Struggling to cope with the double bedtime with your toddler and newborn baby?
The first time you attempt to put a newborn baby and toddler to bed by yourself can be quite a challenge.
You’re trying to juggle getting them in and out of the bath, dressing them, reading a story, feeding and tears from two little ones all at once.
The first and most important thing to remember about the double bedtime is that you need to take a deep breath and steal yourself for what can be a fairly trying process.
Bedtime for small children can be a fairly fraught time of day as little ones tend to be tired from the day’s events.
Babies may be cluster feeding from around 5pm to 9pm, which can make bathing and soothing your toddler difficult.
I remember the first time I put my toddler and two week old baby to bed on my own. Previously we had been splitting the kids and taking responsibility for just one each as parents.
That first time I went solo was a total disaster. Both kids screamed their heads off for different reasons. I found I did not have enough hands to handle the hungry baby and the toddler desperate for a cuddle and bedtime story.
It made me so stressed out, and even after all of that my baby wanted to feed again.
So I want you to know that if you’re struggling with how to put your baby and toddler to bed at the same time, you are not alone!
This post will give you all of the information to create a perfect baby and toddler bedtime routine that actually works!
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Baby and toddler bedtime by age
Depending on how old your toddler is and their existing routine, you may be putting your two kids down to sleep at different times.
If your baby is going through a cluster feeding period, which is where they feed nearly constantly in the evenings and is common from around four weeks, then trying to get them to bed at the same time will be pretty impossible.
Most toddlers will be in bed by 7.30pm, whereas some parents find their newborn is still nursing on and off through to 9pm if they are cluster feeding.
But even if your baby is not yet going to be happy to be put down for sleep, you can still put both kids through the same bedtime routine at the same time.
What you should try to do is treat every feed with your baby after 7pm as a night feed. This means dimming the lights and keeping the noise low.
By doing this you’re helping them to differentiate between day and night which will help them recognise that nighttime is when they have their big sleep.
My baby and toddler’s bedtime was always at 6.30pm, with the aim of getting them down to sleep by 7pm. They are 21 months apart in age and this always worked well for us. Even now, three years later, they still are put to bed at 7pm, so not that much later than when they were tiny.
With this in mind, I recommend aiming to get the bedtime routine for your baby and toddler started between 6.30pm and 7pm.
Once your toddler is then settled in bed by around 7.30pm, you can then focus on your baby.
Some babies may sleep at around 7pm for a short while before waking a couple of hours later for another feed. This is totally normal in newborns who will likely be feeding every two hours for the first few weeks.
Read more: Newborn baby schedules week-by-week
Babies up to around four months may still be feeding a lot in the evenings, especially if they are going through a growth spurt. Again, try to treat these evening feeds differently to daytime feeds, with lights and noise down low.
I still think it’s useful to run the bedtime routine for both at the same time so that they will eventually be both going to sleep at the same time and you finally reclaim your evenings.
Your baby will become much easier to settle at bedtime from around four months and having the bedtime routine established will really help with that.
|6 months to 2 years||6.30pm-7.30pm|
|3 years +||7pm-8pm|
Tips for a baby and toddler bedtime routine
You don’t have to bathe your kids every night
Some people like to bathe their kids every night, and that’s totally fine. Several of my friends have found it useful for winding them down and relaxing them before bedtime.
With newborns I found that actually that weren’t getting dirty in the day and a quick wipe around the face and neck with a wet cotton wool ball or flannel was enough to freshen them up for bed.
You could try alternating bath time for your kids each night. Of course your toddler may object to being left out of having fun in the water so this is really a judgement call for you.
Taking the bath stage out of the bedtime routine, for at least one of your kids, can immediately save you a lot of time and stress.
Double up on bath time
If you do wish to bathe both kids every day, then save yourself time by having both kids in the bath together.
You can use a baby bath seat to keep your newborn safe in the water and let you go hands-free to wash your toddler.
In order to keep both kids safe in the water, you should not leave either unattended in the bath.
To make sure you can supervise them at all times, I recommend having the essentials you need to dress both kids in the bathroom with you.
