Bedtimes with a baby and toddler

Many of our parents are expecting baby number two very soon and have requested some tips on coping or managing bedtimes with a baby and a toddler. This can be tricky as they both have very different needs, however stay calm and it will all work itself out over time!

We have all heard of the 'Witching Hour', those few hours from about 5-8pm where everyone in the house has had enough, they are all feeling tired and the very worst behaviour seems to rear its ugly head! This can be tough to deal with when you just have the one child, add a baby into the mix and it can make for a stressful evening.

Here are some tips to try and make it more harmonious for you all:

Plan Ahead!

The bedtime routine starts with dinner in most households, so start making plans from here. 

Make meals in advance where possible, preparing them earlier in the day. Accept all offers of cooked meals from friends and relatives. Get organised and do some batch cooking and freeze it for those days where you don't have time.

Once you are all ready to go upstairs to start the bath and bedtime routine, take everything you think you will need upstairs. For example, swing chair or rocker for baby, toys to entertain and sling.

A baby sling can be useful if you need both your hands free at any point or your baby is having a particularly unsettled evening. This will also help when you have a very young baby that you may be bathing less frequently.

Try bathing your toddler and baby together as it will save you time. Use a bath support so that you have a hand free to interact with your older child too. Your baby will not need as long in the bath, so get them washed first. Once they are ready to get out have a warm towel ready for them on their change mat and let them have some kick about time whilst you finish up the bath. Or snuggle them up in the towel and into their rocker chair. Remember to try and keep the bathroom nice and warm, as this will keep babies happier for longer with no clothes on.

Some parents do find it easier to bath their baby and child separately, so do try both to see which one suits you. If you choose to do them one at a time, make sure you involve the toddler in bathing your baby to help keep them engaged and out of mischief!

Once both children are out of the bath, do encourage independent skills in your toddler regarding dressing or putting creme on. This will not only help you, but is good for their development and confidence. Try having a race with them to keep them interested. You dress your baby and your toddler pulls on their pyjamas to see who can achieve it first. Of course let your toddler win every time!

Save some special toys for each child for this time, nothing noisy, but something to hold their interest and engage them should you need to bide some time while you attend to the other child. But only produce them at this time to keep them interesting. You may wish to rotate them over the course of the week.

As a back up, Story CD's can be quite useful. Either to use to help entertain your toddler if your baby is having an unsettled moment or as an interim tool to allow you to settle your baby to sleep and then you can have some quality time with your toddler before they go to bed. We are not suggesting these should replace story time with mum or dad, just a good tool to have in reserve to bide you some time!

Ideally, whilst doing the bedtime story for your toddler, feed your baby at the same time, this is giving your toddler important close interaction and still keeping your baby involved.

Remember in the early days babies are not going to bed in any set routine and so will often be with you downstairs once your toddler is in bed. Enjoy this time with your new baby too!

The key to bedtimes with a baby and a toddler is not to have a rigid routine. Have back up plans for different scenarios and be flexible. And don't panic!

(First published here)