot of patience. You can feel good knowing your entire family will soon be getting the healthy sleep they deserve and your toddler is still able to have a fun day, while you’re encouraging healthy sleep habits for your new baby.