Need bedtime advice for a baby, a toddler, and a small apartment
June 10, 2015 9:59 PM   Subscribe

Help us get a young toddler and a baby to sleep at roughly the same time in the same room. Is it possible? Snowflake details inside.

Toddler is 2 years and Baby is 9 months old. Toddler has had successful Ferber training, Baby has only had nap training. Once they are actually asleep both of them sleep through the night and wake up around 6:30am. Naps are fine. They share a room with a bed for Toddler and a crib for Baby.

Ideally, Baby would fall asleep nursing or be put into his crib and fall asleep quietly around 6:30 or 7, while Toddler would get some quiet time with parents and go to bed at 7:30 or 8. But unfortunately, the reality is that Baby needs to be sleep trained, which for at least a week or two will involve a lot of crying and prevent Toddler from sleeping. And even if Baby does go to sleep in the crib, Toddler is almost certain to wake him up when he goes to bed, since he doesn't have the self-control to stay quiet (and will even deliberately wake up his brother to "play").

Right now we're dealing with this (poorly) by splitting up and putting them to sleep in separate rooms. Dad is stuck doing the whole bedtime routine for Toddler, which often involves at least one tantrum and a bunch of visits to put him back in bed. And I'm stuck nursing Baby endlessly in our bedroom until he FINALLY falls asleep. I've sort of tried letting him cry in a bassinet we have in there, but it's not sturdy or solid enough for him anymore and I'm always terrified he'll try to escape. I expect Ferber would work but would take a few weeks and probably hours of crying at first. (I was blessed with stubborn children.)

Both kids are usually asleep by 8:30 but the whole process has taken us 2 hours and both parents are crabby and exhausted by the end of it. It's a rough thing to go through every night. We want to take a firmer stance with both of them — e.g. Toddler goes to bed at 7:30 and does not get out of bed OR ELSE — but that will result in so much noise and drama that I can't imagine ever getting them both to sleep.

tl;dr — Toddler has hit the age of noisy bedtime procrastination and Baby needs to cry it out sometimes. We don't have separate rooms for them. Can it blend?
posted by annekate to Human Relations (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is your toddler still napping during the day? Perhaps consider reducing the amount of time they are left to sleep. We struggled with this as well, and were told by our doctor to limit the daytime nap to one hour maximum. The first few days resulted in more meltdowns (as he wanted to stay up late still but wasn't making up for it during the day) but one night he fell asleep while we were still going through the usual bedtime routine and though there's been some ups and downs, the general trend is improving.

We also have a ~1 year old as well, we usually put the eldest child to sleep before attempting with the baby, as any meltdowns are guaranteed to wake up anyone who is trying to sleep at that time, and the baby has proven to be easy to put to sleep (so far).
posted by Admira at 11:10 PM on June 10, 2015

I think you need to move the crib into your room to sleep train baby, then move it back to the kids' room after that.
posted by amro at 2:52 AM on June 11, 2015 [7 favorites]

We just did this about a month ago with a then 10 month old and a 21 month old. Sleep training for the infant took less than "a week or two" although it did involve crying. It actually took 3-4 days for the infant to get it once we removed her conditioning that she would get attention every 3-4 hours.

Pediatrician recommended going into the room every 15 minutes or so once she started crying but not touching her, feeding her, changing diaper or anything else other to show her that you are there and she's not alone.

During this time we sent the older one to stay with grandma for a long weekend and brought her back towards the end of the younger one's training.

We didn't move the older one into our room because we were concerned this would then condition her to fall asleep in our room.

Our sleep routine was to put the toddler to sleep before the infant at first because there was less of a chance of waking the older one up once she went down.

Now, most of the time, they go to bed at the same time. Sometimes they don't fall asleep right away and will be "talking" across the room or playing in their individual cribs for a little while before going down until morning.

You can also try delaying sleep time by 15-30 minutes to shift the sleep schedule to a later wake time.

I started reading Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems by Ferber but really only used the sleep training info and kind of stopped after that.
posted by eatcake at 5:50 AM on June 11, 2015

You must have a Pack and Play, right? How about putting the baby in the PNP in your bedroom for the sleep training?

