Getting one child to sleep soundly is a big enough challenge. Having a second child throws that all out the window sometimes... and other times, miraculously, you are able to get them both to sleep at the same time! It's definitely a miracle, but one that DOES happen.
Why it's harder to get two to sleep:
- There are TWO of them. Well, duh! There is only one of you and two of them. You're outnumbered most of the time. Even with a partner around to help, those babies have a mind of their own. They like each other, too, which means they play off each there and take the other's lead. It's just more challenging with two people to get them to settle down. Accept this... but it's not the end point!
- Fear of bothering the other one. You're worried that second will wake the first, so you pick her up more than you typically would or put her in your bed sooner than you would other times. This happened to us a lot in the first year especially with our second child. Our first NEEDS his sleep... he's not a pleasant camper if he is not well rested, which makes us less patient, and so on. So, we do everything in our power to get him to sleep well. Well, that works until the newbie in the house screams so loudly you are afraid she'll wake up the first one. So we rushed to her quicker than we'd rush to the second one. We'd go upstairs to get her half an hour earlier from her nap time just because we didn't want her to jump so loudly she wakes her brother. Whereas, with our first, we'd let him sit there in his crib that half hour, talking quietly and playing, he was totally fine, and even sometimes he'd go back to sleep on his own just by being left alone.
- You're exhausted. You're more tired now with two than you were the first time around. So perhaps the first time you were all into teaching your child to self-soothe and not jumping to feed them every time they woke... but now, having two kids running you ragged all day, you're more apt to just do what you know works - offer the breast or bottle, put them in your bed, etc. It's a normal thing. And it's not the end of the world if you do these things. But... if you want to sleep well and have your children rested and able to self-soothe wherever they are, working on this sooner rather than later is important.
Tips that will help you get two sleeping soundly:
- NOISEMAKERS are a must. You need white noise, fans, music, etc. to drown out the other child's noises. Then, you tip toe... everywhere in the house. I'm oftentimes tiptoeing up the stairs to get one of them to come down and telling them to be quiet because the other is sleeping... then it's back up 20 minutes later to get the other one. Oy...
- One at a time. This is difficult, but focusing on putting one to bed at a time, then go back to the other one. For us, our older one was so easy to put to bed all along we just had him go down earlier when his sister came. For nap time, my son went down at 12, then I'd nurse my daughter, she'd go down at 12:30. I actually enjoyed that time with #2 for a while. This is often called "staggered bed times." If it works for you, try this first. We did this for a while during the day for nap and at night for bed time, until they were older and able to be on the same routine.
- Don't make bad habits to avoid difficult situations. My friend recently asked me what to do with her baby who she was sleep teaching when her older one shared a wall along the little one's room... so they'd possibly hear one another. I suggested not putting baby in the pack n' play in another room first, then moving to crib, because that is re-teaching twice. It's a natural idea to consider, thinking well this will work for all... but it's only short-term. Think long-term. What would work forever? It may take a bit longer to work out the kinks, but in the long run it's worth it to have a solution, not a temporary fix. So when thinking of helping your kids to sleep, think of something that will last and something you can continue regardless of situations or phases, location, etc.
- Same routine. Once you are past the first year or getting closer to normal around your house, you can work toward getting the two on the same routine. This starts with waking at the same time in the morning, feeding them at the same time for breakfast and lunch. And then when it's afternoon nap time around noon, you just do everything twice, within a minute of each other. Not easy, but eventually becomes easier and more routine and expected. After lunch we read stories together to settle them both down, or do light playing, quietly. Then it's upstairs, both of them at the same time. We go to my son's room first, because he's older and easier to get down quickly in his bed. My younger one plays in the room with me while I'm putting her big brother to bed. She says goodnight to him and gives him a kiss, then we're off to her room. I change her diaper and put her in bed, it's 5 minutes after her brother. He typically wakes a few minutes earlier than she does, so I do the same in reverse, get him up, then get her up when she wakes.
- Keep the nap routine a priority. For #1 it was do or die, you lived by the nap time, nothing came between you and that mid-day slumber period for your little one. Well, that changes for many families with #2. You have #1 to consider, a toddler perhaps, who's on the go, invited to parties, into swim lessons, etc. So you have to keep on moving with your kids, you don't stop. I agree with this way of living to an extent... but not when it interferes with good nap schedules. So, for us, what worked was keeping to our nap routines. That meant we had to go somewhere mid-morning and make it back for afternoon nap, but it was OK. During morning nap (8-9ish) for our second, my older one and I had one-on-one play time. He loved that undivided attention, and our little one got her sleep that she needed to regulate the rest of her day and moods. This, in turn, aided in great sleeping later on in the night and a same routine nap time schedule for the two.
Some articles that may help:
Two kids = twice as much work AND twice as much FUN!
You can do it!