When you’re a new mother there’s no greater treat than getting time to yourself during naptime.
That blissful hour or two of total peace is a perfect chance to read a book, watch TV or most importantly catch up on some sleep yourself.
But if you have two little ones, you may find their naps do not sync up. So instead of having that nice quiet time to yourself, you find you’re switching attention between two kids as one is always awake while the other snoozes.
Time to yourself is really important as a parent to young children.
- It helps you get some rest and avoid burning out.
- It gives you a chance to mentally decompress and reset, meaning you can be more patient with your kids.
- It lets you have time to do the adult things you need to do – like chores or work.
For this reason if you have a baby and a toddler who still naps, it’s a good idea to get them on the same nap schedule.
This way you get a decent chunk of time every single day where you can take full advantage of child-free time. Let’s face it, you’ve definitely earned it!
Doing this takes a bit of planning, and balancing your kids’ individual needs alongside getting your baby and toddler on the same schedule.
While your baby’s schedule may change several times over their first year, the good news is your toddlers will likely stay pretty much exactly the same.
For this reason, when getting your baby and toddler on the same schedule it’s important to fit your baby around your toddler’s routine, as this way you’re not changing your eldest child’s established daily schedule.
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Getting your baby and toddler on the same sleep schedule
First of all, babies need more naps than a toddler so your two kids will not be on identical sleep schedules.
However it is absolutely possible to coincide your toddler’s big daytime nap with one of your baby’s daytime naps. Woohoo!
To get your baby and toddler on the same sleep schedule, you will need to focus on making sure your baby’s morning routine is geared up towards a big sleep after lunchtime. This is your most likely opportunity to get both kids asleep at the same time.
Plus the post-lunchtime nap tends to be the longest one of the day for both babies and toddlers. Double win for mamas!
When trying to get more than one child on the same schedule, its really important to analyse your timings in the morning first. As part of that you need to think about your baby’s awake time, so that you can coincide their early afternoon nap with your toddler’s one.
So for example, a newborn may only manage to stay awake for 30 to 45 minutes. By around three to four months this awake time should have increased to around one hour to 90 minutes.
A baby and toddler sleep schedule
This is an example schedule you could use for a baby and toddler. This assumes your baby has an awake time of around one hour.
All babies are different. To figure out your baby’s awake time, watch them closely after they have got up from a nap, noting the time when they woke, and see when they first give you signals they are tired.
Those tired signals include:
- Being less active
- Staring off into space
- Turning away from you or toys you are showing them
- Becoming irritable
Once you know their wake time, now you can figure out how to time their morning nap so that it then gives you the right length of time to the post-lunchtime nap to coincide with your toddler.
This is a sample baby and toddler nap schedule where both kids go down for a nap after lunchtime at the same time.
Tips for getting two kids to nap at the same time
Choose a time when they will be tired
Your kids will definitely not go to sleep if they are not tired! So first of all figure out a time when both children are going to be tired.
This will be after lunchtime for a toddler.
For a baby this is likely to be an hour to 90 minutes after the woke from their last nap.
Human beings are creatures of habit and our bodies get into a rhythm of wake then sleep. This is why we feel tired in the evenings as our bodies signal it’s nearly time for sleep.
If you set a daily nap time for both kids and consistently put them to bed at that time, their bodies will become used to getting to sleep at this time of day.
In the early weeks with a newborn and a toddler you may struggle to get their nap times in sync. And as your baby goes through sleep regressions, teething and cluster feeding this may also disrupt your routine.
But stick with it. Keep putting them to bed at the same time. Eventually it does fall into place.
Follow a similar routine to bedtime
When you go to bed you don’t just decide to sleep and do it. There tends to be some kind of process of winding down where you may for example read a book or listen to a podcast in the quiet of your bedroom before switching off the light.
Kids are the same. They need a little time to calm down and signals to show them that it’s time for sleep.
Choosing a time when they’re actually going to be tired is a big part of this being a success.
But even a tired child needs a little help being convinced it’s time for sleep. Try to use a similar version of your evening bedtime routine to get them to sleep at naptime.
Put both kids to bed in darkened rooms. Read them a short story and if you use something such as a sound machine that plays lullabies at bedtime then use this at nap time too.
Encourage your toddler to fall asleep on their own
If you need to stay at your toddler’s side until they fall asleep this will make the entire process take a lot longer.
Try to encourage your toddler to settle by themselves after you have tucked them into bed.
This way you can focus your efforts on settling your baby to sleep.
If your toddler is resistant to falling asleep without you, try playing some soothing music in their bedroom. You could also try a light projector that projects something like stars onto their bedroom wall to distract them while they nod off.
Set the scene for sleep
A bright room may make it tricky to settle your baby and toddler to sleep.
You can try something like the Gro Blackout Blinds to totally block out the light on particularly bright days.
Think about the sleeping arrangements
If your kids share a bedroom and can fall asleep there at the same time during the day, that’s great.
But if the two of them being in the same room causes you problems with settling them down, then think about where you could put the baby as an alternative.
Think if you have any other rooms in the house where the baby could go that helps to give the two kids separate space to fuss while they are settling to sleep. This way one child is less likely to disturb the other.
Give both children a sleep comforter
Toddlers especially respond really well to having a toy they can cuddle up with when it’s time to go to sleep.
It forms part of the routine that signals it’s time for sleep and helps them fall asleep on their own.
Kids tend to form attachments to a comforter from around six months.
When giving a comforter toy to a baby, ensure it is suitable from birth by checking the packaging or label on the toy.
If it slips one day, it’s OK
I remember feeling extreme anxiety about knocking our routine out when my first baby was little.
She slept so well at night that I didn’t want to disrupt that.
The trouble with this mentality was that I was limiting things we could go out and do due to the routine.
If some days your two children don’t nap at the same time because you’ve been out together for the day, or they both nap in the car, that’s OK.
I remember often with my two that I would drive them somewhere fun in the morning, we would have lunch out, then they would both sleep in the car on the way home.
Sometimes I could transfer them both to bed to continue their naps. Other times I couldn’t. It’s OK if it doesn’t happen every single day.