I would work on sleep training baby while putting toddler to bed in other room, since toddler can stay up later, that way the baby is hopefully done with crying and asleep when toddler needs to go down. I have stubborn and fussy babies too but >1.5 hours of crying for more than 1 or 2 days, especially on a 9 month old baby who's already nap trained, would be surprising. You should give it a shot, you might be pleasantly surprised. Also, obviously controversial and depends on how you feel, but extinction CIO tends to work faster than Ferber from what I hear.

Could you add an update explaining further what you're usually doing during the 2 hour bedtime process? Does this include post-bedtime crying/checkins? Because I would cut down the routine significantly depending on what you're doing. We have a similar deal at my household with my husband doing toddler bedtime and me doing the baby for nursing. For my 5 month old, I usually do a 15 minute bath, then get into PJs and sleep sack, nurse, and put down in crib (that process takes 15-20min). If there is crying though, check ins etc can take longer. For my 2 year old, we do 15 minute bath with brother, sit on potty if needed, then put on PJs, read a book while drinking a sippy cup of milk, then brush teeth, and 1 more book or a made up story in bed. I would say it takes about 30 minutes after bath. If she starts hitting or kicking her dad or throwing a tantrum, he either cuts out one story if it's before story time, or leaves immediately if it's after story time. It seems that 2 years old is a stage where she will keep asking and pushing for 'one more thing' constantly and we need to be really firm and consistent about boundaries to keep her on track.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:18 AM on June 11, 2015

To be clear, since my baby's bedtime is the same as yours, I would start the bedtime routine at 5:45 or 6pm so that you could be putting the baby down in the crib by 6:30-6:45pm and plan to be done with the sleep training by the time toddler is going to bed 1 hour later. But at least for my kids, the baby will sometimes be crying at the toddler's bedtime (my 2 year old goes to bed between 630 and 7pm most nights too), and I'll just tell the toddler that I need to go help the baby and that she can have quiet time in her room until she falls asleep. She isn't always super quiet, sometimes she sings or jumps around, but she doesn't seem bothered by it and if the baby crying seems to keep her awake for too long, we usually give her some extra nap time the next day to help make up for it.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:26 AM on June 11, 2015

oh, and I understand your point that toddler playing or staying awake after baby's bedtime could wake up the baby. Our kids' rooms are about 30 feet away from each other so as long as my daughter isn't really loud she isn't usually waking my son up, but we also run white noise machines in both rooms to help dampen any extraneous noise. Our "white noise machines" are old iPads and cell phones we no longer use, with the 'Relax' app on them.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:30 AM on June 11, 2015

The thing to remember is that this is a temporary problem. Don't beat yourself up about it. If survival now means going off-book and doing it the way that works best for your family, then allow that. It sounds like your current routine is loud and chaotic. The children have gotten used to that. Break that routine first. Aim for 3 quiet evenings in a row, even if that means that the toddler falls asleep in front of the t.v. and the baby stays in bed with you for part of the night. Once you've established calm before bedtime, start easing into a better routine. Adjust one small thing every other night to lead the children to where you want them to be. And don't worry about slipping back. Children will allow you a perfect night every once in awhile. Don't let that fool you into believing that you have won. Just enjoy it for what it is.

You are so blessed to have someone to co-parent with, who is willing to be there for the bedtime routine. Talk with your husband and figure out a schedule so that you and he both get at least one evening off a week, so that you both don't end up burnt out. And do have date night! The kids will figure out sleep eventually, no matter what book that you read. Your marriage needs more attention than their bedtime routine, because it will last longer.
posted by myselfasme at 7:16 AM on June 11, 2015

Best answer: We've got a similar set up, 27 month old and 10 month old and only two bedrooms in the house.

We've never sleep trained, so I don't have any experience with that (though a crib in your room or sleep overs with grandma were what came to mind), but do have experience with bedtimes for two, and 2 hours does seem long.

