Toddlers can drive parents crazy at bedtime. The slow, steady kind of crazy when you know every night is the same battle. A battle to get dressed, a battle to get into bed, a battle to lie down…..and then the never-ending battle to actually STAY IN BED and go to sleep. And when this is combined with the exhaustion of having a newborn in the house…….it can feel like a very slippery slide.
Yes there are parents around the country already dreading the bedtime battle at lunch time. Thinking that maybe tonight will be easier, maybe tonight their toddler will go back to being a sweet, complacent baby who lay down and fell asleep. Maybe there is some miraculous way you can feed your newborn and have your toddler instantly fall asleep simultaneously.
Often toddler bedtime battles appear at the time you swap from a cot to a bed, and the new found freedom is just begging for some boundary pushing action. Why stay in bed when you can get up? Mum and Dad are fun to hang out with, and they always want to play that cool game where they take me back to bed then spring up again!
But often the trigger for toddler battles at bedtime is a new arrival. Your toddler has been happy going to bed, the bedtime routine has been sorted for ages and you thought you had it all sussed in time for the new baby coming. Yeah right! It would make the perfect Tui billboard.
Aaarrrghhhh your toddler has different ideas! Your toddler may not instantly love and adore the new arrival, and they certainly don’t want to share you! They don’t want to lie down quietly by themself and go to sleep, when they can see the new arrival getting 20 times as much attention, lovely cuddles, getting to stay up late, more milky feeds…..
The wonderful Dr Harvey Karp likens a new arrival to your husband bringing home another wife. He tells you that you’ll all be happy living together, you’ll love the new arrival. Really??? Imagine how it feels for a toddler, who has been your sole focus, your pride and joy, 100% just them.
So if you are faced with bedtime battles when a new arrival comes on the scene, or in the few months afterwards, put yourself in your toddlers’ shoes. Even though you will be shattered from the lack of sleep from a newborn and the huge juggle two or more children, this is not the time for any sort of tough love approach to bedtime battles. Your toddler’s world has been thrown upside down and they need a gentle, consistent approach to helping them get bedtime back on track.
Here’s some tips:
1. Stick to your toddlers normal bedtime or a bit earlier, to avoid the over-tired, second wind that results from a late bedtime. It is easy to under-estimae how much time is needed for a calm bedtime, or be tempted to rush. Bad idea. A rushed bedtime routine always bites you on the bum and takes much longer.
2. Organise things so bedtime is calm, one on one time. This might mean Dad always does the toddler bedtime. Or get Dad to carry the newborn in a wrap or sling while Mum does toddler bedtime. Often it’s the one on one Mum time that your toddler is desperate for. But ensure that where-ever possible, your toddler has a one on one bedtime they same as they had before baby arrived.
3. Do what makes life easier. This is not the time in your life or theirs for weaning off anything that makes life easier. Avoid swapping your toddler into a bed! Stick with the cot because it is their familiar cosy sleep space and also they can’t escape and run down the hallway every 5 minutes. Use a bassinet for baby or get another cot. Buy lots more dummies if you need to, now is not the time to tackle that addiction. But also avoid introducing anything new like going back to bottles in the night!!!
4. Tools to make bedtime easier are your friend. A relaxation CD or music on repeat, a nightlight and something to cuddle can all help. Go with it.
5. Cosy clothes: If you have swapped to a bed earlier than about 3 years old, often toddlers can’t pull up their bedding or are wriggling all over the place. Or getting in and out bed all the time. Dress them warm enough they don’t need bedding if they are always getting out from it. Or carry on using a sleeping bag. A cold child will not settle at bedtime and will be shouting for you in the night. And getting up to multiple children every night is just not fun is it.
6. Your toddler is in charge. Not really, but giving them some control over bedtime can really help with feeling like they are fighting you on every single thing you ask. Let them choose the 3 stories they want. Let them choose between Thomas or Bob PJs. Le them choose if the bedroom door is open or closed.
7. Gentle techniques win every time. Dealing with a battling toddler and a newborn is possibly as tiring as running a marathon, every single night. Gently encouraging your toddler towards settling to sleep independently is going to take a little while but it will go smoothly. You will avoid the screaming tantrums and the chasing down the hallway. The super nanny approach of taking your child back to bed 1000times a night is a waste of time and energy, especially when you have little to spare. Have one of you sit or lie with your toddler until they settle or fall asleep if this helps. Have Dad camp in your toddlers room for a few nights if need be to get things back on track. Use quick pop-outs to give them small opportunities to fall asleep without you there. See the link below for more info on these techniques and now these are easy to wean off in time as you feel you need to.
Read more here:
Gentle sleep techniques for toddlers: http://www.thesleepstore.co.nz/sleep-information/toddlers/gentle-toddler-sleep-information?forward=listall
And you are very welcome to join us on our Sleep Forum for personal advice to solve your bedtime battlesor adjusting to life with more than one child! https://www.facebook.com/SleepStore/app_202980683107053