I have a toddler and a newborn. How can I get them on the same sleep schedule?
This is a challenging situation, since toddlers and newborns have different sleep patterns and needs, and mothers of both a toddler and a newborn have reasons to be doubly tired. First, try to get them into a similar nap schedule. Once, preferably twice, a day get them to sleep at the same time. What helped us during our juggling act of getting our newborn to nap while chasing down a busy toddler was the trick of making a “nap nook.” Try a large box with a cut out door, a card table with a blanket over the sides, or a mat under a grand piano. Settle your older child into his “special place” reserved just for napping. Once he’s asleep, you can then lie down with your newborn wherever it’s most comfortable.
Try simultaneously napping with your newborn and toddler. Pick two consistent times during the day when you are the most tired. Lie down in your bed, and nurse your newborn to sleep on one side, while singing your toddler to sleep on the other. If your toddler is reluctant to give into a nap, put your newborn in a sling and stroll around until your newborn falls asleep, then entice your toddler into the bedroom for a sleep-inducing story and music. Market this as quiet time. Two-year-olds are old enough to get the concept of daily “quiet time.” Eventually, your toddler may actually look forward to these special snuggle times with mom, and you get a much-needed a nap or two yourself.
One of the most difficult parts of maturing as a parent is realizing that you can’t always be all things to all of your children. Parenting is a juggling act where you try to give each child what he needs according to his stage of development and your energy level. Although mothers seem to defy many laws of mathematics, you just can’t give one hundred percent to each child all the time. You may need to call in some reserves. In this case, you might get your two- and-a-half-year-old involved in a playgroup for a few afternoons each week or hire a teen after school. When possible, mom and dad can do shift work. Dad takes the older child while mother naps when the baby naps.