Because of our schedules, I put both our kids down at night. They are in the bath when I get home (usually 6:45).

The baby takes me about 20 minutes to get dressed, nursed, swaddled, bounced and asleep. She used to be easier (would just nurse to sleep lying down, ah, the good old days) but is just too stimulated and excited in the last month to do that so we've brought the swaddle and ball back. Dad or babysitter will play quietly with toddler during this time, then I take over, do story time, hugs, and sit and sing to him for a bit. I give him a pretty long story time because on work days this basically the only time I get with him. But even with that, I'm with him for max 1 hour. He will try to draw this out of course to for ever. So in past when (or future if) Dad does the toddlers bedtime, we're done in about an 1 hour.

Some things that have helped us:
  • blackout the light - the long days were killing us (it manifested as toddler being hyper alert and fixated/freaked out by every sound, after the black outs went up that totally stopped)
  • Mr. Dinger says - this is from Happiest Toddler I think, but basically set an alarm for when something needs to happen and then, commiserate with their desire for more but blame Mr. Dinger, "sorry bub, I wish we could read more too but Mr. Dinger says it's time for good night moon (our closer)". I do finish whatever story we're reading (though sometimes skip pages).
  • play music on exit - we hadn't been playing him music (just a white noise machine) but started recently and start this when we leave
  • For difficult things, give choices about how they happen - "Do you want mommy to put your diaper on or daddy to put your diaper on?" "Do you want mommy to turn out the light or do you want to turn out the light?" "I'm going to the kitchen now, do you want me to turn your music on?"
  • Telling him where I am going when I leave and why, "Mommy has to go clean the kitchen to clean up" it of course has to be something boring he doesn't want to do.
  • Some over the top loving, big silly bear hugs, kisses, snuggles and talking for a minute about how much I love him, I've started a "I love you big like a train/spaceship/moon/ocean/truck" thing, which he seems to dig, he likes to name big things, and it seems to ease some of his anxiety about me leaving.
  • Plan for one extra, I always plan to give him another song or two after I first say "I'm leaving" if he asks (spoiler: he always asks ;)
I think one of the things about kids and sleep is that it's really really not linear, I mean their needs seem to be constantly changing, and sometimes reverting. So like with our baby, we hadn't swaddled her in months but around 9 months she was just going crazy with her hands and arms again, and so swaddling again makes a huge difference in her being able to get to sleep right now.

Good luck, it's an intense experience, and having less space makes it more challenging. An extra bedroom wouldn't be a silver bullet but, it would give us/you more options.
posted by pennypiper at 9:15 AM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Someone requested the bedtime routine — yeah, it's not 2 hours of pre-flight routine, more like 2 hours of routine + going back into the room to get the little stinker to stay in bed. So an example night is like:

~20 minutes bath time
~10 minutes drying off/tooth brushing/diaper & PJs (this is a very common time for tantrums)
~15-30 minutes of quiet activities like watching short videos, reading books, getting milk/water, etc

At this point Dad leaves the room and closes the gate. Inevitably, the toddler will get out of bed and at the worst, throw a huge fit at the gate, or at best, screw around in his room for basically ever. So Dad and/or I are going back in there every 5 minutes for up to an hour to put him back in bed, tell him sternly to go to sleep, or even physically block his exit from the bed until he sleeps.

The baby's routine is basically PJs + lullabies + nurse in bed until he falls asleep which can also take forever depending on his mood.

We haven't tried blackout curtains or timers though I think both of those could help a lot with the unruly toddler. I'm definitely very interested in solutions that other parents of multiple kids have found. It does seem common for people to keep them in separate rooms, but we really want our adult time/room back and I'm clinging to hope that they can both sleep in the nursery eventually.
posted by annekate at 9:51 AM on June 11, 2015

Best answer: Okay, so in case it's helpful, I think part of the problem might be that last bit of the toddlers routine, it might be too unstructured and abrupt. Also, nixing post bath screen time might help.

