You did it.
You’ve made it through the first few months of having a newborn and older child(ren) … the fourth trimester hits differently when you’re jugging multiple sleep schedules, trying to recover physically and help everyone navigate their big feelings about the changes happening in your house. It’s a lot.
But, if you’re preparing to sleep train your baby, it means sleep is on the way.
While you may feel prepared in terms of the sleep training process, potentially because you’ve done it before, or are working with one of our Certified Sleep Consultants, you may still be feeling nervous about how you’ll do it without waking your older children. The LAST thing you need is a baby who isn’t sleeping AND a toddler who’s up in the night.
Below are our team’s top five tips on how to sleep train your baby without waking their older sibling(s).
1) Prepare your older children in advance
Leading up to the training, prepare your older children and explain what will happen. You can tell them that mommy and daddy are going to be teaching their baby brother or sister, how to fall asleep on their own and sleep all night long. Depending on their age, you can also explain why getting good, healthy sleep is so important for baby.
You can let your older child know that there will be some protest involved because that’s baby’s main way of communicating BUT mommy and daddy are there to help and that baby won’t be alone.
Tell your older child that they may hear some crying in the night and if that happens, not to worry or feel afraid. If they hear some fussing, they can remind themselves that it’s baby learning to sleep and that mommy and daddy are there. Then they can roll over and go back to sleep.
2) Start on a Friday
We always suggest you start sleep training on a Friday night of a weekend where you don’t have many commitments. Doing this takes the pressure off – you don’t have to be anywhere bright and early the next morning, there’s no school, and it means you can dedicate an entire weekend to teaching your little one to sleep. Some families choose to start sleep training on a long weekend but only when they are not busy with social plans.
3) Stagger bedtimes
If possible, stagger your children’s bedtimes so your youngest child is going to bed first. Doing it this way means your older children won’t be trying to fall asleep at the same time as their younger sibling. Try and space out bedtimes by an hour, to start. For example, if your baby is going down at 6:30 pm, your toddler, who usually has a later bedtime anyway, can be in bed for 7:15 pm.
4) White noise
You’ll want to use white noise machines in both bedrooms, almost creating a bit of a sound bubble. If you’d like, you can even put a machine in the hallway.
5) Have a sleepover
If possible, send your older child to have a sleepover with trusted friends or family members. Typically, the most protest happens on the first night of sleep training so, having your older child out of the house for the first night may help take the pressure off you and create a less stressful environment.
Some of our families have chosen to room share – meaning baby will be sharing a room with either their parents or a sibling. This is totally possible! If this is you, here are our suggestions to make the transition a smooth success.
Parents sharing sleep space with a baby:
1) Buy a room divider. There are some great room dividers for sale, but if you can’t find one that suits your needs, we’ve had our clients get super creative. For example, some clients will hang dark sheets from the ceiling to separate a space or shift a crib into a walk-in closet (make sure there sufficient ventilation or a door is left open- or both!).
2) Place the child’s crib at the foot of the bed, on lowest setting. They shouldn’t be distracted because, typically, they are not tall enough to stand and see parents.
Siblings sharing a sleep space:
3) Move the older sibling out of the shared room until baby is sleeping through the night. Older children love an adventure of a floor “sleepover” in mom and dad’s room or the guest room for a couple of nights only. Once baby is sleeping through the night, move the older sibling back into the shared space. Or even better, send them for a sleepover at their grandparents’ house if that’s an option!
**Note: Teach your older child about “good sleep manners.” There will be a time when they and their sibling will be trying to fall asleep at the same time. Teach them why it’s important to be as quiet as possible and not distract baby from falling asleep.
4) Buy a room divider. There are some great room dividers for sale, but if you can’t find one that suits your needs, we’ve had our clients get super creative. For example, some clients will hang dark sheets from the ceiling to separate a space or shift a crib into a walk-in closet. Even if your children are sharing a room, it’s important to do this in a safe way as it will minimize distractions.
5) If you’re reading this, with two or more children who aren’t sleeping – we can help with that too! Sleep training multiple children at different ages – or twins is possible and something our team of Certified Sleep Consultants are experts at. You can get the process started by booking a free 15-minute call, here. We’d love to work with you and get your family the sleep you need and deserve.