First wash both children then remove your baby and get them wrapped up in a towel. Have a changing mat on the floor next to the bath with a clean nappy, wipes, moisturiser and pyjamas there too. Dress your baby and give them a quick feed while your toddler splashes in the bath.
Now lay your baby down on a play mat where you can see them while you remove your toddler from the bath, dry them off and then get them into their pyjamas.
Feed your baby right after bath time
You will find your baby is often quite tearful after getting out of the bath – possibly due to the shock of the cool air on their skin. A feed immediately after getting out of the bath can help to head off the tears.
Encourage your toddler to be independent
If your eldest child is still in the early toddler stages then you can’t expect too much. But it’s never too early to start encouraging them to get their own pyjamas on.
From 18 months it’s likely your toddler will be showing an interest in getting themselves dressed, so let them do this as much as possible. Help them out by laying out their clothes in a way that’s easy for your toddler to then pull on themselves.
A toddler at two years should be able pull on a pair of trousers or shorts without much help.
Ask your toddler to help out at bedtime by getting themselves dressed and getting a storybook ready for you to read to both children.
Feed baby while reading to your toddler
As a new mama of two small children, you need to get really good at doing things one-handed.
I had a friend who swore she could change her toddler’s nappy with just one hand, which I was pretty impressed by.
In order to keep both kids happy at bedtime, they need to both feel like they have your attention.
Find a comfortable seat in a quiet, dimly lit room where you can all cuddle up together. If your baby is due a feed, then feed your baby with one hand, while holding a book and reading to your toddler.
Board books are much easier to read with just the one hand as the pages do not flop all over the place.
A newborn will be going to bed later than your toddler
An average bedtime for a newborn baby is around 8pm to 11pm so do not stress about the fact that while your toddler is dozing off at 7pm, your newborn is still live and kicking.
They are on different schedules right now due to their very different eating habits!
So it’s important to embrace the differences between them and accept that this is totally normal.
Once your baby reaches around four months, you will have a good chance of getting both kids settled at roughly the same time after the bedtime routine.
I recommend settling your toddler to sleep first, because they are hopefully a lot easier to get down to sleep than your newborn baby.
Then you can focus on getting a little rest while tending to your baby’s evening feeds.
Keep your toddler in bed
If you have removed the sides from your toddler’s cotbed then they may be up and down like a little yo-yo before settling to sleep.
If you have a baby to try and settle, it can be difficult for you to be repeatedly settling your toddler back to sleep.
Try distracting your toddler by giving them a book to read in bed. My eldest daughter would often drop off while looking at a picture book in bed.
Be consistent and tell your toddler goodnight before getting them back into their own bed.
Keep your bedtime routine simple
Your bedtime routine doesn’t need to be really complicated. Try to give your kids a little quiet time for around an hour leading up to their bedtime so that they are calm as you start getting them to bed.
The bedtime routine only needs to consist of:
- Bath or a wash
- PJs on
- A bottle or breastfeed for baby and a cup of milk for your toddler
- Bedtime story
- Brush teeth
- Put child to bed. Try having a lullaby or little phrase you always say to your little one at bedtime as part of the routine.
There are lots more bedtime routine tips for babies over on this post.
Bedtime routine for a baby and toddler
Now we’ll look at how all of the above tips work in practice to have a smooth bedtime with your baby and toddler.
After a lot of trial and error, here’s the routine we had at bedtime with our two children just after my second baby was born.
|TIME||WHAT TO DO|
|6.30pm||Baby and toddler in the bath|
|6.35pm||Baby out of the bath and dressed while toddler continues to play in the bath. You may need to breastfeed your baby at this point to soothe them. Remember to stay in the bathroom to supervise your toddler.|
|6.45pm||Toddler out of the bath and dressed|
|6.50pm||Bedtime story for both children|
|7pm||Brush toddler’s teeth and put them on the toilet for one last wee before bed|
|7.10pm||Settle toddler in bed|
|7.15pm||Settle baby into bed unless they are cluster feeding|
|8pm-10pm||Baby may want another feed before 10pm|
|Night||Baby may wake 2-4 times for feeds|
I hope this baby and toddler bedtime routine and tips gives you some ideas for how to have a stress-free evening with your own little ones.
If you have any questions at all, please drop a comment below!