If you have a little one who fights going to sleep at bedtime, wakes constantly throughout the night, has a hard time settling back down after feeding at night, wakes hours before it’s healthy to get up in the morning, or any combination of those struggles, you may be considering sleep training.
But what if there is another child (or other children) in the house? Imagine teaching one child to sleep well at night and then having another child come out of their room upset at 1:00 a.m. because they had woken up. That’s a lot to deal with, especially when you’re exhausted.
Will sleep training your little one ruin your other child’s sleep in the process?
First, the baby or toddler waking throughout the night may be disturbing their sibling (or siblings) anyway. If that’s the case, sleep training will help everyone. Or if your other child is such a deep sleeper that they’re not disturbed by their brother or sister, chances are they wouldn’t be disturbed by sleep training.
But it is still possible that your other child will hear something and wake up during the night. Preparing for that will take away the stress you feel about it happening.
So, how do you prepare your whole house for sleep training?
I’m going to use a made-up family as an example. Let’s say I have a one-year-old baby boy who I have decided to sleep train, and I also have a four-year-old girl.
Regardless of whether I’m with my little guy the whole time he’s awake or if I’m checking on him periodically (or any other sleep training response), chances are he may cry out at some point and wake his big sister. To prepare her for that, there are three things I will do:
1 – Loop them in.
Even though the little guy is too young to discuss that he will be learning to sleep throughout the night, his big sister is definitely old enough. I will choose a time during the day, before beginning sleep training that evening, to tell my daughter that we are going to teach her brother to sleep like a big boy, starting that night.
I will explain how important sleep is so that we all have the energy to play and so that we can be healthy. And I will warn her that she might hear her brother during the night the first night or two.
2 – Make them a part of the team.
If an older sibling feels like a critical part of the process, they will feel important and want to help.
So I will tell my daughter that if she hears her brother during the night, I’m sorry she was disturbed, but I need her to close her eyes, stay in bed, and go back to sleep. That way, she’s showing her brother how to sleep like a big kid. Which she is so good at! I would tell her how special she is to her little brother and that her example of how to sleep well will be a huge help. And I will make sure she knows that I can’t do it without her.
3 – Let them know how grateful you are.
Enthusiastic, positive reinforcement is critical.
The following morning, I will make a big deal of how grateful I am for her help. Even if she says she didn’t hear anything, I will still thank her for being such a great sleeper. If she did come out of her room or call out, I will still thank her for going back to sleep and let her know that I’m excited about her help again that night. And now that she knows what it will be like, she can just go back to sleep.
So no matter how many people are in your family, these three steps can allow you to bring your other child (or other children) into the process so that they will help you rather than be upset if their sleep is disrupted. And that allows you to focus on the little one you are teaching to sleep well. Because lord knows, you all need your sleep!