It is possible to successfully sleep train baby with an older sibling (or siblings). In creating the Baby Sleep Trainer Program, one thought that came up through the feedback channels is that sleep training really is a lifestyle change. It’s just like diet and exercise. For healthy sleep habits, you must ensure that you are enforcing those habits in your family’s day-to-day life. So, how do you work towards sleep training while still meeting the needs of your older children? Read on to learn!
There are two main issues we see when sleep training a younger sibling while caring for an older siblings’ needs.
1. Conflicting Schedules
To sleep train baby with an older sibling, you’ll need to juggle both baby and older sibling’s schedules. This is the most common issue. This can be especially difficult when baby naps three times a day. Or, baby’s naps overlap a time when a parent needs to be out for school pick-up, or some other activity. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that it’s only a matter of time before this period is over. These types of scheduling conflicts occur most when baby is between 4-7 months of age.
In those early months, it is nearly impossible to not have baby fall asleep in the car. Either during their scheduled nap time, or outside of a scheduled nap time where they fall asleep anyway. In either case, it’s best for Mom and Dad to just do the best they can. My two best pieces of advice for this are… 1) Avoid taking baby out unnecessarily. And 2) try very, very hard not to be stressed when baby is off schedule. When baby naps “on the go,” it should be counted as one of their daily naps. 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), it becomes much easier to navigate school pick-ups/drop-offs. Plus there is more flexibility to move baby’s schedule around to accommodate their older sibling’s outings. If parents have any reinforcement options to call in such as a carpool, or grandparents to watch baby during pick-up, this is the time to call in help.
2. Worry That Sleep Training Will Wake the Older Sibling
To sleep train baby with an older sibling, the fear of crying is a normal worry. There is a near constant concern amongst parents that a crying, younger sibling will wake an older sibling during the night. Let me start by saying that I have worked with hundreds of families who have a baby plus an older sibling. 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. They aren’t usually bothered by the cries of their baby sister. Ensuring that they have their own white noise, and a closed bedroom door also helps. Some parents may feel better sending the older child out for a sleepover with grandma for a few days during training. Another idea is inviting big brother to sleep in Mom and Dad’s room – on the one condition that they must remain quiet and sleep all night. If they don’t, they risk losing the privilege of the sleep over, and get sent back to sleep in their own room.
More: Include The Older Sibling!
Finally, discussing sleep training with your older toddler or child can go a very long way. Explain to them that baby brother or sister is going to be learning how to fall asleep without help, and might be crying a bit. Tell them 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. Thankfully, disrupting an older sibling’s sleep is almost never something parents find to be an issue.
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