So to go into a CRAZY amount of detail about the last part of our toddler routine:
  1. Read stories in bed, door closed, shades drawn, dim lighting, he gets a bottle and a snack (peanuts) till alarm. Mom: "Oh, Mr. Dinger says it's time for Good night moon", Toddler: "want to finish", Mom: "Okay, we'll finish, but then it's time for Good night moon"
  2. Read/recite Good night moon (if there's any argument, remind him Mr. Dinger said it was time)
  3. Mom: "Do you want to turn out the light and put your peanuts away, or do you want me to turn out the lights and put your peanuts away" (he likes to do this because it involves climbing up on the dresser), light out, white noise on
  4. I carry him to bed, and we have big hugs, sometimes he'll want to talk for a few minutes (like actually about his day), and play the I love you so big thing
  5. Mom: "I'm going to go sit in the chair and sing to you now. And after I sing I'm going to go clean the kitchen and you can listen to your music. Do you want me to sing x or y (it's almost always y!)". Sometimes he asks me to lay down with him, and I tell him that I'd like to but he has a hard time sleeping when I lay down with him, that he gets all excited (this is true, b/c otherwise I totally would just lay down with him, b/c I'm a fan of the path of least resistance ;).
  6. I sing to him, for a while and play games on my phone. Like 10-15 min. Sometimes he'll sing with me, try to talk to me ("It's time to sleep, not talk"), he'll rearrange his pillows and flop about. If he gets out of bed, I put him back in bed and tell him that if he wants me to sing he needs to stay in bed. I'll do this once, then give him a verbal warning (you know, say the same thing again when he starts dangling his feet provocatively over the edge of the bed), and if he does it a second time, I leave. He starts crying and banging on the door. I wait like 1 min, go back in, pick him up and hug him, put him back in bed and tell him he has to stay in bed if he wants me to sing and then recommence the singing.
  7. "Okay, sweetie, mommy's going to go clean the kitchen now. Do you want your music on?"
  8. Toddler: "No mommy, sing one more, please", Mom: "okay, I'll sing one more" (and I usually give him about another 3-5 min on this one)
  9. Repeat step 7, turn his music on, give him a kiss
  10. Leave and close the door
So the transition is gradual, the room gradually darker, me gradually further away, and he's getting more relaxed and hopefully filled up with safe, lovey, huggy feelings (which will help him sleep) I read something about bedtime being a big separation for little ones, night is a long time, so having a good bye ritual can help them less anxiety about it.

When we've had to adjust the routine or we've been inconsistent with it, then he cries when I leave, gets out of bed and stands at the door crying "mommy", I'll wait a minute or two depending on how upset he is, go in, pick him up, hug him, put him back in bed, and I will usually give him one more song. And then steps 7, 9 & 10 again. If I have to go back in, I do all of this again, minus the song ("mommy's all out of songs"), and I say something about it being time to sleep. This can take a while when initially establishing the new routine, but really isn't too bad.

I've found that if I skimp on 6 or 8, I'm more likely to have to go back in, and the whole thing ends up being more frustrating and taking longer.

Also consistency is HUGE for him, that's why I'm doing the damn bedtime EVERY night even when Dad is home. Any variations in the core events or order of events seems to throw him off and he tries to test more boundaries to see what else might have changed.

We do get some adult time in the main living area once the little ones are asleep, but we've given up on having an adult room for the moment. I'm totally with you on the hope of then both sleep in the nursery. I think it will happen. Eventually...
posted by pennypiper at 1:14 PM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

So Dad and/or I are going back in there every 5 minutes for up to an hour to put him back in bed, tell him sternly to go to sleep, or even physically block his exit from the bed until he sleeps.

I haven't tried this personally (I have a whole different set of toddler sleep issues!), but just to latch onto this detail: on the show Super Nanny (sorry!), she advises when a child gets out of bed to take him/her back to bed without making eye contact or saying anything. Basically no reaction. And to keep repeating until they stay in bed. It seems also inevitable to be prepared for an extinction burst. Anyway I thought it was worth mentioning. Hope things get better for you soon.
posted by JenMarie at 3:20 PM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

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