As much as parens around the world would like their babies to sleep blissfully through the night as soon as they enter the world, that's just not how they operate. As a result, most babies will be sleep trained to help them sleep for adequate periods of time. Some parents choose the cry it out method because it meshes well with their lifestyle. It can be tricky, though, and especially if there's more than one kid in the house. So, how do you cry it out if there's a sibling in the house? Turns out, it's not impossible.
The main concern when choosing to cry it out with another kid at home is, of course, the potential for disrupting an older sibling's sleep. As a parent you feel awful that your older child is waking up to the baby's cries every night. I used the cry it out technique with my second baby while living in a small urban condo. Her older sister was just 16-months-old at the time and was just getting used to her own sleep schedule (finally). Suffice to say, the entire ordeal was a bit of a nightmare.
The other concern most parents will face when crying it out touches on any emotional distress the older child (or children) may or may not experience when seeing and/or hearing their younger sibling crying. Elisabeth Stitt of Joyful Parenting Coaching tells Romper via email, "As with so many parenting moments, confidence is key here. If you transmit to your older child that you are 100 percent behind the approach you are taking, the older child may have his sleep interrupted, but he won’t be emotionally disturbed."
If you're considering the cry it out sleep training method, or have already made your decision, here are seven things you can do to make it easier on the baby, you, and any siblings in the house.
1. Start Sleep Lessons With Baby At Nap Time
Stitt recommends parents, "Teach the baby to go down while still awake at nap time during the day." Getting your baby used to it while the other sibling is napping (depending on the age) or at school will be a lot less stressful for everyone involved. Once you feel like your baby is acclimating a little bit, you can then try to put them down when they're awake at nighttime.
2. Schedule Baby's Bedtime Before Their Sibling's Bedtime
"It helps if baby's bedtime is at least a half hour before the older child," Stitt says. "And for the first couple of nights, let the older one go to bed a little bit later. Staggering the bed times help you be less stressed because you're worrying about one child at a time. Additionally, you won't be worried about the baby waking their older sibling if crying it out isn't going as smoothly as you'd hoped.
3. Explain The Situation To The Older Child
Your older child doesn't need a dissertation or blog post about your decision to cry it out, but a simple, age appropriate explanation should help them understand what's going on.
Stitt recommends explaining the whole system to the older child and sharing the story of when they, too, were undergoing sleep training.
4. Start On A Friday
Whatever day is "your Friday" that leads into a weekend or two consecutive days off in a row, is when Stitts recommends sleep training. Attempting it on a work day, when you have to be up and dressed at certain hours, is really difficult. It's best to ease in.
5. Assign Each Child To An Adult At Bed Time
"Elect one parent to do the crying out process and have the other parent take the child away for a couple of nights," Stitt says. Of course, this is if you have a two parent family. If you don't, you can also use a partner, friend, family member, or nanny for this cry it out tip. No matter how you do it, being focused on one child at a time will make the cry it out experience feel less daunting.
6. Have A Camp Out With Older Child
I promise you don't have to go off the grid for this one, as you can certainly do it right at home. It might even be — dare I say — fun for the older sibling, too. I know you usually wouldn't find "fun" and "cry it out" in the same sentence, but a little camp out in a backyard or living room might be pretty adorable.
Stitt recommends parents, "Have an indoor or backyard camp out with the older child, so that at least the older child does not have to be in the exact same room with the infant."
7. Turn On Some White Noise
To help your older child avoid a late-night wake up courtesy of their sibling's screams, or even noise from a sleep talking sibling, caregivers use a little white noise as suggested in Parents.
Personally, a little white noise was my best friend during the baby phase. The fan setting on my old thermostat made a nice humming sound that was quite soothing. My daughter's humidifier did a good job making white noise too. I mentioned my kids are 16 months apart, right? There was no way cry it out sleep training was going to happen in a small urban condo without some white noise.
There's no doubt about it, sleep training with a sibling in the house is hard. It's especially difficult when you're using the cry it out technique (for obvious reasons). They key is to stay consistent and it will be over before you know it.