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8 tips to help your baby nap with a toddler around

Written by: Aileen Dunbar, Holistic Baby/Toddler Sleep Coach

A proud sister with her baby brother.

There are many challenges as you adapt to life with a new baby…and when you already have a toddler, they also need to adjust to their whole world changing. One aspect that can be particularly difficult (and I know from personal experience) is naptime. So here are 8 tips to help your baby nap with a toddler around !


1. Use quiet time for toddler during baby’s nap(s)

Quiet time is when your toddler gets to rest and play with lower-stimulation toys or activities. It could be supervised or unsupervised as long as they are in a safe space (i.e. their crib or blocked-off area). You could create a box of activities to be used at this time. Some examples of quiet time activities are books, colouring, puzzles, magnetic tiles, building blocks and figurines. Before starting quiet time if child is not used to it, go over the expectation with them (i.e. they need to remain quiet and stay in the designated area if that is what you would like). Also, if the goal is to have quiet time during one of your baby’s naps, I would recommend getting them used to it at a time when baby is not napping as they will likely take some time to adjust to this new routine. Then, as they become more accustomed to the expectation, you could shift it to being during baby’s nap.


2. If your toddler is still napping, try to coordinate their nap with one of your baby’s naps.

Since your toddler’s naptime is likely more consistent than your baby’s, it might be easier to try to get one of your baby’s naps to happen at the same time. Depending on timing/what works better for you, you could either get baby down first, then toddler or vice versa or even try to get both down at the same time (ex. Bouncing baby to sleep while toddler lies down in their bed). It could take some trial and error but is well worth it if you can make it happen. Try not to stress if it doesn’t work…you can always try again another day!


3. Spend connected time with toddler before or during nap time

If you are planning on having toddler do quiet time during baby’s naptime, it would be beneficial to spend connected time together beforehand. You could set baby up in playpen with some toys, for example, while you spend quality time with your toddler. Alternatively, you could also spend time together during your baby’s nap time if you are able to get them down in their sleep space independently. Some ideas are reading books, playing games together or just letting them take the lead in playing together. This is important to help them adjust to having a new sibling and reduce their resentment towards their brother or sister.


4. It’s ok to use screen time as needed!

The reality is despite our best efforts to keep our toddlers occupied, it can be very challenging to balance our time accordingly, especially at nap time. So if you find screen time is what works best to keep them quiet and occupied (and give you some downtime as well) then please don’t feel guilty about it! If you want to reduce it as much as possible, you could just use it as a tool while you get baby to sleep, then focus on spending time together or using independent play if you also need a break. There are also screen-free alternatives you could try such as Yoto audio player or Tonibox that allow children to listen to different books with no visuals.


5. Involve your toddler in the naptime routine

In the parent-child relationship, the parent should be in the caretaker role and the child in the dependent role, according to Dr. Gordon Neufeld, developmental psychologist. However, this can also be fostered between siblings by activating the natural caretaking instincts of the older child for the younger child. Involving your toddler in the naptime routine creates opportunities for caretaking of the younger child by the older child to take place. For example, you could have them help you with changing baby’s diaper, turning on the sound machine and reading them a book.

6. Try to get baby to take one of their naps outdoors using carrier or stroller

If you can make this happen, it will allow you and toddler to spend time together outdoors. A nap still counts even if it doesn’t happen in a crib in a dark room, despite what some sites may say. A nap in a carrier or stroller is still restorative sleep and you do not need to feel pressured that baby should only sleep in their crib. So, if you are having a hard time getting baby to sleep at home particularly with a busy toddler, why not put them in the stroller or carrier and get outside for some fresh air to see if that helps them sleep?


7. Ask for assistance

It can be hard to ask for help but we all need it sometimes and you can’t do everything especially if you are at home by yourself with 2 or more little ones! If you are lucky enough to have a parent who lives nearby, could you either drop older child/children off with them during baby’s naptime or have your parent come over to help you? If you don’t have parents that live close by, could you hire a postpartum doula or ask for help from a trusted friend? Even if you aren’t able to get assistance every day, even having a extra set of hands a couple of days a week can go a long way for your mental health and so you can have more of a balance to spend with multiple children.


8. If baby will only nap on you, you can work gradually towards crib naps.

It is perfectly normal that baby would prefer to sleep on you as babies attach through their senses in the first year of life. That being said, with a toddler around, there may be more of an impetus to get them to sleep in their crib so you can spend more quality time with them. So here are a couple of strategies you can try to encourage crib sleep: First, let them play in crib with lights on and off to create positive associations with it. To further help them become accustomed to being alone in crib, you can play games with them in the crib like leave and return where you leave the room for a moment and return with a happy expression. Secondly, do things to help them still feel connected to you while in the crib. For example, you could sleep on their crib sheets for a few nights or spill breast milk on them so they smell like you. Another suggestion while they adjust to sleeping in the crib is staying in the room with them as if they can sense your proximity, they may be more likely to accept the crib.


Let me know in the comments below….what has helped you get baby to nap with a toddler around?

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