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How to Juggle Multiple Bedtimes

Having three kids and a husband that travels for work, makes juggling multiple bedtimes seem like a huge mountain to climb each night. Trying to juggle two or three different bedtime routines can be really tough and confusing if you’re not prepared for it. Trying to find fifteen minutes to breastfeed your newborn at the same time you’re trying to get your toddler out of the bath can be quite the task; especially when you have a toddler that needs quite a bit of guidance and redirecting during bedtime to keep him on a consistent schedule.

So today, I have some tips for all of you who have a few balls in the air and are struggling to find a bedtime routine that flows smoothly for your family.

1. Team up and switch off if you can- If you’re among the lucky ones that has a partner who’s home and available to help you, then plan on tag teaming bedtime! Get the kids to bed, put together a list of everything that needs to get done, split the tasks evenly, and then switch off every other night. That will prevent either of you from feeling like you are missing out on putting just one of your children down for bed and missing out on time with the other one. This also gets your kids accustomed to both parents putting them to bed, so if one of you isn’t available on a given night, it won’t throw your little ones’ routine off.

2. Find opportunities to double up- Use those multi-tasking skills we have been given as parents! Trying to run through two or three completely separate bedtime routines is going to leave you exhausted and probably won’t fit the itinerary, so double up wherever you can. Let the kids take a bath together, feed your newborn while you read your toddler a bedtime story, sing songs together while you change baby’s diaper, and so on. Wherever you can overlap, milk that opportunity for all it’s worth.

3. Consistent Routine Steps- Create and stick to a 20-40 minute bedtime routine. Bedtime routines are absolutely vital to getting your kids sleeping through the night. It’s not just a great way of keeping them on a clock, although that's a huge benefit, but 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 a great place to start since it’s so noticeably different from everything else kids do during the day. It’s a strong signal that sleep is just around the corner.

4. Save a special activity for bedtime- Typically it will be the older child who’s capable of entertaining themselves for a little while as you’re busy finishing up with your youngest. It’s not always the case, but whichever way it breaks in your house, come up with a non-screen-related activity that will keep your toddler entertained and quiet, and make it exclusive to that fifteen minutes or so that you need one-on-one time to put the baby down.

5. Create Little Helpers- Toddlers love structure and predictability, so 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 just before they head to bed. Show them where the diapers and wipes are stored and have them bring you the goods as you’re getting your baby ready for bedtime.

6. No Wiggle Room- Toddlers test boundaries in a constantly. “I’m not allowed to jump OFF of my bed? OK. Let’s see if I’m allowed to jump ON my bed!” And now that you’re splitting your attention between them and a new baby, you might feel a little indebted to them. That’s totally natural, but changing or bending the rules is likely to upset them more, not less. As I mentioned previously, kids thrive on predictability and structure. If they suddenly get the feeling like the guards are down, they typically feel a little lost and that’s going to lead to more tantrums, not fewer. So, keep the routine and the expectations around their sleep extremely consistent.

7. Keep the screens off at bedtime- Believe me, I know more than anyone how quickly and effectively 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 can ultimately wind your child up more than winding them down, which is the exact opposite of what we want to do at bedtime. This is because the entire time screens are holding your child’s attention, they’re also flooding their eyes with blue light. That might not seem like a bad tradeoff for fifteen minutes of time to tend to your baby, but blue light stimulates cortisol production and inhibits melatonin, so those fifteen minutes of peace and quiet could very easily cost you hours of trying to get your overtired child to settle down for the night.

8. Embrace Acceptance- Accept the fact that it’s not always going to go smoothly. These are, after all, young children we’re dealing with, so if things start to go off the rails a bit, don’t look at it as a failure on anyone’s part. They’re going to have regressions, tough nights, and the occasional meltdown, but staying calm,level-headed, and consistent is the best thing you can do to avoid escalating those situations into something more frustrating and upsetting for everyone involved.

9. Early Bedtime- This tip is for you mama! We not only do we want to get our little ones to bed at a decent hour, but the best thing you can do for your body is getting yourself to bed at a decent hour. Having a newborn can be taxing and having an early bedtime for awhile can help with any sleep deprivation you might be facing and improve your mental health.

10. Embrace the peace and quiet- Once you’ve got everyone in bed, take at least five or ten minutes before you check your email, start a load of laundry, or catch up on whatever responsibilities you’ve got to tend to, and just let yourself unwind.

I don’t need to tell you that parenting can be stressful and exhausting, so when you get a moment to pat yourself on the back and find a moment to relax, you should lean into it. So celebrate the success of the day, because tomorrow is another day.

About the author

Amanda Medley

Why didn’t we try this sooner?! As we speak he is sound asleep in his crib – and has been since 7:15 pm.

Karianne Wanggaard

Sleep Well Sleep Specialists

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Working with Shannon, I went from 2-3 wake ups every night to 1 or 0. She aligned the plan with my preferred sleep cycle. She was always coaching, never judging. Shannon was great, I have referred MANY people to her! That's the best testament to her work that I can give.

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