Lights Out: Syncing Sleep Schedules

Many new challenges come with a newborn baby. Minimize the number by starting tackling the stress of syncing your newborn’s bedtime schedule with your older child(ren)’s. Take these tips into consideration as you figure out the best nightly routine for your family. 

Put the Baby to Bed First

Danielle Daly, Pediatric Sleep Consultant of Bedtime Bliss Pediatric Sleep Consulting, states, “The best time to put your baby to bed is sometime between six and eight o’clock in the evening.”

What happens between dinner and bedtime is super important for toddlers and preschoolers. It is a time to connect and engage. If your baby is four months or older, start putting them down first. You will not only have time for intentional connecting with your older child(ren), but you also get a better hold on any potential bedtime routine disruptors before you hit them. 

If both parents are home in the evening, take turns taking care of one or the other. Alternate some of the time, so each child knows how to go through their bedtime routine with each parent. Make sure both children get a few special goodnight moments with both parents.

Babies Younger Than Four Months

Babies younger than four months have bedtimes that tend to naturally fall a bit later in the evenings as their sleep rhythms haven’t yet fully developed. Putting your baby down for bedtime after your older child(ren) may help result in a little longer stretch of sleep for all of you before the baby wakes for the first night’s feed. 

Newborn babies will sleep so much in the beginning. Many parents find it beneficial to use babywear, a swing, or a bouncer for the baby while going through the bedtime routine with big siblings. It can be a fussy time for young babies, so just do what feels best. 

Daly also adds, “If your baby wakes in the night, wait a few minutes before intervening. If they continue to fuss or cry for more than a few minutes, you’ll want to go in and offer some comfort, but it’s important to let your child do the work of falling back to sleep.”


Use Special Quiet Activities or Tasks When Getting Baby Ready for Bed

Have you ever found yourself in a frustrating situation where your toddler needs your attention as you are trying to get the baby settled?  The newness and excitement of a special activity can often do wonders. Have a special bedtime activity box or container with items like:

Soft reading books

Coloring books and crayons

Puzzles/ LEGOs

Stuffed animals 

Sticker books

If the older sibling is too young to be left unattended, you can always bring the activity box into the baby’s room. Avoid giving them tablets or your phone. Hannah Wilson, mother of two states, “I think it’s important to decrease stimulation for at least half an hour before it’s lights out.”

You can also enlist your toddler as your special helper. They can accomplish small jobs and enjoy the excitement of being the caring, older sibling. For example, ask them to grab a diaper or burp cloth for the baby.

Sync Older Siblings’ Bedtimes and Have a Set Routine 

Juggling more than two bedtimes can create too much variability in your evenings and can create unnecessary stress. Each child should share the same bedtime. The best way to avoid a never-ending battle of bedtime stall tactics and power struggles is to have a set bedtime routine and stay consistent with it.  

Daly states, “Your bedtime routine shouldn’t take more than 40 minutes, and it’s very important that the routine is the same every night.”

Brittany Roberts, mother of three, agrees with how kids thrive in a structured environment. “My family has always done the same thing for bedtime. They eat supper and take warm baths before getting ready for bed.” 

Aligning their daytime schedules might help, too. Lejeanne Smith, mother of three, synced her children’s circadian rhythms in the beginning to get their sleep schedules aligned. 

There is no essential component to a successful bedtime. If music or reading is calming for them, add some books or incorporate some songs into the routine. Make decisions based on what’s best for each of them.  

Adjusting expectations and explaining why something is a certain way often helps. Listen to their frustration, too. It may not change the outcome, but at least they can feel good that you understand how they feel. The key is setting the expectations ahead of time.

If reading two books together every night is included in the routine, stay with it. If your child(ren) asks for another, give them a response like this: “Sure! We can read more books tomorrow. These were our two books for tonight. It’s time for bed.”

The more consistent you can be in holding your expectations at bedtime, the smoother your evenings will go.