How to manage a sleep routine with a newborn and busy toddler

Having a second baby can be very exciting. It can also be very daunting. Having one baby can be hard, but two?! Then there’s trying to deal with managing two young children’s sleeping, day and night.  How can it all work? It can be tricky and things might not be as well organised as they were when you just had one baby, but you can absolutely make it work.

The first thing I would recommend you do is to let a few things go. You just can’t do everything when you have two children. You also need to try and understand that it might not be perfect but it is so important for your new baby to get used to you, their home, their family and staying home for a bit is a good idea. I realise this can be hard with a toddler around, but if your toddler does like to get out (which most of them do) schedule one activity a day at a time when it suits everyone and so you aren’t stressed about your younger baby’s sleeps or feeds.

The good news is that young babies can pretty much sleep anywhere. So taking them out in the car, the pram or the carrier is totally okay but you want to make sure they are getting enough sleep. As a young baby grows they tend to be less able to sleep for long periods in the pram or the car, so you could schedule your activities for the afternoon so that they at least have their first two big naps at home. Or if you need to go out in the morning or at the middle of the day, try to make sure your baby has had a least one decent nap before you leave.

Toddlers should still be having a day sleep until around three years old, though some do drop it earlier, so if you can schedule both your children to sleep at the same time, or at least be having a rest, then this is ideal. If your toddler is sleeping and your young baby needs help to resettle, then this is the best time to do it.

Overnight can be tricky if your toddler is still waking or is taking a long time to go if to sleep at bedtime. Bringing a new baby into the home can sometimes cause disruptions to the older child and this is often expressed by a sleep regression. Try to be conscious of what your older child is experiencing as things have changed in his/her world! So, expecting a little regression is normal and dealing with it by being supportive and understanding is a good idea. That doesn’t mean that the wheels need to fall off but having a lovely bedtime ritual where you or your partner and your toddler get some one-on-one time can really make a difference.

Overnight, if both parents can share the load, it is ideal. One parent can deal with the toddler if they wake and one with the baby – usually the mother if she is breastfeeding. Having the new baby in your room with you is recommended and it also helps with feeding overnight. Not having to leave your bedroom to feed makes the process seem not so long and you can get back to sleep quickly.

The main thing is that things need to work for all of you. So being flexible and allowing yourself to go “with it” a bit can make this period less stressful. Remember, it will get better as everyone grows and this phase will pass!

Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.