If you know me at all by now, you have definitely heard me discuss the importance of a predictable and consistent bedtime routine. But what if you have more than one child? What if, you are doing bedtime on your own? Juggling multiple bedtimes might seem overwhelming or downright impossible.
Today I am sharing 10 tips to streamline bedtime with multiple children. Don't worry, you got this!
1. Decide on a universal bedtime.
A 3 year old still needs 10-12 hours of nighttime sleep. So, if they are getting up at 6:30 to start their day, 7:00 or 7:30 is not an unreasonable bedtime. If you can find a bedtime that is the same for all of your kids, you can get most of the goodnight kisses done around the same time and then go relax.
2. Divide and conquer.
If you are one of the lucky ones that regularly has a second parent available to help with bedtime, split up tasks and take turns. It is good for your child to become accustomed to either parent putting them to bed so that if one isn't available one night, things will continue on without a hitch.
Double up on tasks when you can. Have all kids take a bath together. Feed your newborn while you read the toddler a book. Sing songs while changing another child's diaper.
4. Keep routine's between 15-30 minutes.
Bedtime routines are absolutely vital to getting your kids sleeping through the night. It’s not just a great way of keeping them on a clock, although that’s a huge benefit, but it also serves as a signal to their brains and bodies that bedtime is approaching which stimulates melatonin production and dials things down internally to prepare for a long, rejuvenating night’s sleep. A bath is a great place to start since it’s so noticeably different from everything else kids do during the day. It’s a strong signal that sleep is just around the corner.
5. Save a special activity for bedtime.
If your older child(ren) is capable of entertaining themselves for a few minutes while you finish up bedtime with younger ones, take advantage of that. Pick out an activity they enjoy (non-screen related) that is special for their sibling's bedtime. Make it something they don't get access to in other parts of the day so they will be excited for it when it is time to enjoy it.
6. Child Labor.
Giving your toddler the role of "bedtime helper" may be a great way to keep them occupied while getting younger children settled in. Give them the mission to go get diapers and books, help turn on sound machines or turn off the lights.
7. Stick to the Rules.
Toddlers love to test their boundaries, and there is no better time to see what they can get away with than when parents are preoccupied with a sibling. And maybe, you allow more leeway so that you can finish what you need to get done... That’s totally natural, but changing or bending the rules is likely to upset them more, not less. Kids thrive on predictability and structure. If they suddenly get the feeling like the fences are down, they typically feel a little lost and that’s going to lead to more tantrums, not fewer. So keep the routine and the expectations as close as possible to the way they were before their sibling arrived.
8. Resist the urge to turn on the T.V.
I know how quickly and effectively putting your child in front of the TV or handing them your phone can buy you a few minutes of peace and quiet, but screens are the ultimate bedtime sabotagers. Because the entire time that they’re holding your child’s attention, they’re flooding their eyes with blue light. That might not seem like a bad tradeoff for fifteen minutes of time to tend to your baby, but blue light stimulates cortisol production and inhibits melatonin, so those fifteen minutes of peace and quiet could very easily cost you hours of trying to get your overtired child to settle down for the night.
9. Accept that it isn't going to be perfect every night.
You can only control so much when we are dealing with young children. There are going to be regressions, illness and meltdowns from time to time. Staying calm, predictable and level-headed may be the best thing you can do when things start coming off the rails. Tomorrow is a new day to try again.
10. Take a break.
Take 5. Or 10. Or 15 minutes before you throw yourself back into another task to enjoy the peace and quiet. Likely it is the first time you have had any peace and quiet since you opened your eyes this morning. Obviously, this parenting thing is stressful. Take time to celebrate that you did it again. You kept the tiny humans alive for one more day. You are basically a superhero. And tomorrow, you will get up and do it all over again.