Bedtime with 2 Under 2
For anyone who knows me, you know that I love babies and I swoon over newborn snuggles. That is unless it’s my own newborn (don’t get me wrong I love my girls to the moon and back, but having my own newborn is not fun for me because it means no sleep). The biggest adjustment for having 2 kids under 2 was going back to no sleep! You can toss the age old advice of “sleep when the baby sleeps” out the window because even when your newborn is sleeping you still have a toddler to attend to. My only saving grace in those early days when Madilyn was a few weeks old and Layla was only 19 months was bedtime, more specifically when bedtime was finished. Once I got to close both girls’ doors at night it was like a massive weight was lifted from my shoulders. I could finally relax and not have to worry about giving my toddler enough attention while keeping my newborn alive. But it took a while to get there and I had to establish a bedtime routine long before I had with my oldest, but it’s what saved me. Here are some tips and tricks of how I survived the dreaded bedtime with a toddler and a newborn:
· Divide and conquer. If you’re fortunate enough to have a partner home at bedtime, then just divide and conquer. Mama will likely go with the newborn because of nursing and your toddler can have individualized attention from dad, grandma, nanny, babysitter, night nurse, whoever!
· Plan Ahead. While I’m fortunate enough to have a husband who will help out at bedtime when he’s home, I didn’t always have that luxury because he works. So I would plan ahead. Madilyn (newborn) would go down first, that way I could be hands free to give all my attention to Layla (toddler) during her bedtime routine in an effort to maintain some sort of familiarity now that her world had just been rocked.
· Create a “Busy Box”. I took an Honest diaper box, taped down the flaps, and threw in a variety of random quiet toys. Layla only ever had access to this box during nursing sessions before bed, so for her it was like Christmas morning and she happily kept herself busy (most of the time but no one’s perfect). In my box I had a few stuffed animals, puzzles, pom-poms, scarves, foam cut-outs, reusable stickers, and a few books. I would switch out the toys every few weeks to keep it interesting but in general I wanted items that did not require my help in any shape or form since I was stuck nursing.
· Role play with your toddler. Take a few dolls and act out the bedtime routine with your toddler. It’s amazing how far a little role play can go to teach your child new skills.
· Praise appropriate behavior. If your toddler did a great job at remaining quiet and calm one night, tell him/her! Praising the behavior you want will go a million times further than reprimanding a behavior that you don’t want. Trust me I’m the behavior expert J
· Find your calm. Easier said than done, but if you can manage your expectations and realize that there will be a number of times that your toddler will inevitably wake up your newborn or require you to get up from nursing, you can manage the stress a bit better. And if remaining calm means allowing your toddler to watch an episode of Daniel Tiger or all of Frozen, then just do it. A little bit of screen time here and there isn’t going to break them and in a few weeks you can go back to your regular routine.
· Ask for help. If bedtime is super stressful, see if you can get a neighbor to come over and help, or hire a babysitter to relieve some of the stress. Accept help when people offer it.
Remember that this is a relatively short period of time and soon enough both children will be sleeping through the night and doing their bedtime routine together. I know it seems light years away but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I promise!