As an antenatal teacher & sleep consultant, I am frequently asked about how parents can support baby number 2 into a positive sleep routine whilst still being present and meeting their eldest child’s needs. I have answered my most commonly asked questions below.
“I have a 6 week old and a 2.5yr old. When is the best time to work on developing a routine for my baby?”
At this age you don’t need to implement any schedules or routines and your little one doesn’t yet have the ability to form an internal body clock. Go with the flow and let your baby eat and sleep when they want – I highly recommend a sling for this age group which will allow you to care for your baby whilst spending lots of quality time with your toddler as they adjust to life with their new sibling.
Once the first three months (the 4th Trimester) have passed, this is a great time to work on introducing some routine and structure to your little one’s day.
“How can I even start to put my baby into a routine with my toddler at home?”
I always recommend starting with their morning. You are likely getting up anyway somewhere between 6-7am with your eldest, so wake your baby up at the same time, open all the curtains or turn on the lights and ensure their first feed of the day happens in the light – therefore teaching their internal body clock that this is morning.
Next you want to learn your baby’s natural awake window – have a look at my sleep charts here.
If self-settling is one of your aims, initially, you need only work on one nap a day – the best one being the morning nap. If you have a partner at home on a weekend start on a Saturday so you know your eldest is taken care of. If you don’t, then you can either invite a friend or family member over, or concede to iPad/T.V time – it’s only in the short term.
After 3-5 days of working on the morning nap, nap 2 should be much easier, requiring only a few minutes of your time. That pesky last nap of the day can be in the sling or on the breast – no need to teach self-settling for that one.
“My partner goes back to work next week and I am so anxious about how I will cope with bath & bed by myself! Any tips?”
This is often the time of the day that causes the most anxiety for parents but whilst it can take some practice to find the right routine for you, once you have it nailed you will be on the track to a better night’s sleep.
So, just as we are going to be starting our baby’s day at around the same time, so too are we going to be ending it. However, bedtime should be flexible – an overtired baby will take longer to settle and wake up more frequently overnight.
Bath and bed with both together
- Wash your toddler first then place your baby in the bath.
- Let your toddler continue to play in the bath but take your baby out.
- Dry, massage, dress baby in the bathroom whilst keeping an eye on your toddler in the bath.
- Place baby in a bouncer, Moses basket/crib or a sling.
- Dry & dress your toddler or supervise them doing this themselves.
- Feed your baby whilst reading a story to toddler.
- Settle the easiest child to sleep first!
Bath and bed with one at a time
- Bring your whole routine forward by 15 mins.
- Bath your baby first and, if interested, your toddler can help – if not, they can play in the bathroom or if old enough, their bedroom.
- Feed baby whilst reading toddler a story or whilst they play, and then settle your baby to sleep.
- Bath your toddler and give them their own bedtime routine.
Feeding “I am worried about how to keep my toddler entertained whilst I breastfeed”. Here are lots of ideas for you…
- Consider a sling or breastfeeding pillow
- Read books and snuggle and talk with your toddler
- Play games – “I Spy” or “Simon Says” are often a big hit with toddlers.
- Snack games – try counting (and eating) Cheerios or blueberries with your toddler.
- Toddlers can pretend-nurse/feed their dolls or stuffed animals (or trucks!).
- Look at your toddler’s baby book or baby pictures.
- Independent activities – drawing, colouring, puzzles, blocks, cars/trains, play dough etc.
- Special toys just for nursing.
“How do I manage the school run? My baby falls asleep during the 15min car ride and it messes up the rest of their day.”
This is tricky and often second and subsequent children have to adapt to your toddler’s routine. It may or may not be perfect for him or her. You can only do the best you can so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. A few things to try…
- Manipulate your day so that your baby is actually ready for a nap on the school run, therefore making it much more likely they would be able to transfer to their cot after the school run and stay asleep. This will likely mean starting their day a tad earlier.
- Manipulate your day so that your baby is waking up later in the morning and therefore unlikely to fall asleep on the school run and can have a cot nap once you are home.
- Look into a rota with some other mums who might have similar issues too.
- Embrace the short nap and know it won’t last forever. Plan their next nap at a much shorter awake window than they would usually have.
For more advice and support on Sleep, Weaning and Babycare visit www.allaboutbabies.org.uk