Toddlers are the most wily little creatures on the planet. Most will do anything to keep the attention of their parents, and mine have been no exception. Each time we've added a baby to our big family, the sibling before him would fight for my attention while I futilely tried to get the baby to sleep. As I prepare to welcome a fourth brother into our chaos this winter, I'm on the prowl for advice on how to keep baby's nap schedule with a toddler around — preferably without actually losing my mind. And one savvy mom has it down to a science.
Mother of two and SleepTrain health and wellness consultant Hilary Thompson remembers the hectic days (and nights) of having her second baby when her toddler was in the throes of the terrible twos. Thompson tells Romper that her first piece of advice is to buy a portable crib or bassinet, especially if your children share a room. With the flexibility of a moveable bed, you can put the baby to sleep anywhere else in the house while the toddler naps or has quiet time in the bedroom.
On that note, Thompson recommends parents strongly consider doing everything in their power to keep the toddler napping, not just the baby. An overtired toddler, she tells Romper, "is a recipe for behavior problems, and no one needs that."
There's also a strong argument for keeping sleepy-time routines consistent for everyone. Thompson says, "With two or more children, it may be tempting to skip a multi-step routine for the sake of time — don't. Following the same steps every time ensures that, by the time you reach the last step, your baby is ready for sleep. This is true for your toddler, too. Kids who sleep better at night tend to sleep better during the day because they're not overtired."
When the baby needs to nap and dreamland is just not happening for your toddler, remember you have a secret weapon: the car seat. Thompson tells Romper, "The good news about infant car seats is that they are very portable. If you anticipate leaving later with your toddler (for a doctor's appointment, play date at the park, etc.) but your baby needs to nap first, I'd advise you to put your infant down to sleep in their car seat. This way you can easily carry your baby to the car when it's time to leave if they're still asleep and click them in safely to the car seat base without disturbing their sleep."
When your baby outgrows their carrier, this of course becomes trickier. Luckily, by that time, nap schedules are more consistent and most outings can be scheduled around them. When all else fails? Thompson says, "embrace the car nap. Sleep is crucial — newborns need between 14 and 17 hours a day including naps, and infants need 12 to 15 hours a day before the age of 1. So getting it on the go is better than not getting it at all."
Whatever works for your family, the key is consistency. When your toddler knows what to expect, his behavior is more likely to make your life easier. And let's be honest, that's what nap time is all about.