As my team and I worked tirelessly to develop the Baby Sleep Trainer video training series one thought that came up through the feedback channels was that sleep training really is a lifestyle change. Much like exercise or diet, if you want your child to have healthy sleep habits throughout their childhood, then you must ensure that you are enforcing good sleep habits in your family’s day-to-day life. So, how do you work towards good sleep habits for your infant while still meeting the needs of your older children?
There are two main categories when discussing maintaining good sleep training habits for younger children while caring for older siblings’ sleep.
1. Infant schedule is in conflict with sibling’s outings (+ there’s a need for napping on-the-go):
This can happen when a young infant naps three times a day, and one or more of their naps overlaps a time when a parent needs to be out for school pick-up or drop-off, or for some other activity. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that it’s only a matter of time. Usually these types of conflicts occur most when baby is between 4-7 months of age. In those early months it is near impossible to take baby out and not have them either be in the car during nap time, or have them in the car outside of nap time where they fall asleep anyway. In either case, it’s best for Mom and Dad to just do the best they can to avoid taking baby out unnecessarily, and try very, very hard not to be stressed when baby is off schedule. When baby naps on the go, that should be counted as their first, second, or third nap of the day, and once they get home, they should be kept awake until as close as possible to their next scheduled nap time. Once babies get into a two nap schedule (around 7 months, when they nap around 9 am and 1:30 pm) it becomes much easier to navigate school pick-ups and drop-offs, and perhaps even move around a baby’s schedule to accommodate their sibling’s outings. If parents have any reinforcements to call in such as a carpool, or grandparents watching baby during school pick-up, this would be a time to call in that help.
2. Infant sleep training waking older sibling:
I have to say, there is a near constant concern amongst parents that a crying younger sibling will wake an older sibling throughout the night. Let me start by saying that I have worked with hundreds of families who have a baby plus an older child(ren), and I can count on one hand the amount of times a crying baby woke the older child! This is astonishing even to me. Older toddlers and school-aged children typically sleep very deeply overnight so they aren’t usually bothered by the cries of their baby sister. Ensuring they have their own white noise and a closed bedroom door also helps. Even so, some parents feel better sending the older child out for a sleepover with grandma for a few days, or even inviting big brother to sleep in Mom and Dad’s room on the one condition that they must remain quiet and sleep all night, or risk losing the privilege of the sleep over and get sent back to sleep in their own room. Finally, discussing with your older toddler or child that baby brother is going to be learning how to fall asleep without help, and might be crying a bit, can go a very long way. If they know that it’s their job to be quiet and sleep at night so that baby brother can get some sleep as well, you may be surprised at how motivated they are to help out with the sleep training process.
There is a lot of apprehension that goes along with sleep training, but thankfully disrupting older children’s sleep through the training process is almost never something parents find to be an issue.