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Written by Lavinia
Certified Paediatric Sleep Consultant
29 September 2020

Bedtime Routines for multiple kids

Having a new baby is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. The biggest worry for parents who have fought tooth and nail to get their first child(ren) to sleep through the night is how having a new baby will effect the older child's bedtime and sleep.

The idea of trying juggle two or three separate nighttime routines might be completely overwhelming. Trying to breastfeed your newborn while you're trying to get your toddler bathed and changed can drive you completely mad. Plus toddlers just KNOW when you don't have the ability to chase them down and enforce the law, and they tend to take advantage of this weakness.

I have some advice for parents who are struggling to juggle their kids' bedtime routines.

1. Have the same bedtime for all the kids

Parents are often shocked when I advise them to put their 5-year-olds to bed at 7 p.m., but even at that age, children still require 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night. I know that the idea of completing two or three nighttime routines at the same time might seem impossible. But continue reading, I've got your back

2. Work as a team and share the tasks evenly

If you have another adult at home who can assist you in putting the kids to bed, make a list of everything that needs to be done, divide it up equally, and swap the tasks each night.

That way, neither of you will feel short-changed as you get the same share of the "harder" and "easier" tasks. Furthermore, the kids will become used to BOTH of you giving them their baths, or reading their bedtime stories or putting them, and they will be less particular about the parent who does it. Which could give you the peace of mind that you can be out of the house  at bedtime, without your partner facing bedtime battles or meltdowns.

3. Double up where you can

Multi-tasking is a parent's forte. So let the kids bathe together, sing songs while you change the baby's diaper, feed the baby while you are reading to your older kids and so on. Whenever you can overlap, do it.

4. Use a pack and play

Have a portable and safe space to place your baby in your vicinity, when you do need your hands free to attend to your older children. Pack and plays are ideal for this.

5. Establish and stick to a predictable bedtime routine

Establishing a solid predictable bedtime routine is essential to helping your children sleep through the night. It helps children stay on schedule, which is a tremendous benefit, but it also contains a series of steps which sends signals to their bodies and minds that it's time for bed. This triggers the release of  melatonin (our sleep hormone) and slows down their internal processes in preparation for a restful and restorative night's sleep. A good example of a nice bedtime routine goes something like this : bath, brush teeth, pjs, read 1 or 2 stories, night night and kisses and in bed.

6. Reserve a special activity for your older child before bedtime

Usually it is the older child is capable of keeping themselves occupied for a while while you are finishing up with your baby. Come up with a non-screen activity that will keep your older child occupied and quiet and limit its use to the 10-15 minutes that you need one-on-one time to put the baby to bed. Avoid making it overly demanding or exciting, as this could make your child resist putting it away when it is time for bed. A fantastic example is a special colouring book.

7. No screens in the bedtime routine

It is so tempting to put your child in front of the screen for 15 min of complete serenity while you put the baby to bed. RESIST this temptation. Screens  shine blue light into your child's eyes stimulating the production of cortisol and inhibits the production of melatonin. The peace you got from using this, could potentially result in hours of trying to get your overly stimulated child to fall asleep.

8. Enlist your older child's help

Giving your toddler the role of your helper as you put your baby to bed is a terrific way to keep them occupied. It also gives them a sense of pride and achievement right before they go to bed. For example you could show your toddler where the diapers and baby lotions are kept and ask him/her to bring you the supplies.

9. Do not back down

Toddlers love pushing boundaries. You could also feel some guilt that you are now dividing your focus between them and a new baby, and part of you feels like you should relax the rules to compensate them for this. It is very normal, but changing the rules will only confuse and upset them more in the end, Although they may like testing boundaries, they nevertheless thrive on predictability and structure. They often feel a little confused if the walls suddenly come down, which will result in more tantrums rather than less. Maintain the same schedule and the expectations that were in place before the arrival of their baby brother or sister.

10. Stay calm if things go awry

Remember that we are dealing with young children, so don't see it as a failure on anyone's part if things start to get out of hand. There are going to be rough nights and the occasional breakdown, but the best thing you can do to prevent those circumstances from becoming more upsetting for everyone involved is to remain calm and collected.

11. When it's done, relax

Once everyone is asleep, give yourself at least five or ten minutes to rest before checking your email or taking care of any other obligations you may have. Parenting is obviously a hard job, so whenever you have a chance to relax, you should seize it! The hours immediately following the kids' bedtime are an ideal time for this. Celebrate getting through the day and getting all the kids to bed, by putting your feet up. You are a Superhero.

Article written by Lavinia
Certified Paediatric Sleep Consultant
Based in Singapore
Trained in the Sleep Sense Program

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