What You Need to Know About Sleep Training Your Second Child
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When it comes to sleep training your second child you may think you know what to expect, but the truth is that you don’t.
There is so much that is unknown about having a second baby. Many mamas worry about how they’re going to cope with managing and caring for two children.
Not only that, but how is it possible to love another child as much as you already love your first?!
I talk about all of those points and more in this post –> 5 Truths You Need to Know About Having a Second Baby
For today, however, I want to specifically focus on the subject of sleep training and how it might look different to what it did when you only had one baby.
There are things that are helpful to know as you head towards this big change for your family.
This post originally appeared over at Mama’s Organized Chaos
#1 You’ve Learnt a Thing or Two
Having one child doesn’t equip you with all the parenting knowledge you’ll ever need, but it does set you up with some great foundational truths.
With your second baby, it can often feel a bit like riding a bike. Once you’ve done it before you can do it again. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be any wobbles or bumps at first, but the skills are still there.
You’ll likely find this with sleep training as well. You’ll doubt yourself less and go with your intuition more.
While with your first baby you’re essentially learning everything all at once for the first time, you won’t be dealing with that the second time around.
There will always be new things to learn as obviously every baby and dynamic is different, but you will have learnt to trust your mama-gut and that makes life a lot easier.
#2 Every Baby is Different
Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience. You’re given a child to raise, nurture and love. It’s wonderful and challenging all at the same time.
One of my favourite quotes, because of it’s truth is:
“Motherhood is the journey away from one’s self.”
While parenthood is a gift and a privilege there is also not much like it that can humble a person so much. Why is that? Well, partly because every child is different.
While you may have had success by doing things a certain way with one child, you shouldn’t be surprised if the same does not work for another.
Sleep training is an umbrella term for a multitude of different techniques. You can find out more about those here –> A Simple Explanation of What Sleep Training Actually Is
Having so many options can be daunting, but it is also great because you can tailor your method to suit each of your children’s needs.
For instance, with my firstborn, we had no choice but to let him fuss and cry until he fell asleep. Why? Well, because he would do the same thing in your arms. It didn’t matter if you held him or not, that was just his way of getting off to sleep.
With my second baby, we used the pacifier at the beginning. Most times she didn’t fuss at all before going off to sleep, and on the odd occasion that she did, she just needed a little reassurance such as a rub on her belly.
So, when it comes to sleep training be open to new ways and ideas. Just because one thing worked like a charm for your firstborn doesn’t mean that it is the only method ever worth using.
#3 You Need More Structure
When you’ve got two children, especially when you have them close in age as I did, then structure and routine are essential.
It’ll help keep your sanity intact and keep the household running smoothly. There are so many variants when you have a newborn that having an amount of structure to your day will help give you an anchor.
Another thing to consider is your older child. Adding another child to the family is a significant transition for them as well. They are no longer the ‘one and only’ and it can be challenging for them to adjust at first.
This shouldn’t be considered a negative thing at all, however, something that can really help is having firm boundaries in place.
This extends to the routine as well. If your toddler is used to having a nap at a certain time, it is really helpful to keep it that way even after the baby arrives.
Personally, I found that it was even more important for our routine to have a firm structure to it than it was with my first.
I paid more attention to when the baby needed to go down for a nap and I stuck to it. We went to a ‘by the clock’ routine earlier than I had with my first because we needed downtime throughout the day.
Setting up the routine so that the toddler and baby’s nap aligned for at least an hour in the afternoon was a huge priority for me. Therefore, I set the baby’s desired wake time to be whatever would allow for that to happen. And, it wasn’t negotiable.
Bedtime and wake up times were firm because, in order to care for my children well, I needed to have a moment of peace at some point in a 24 hour period.
However, as I mentioned, there are a lot of variables and unpredictable issues that arise when you have a newborn in the house. That is why I’ve listed my next point.
#4 You Also Need More Flexibility
This is more a mental shift than it is a practical one. With two children’s needs to consider you’re going to have to become more flexible.
Your days won’t be as cut and dried as they were when you just had your firstborn.
With your second baby, you know the foundations of what makes healthy sleep habits. You also tend to be better at knowing which battles are worth fighting now and which can wait until later.
One particular situation is the witching hour. I stressed about it so much with my firstborn. Honestly, I spent so much time and effort trying to get him to sleep when in fact it just wasn’t going to happen.
With my second I pulled out the baby wrap, put her in the swing, bounced her in the bouncer, and just did whatever it took to keep her happy. And then sometimes she cried, and you know what? It was okay.
The witching hour is not a time for sleep training. Babies grow out of it so it’s better to just go with the flow.
Naps are another area in which I had more flexibility. I would aim for two good naps a day. Usually, they were in the morning. However, if it all turned to custard in the afternoon, instead of working super hard to make the nap work, I would load the kids into the car and head to the shops for a bit.
Sometimes the baby would nap, sometimes she wouldn’t. However, it was an opportunity for distraction and a way to get through those often challenging afternoon hours.
#5 You Know it Works
One distinct difference between sleep training your first and sleep training your second baby is that you know it works. You’ve done it before and it paid off.
Of course, that doesn’t make the process any more enjoyable, especially if there are tears involved. However, you know that the challenge is worth the effort.
This honestly helps so much.
This may be more personal, but for me, I also was a lot less concerned about what other people thought about me sleep training my children. Our family had already had a significant amount of time to reap the benefits of sleep training our first, so I knew that it was worth it.
Another thing that makes a difference is realising how much of a short-term thing it is in the scheme of things.
When you’re in the baby/toddler stage it can feel like that will be your forever. Sleep training can be all-consuming.
However, once you’re on the other side you can look back with perspective and see that really it wasn’t all that long at all. In fact, it was a speck in the lifetime of your child.
I always say the first year is the most challenging. That may not hold true for everyone, but it is what I personally find is the case.
You’ve got postpartum healing to do all the while your baby is growing and changing at the speed of light.
Sleep training in the first year is tough, but the long-term benefits are so abundantly worth it all!
We’re expecting baby #3 now and I am so grateful to have two toddlers that have great sleep habits. They each nap/have rest time from 1-3pm every day and sleep right through from 7pm-7am.
I couldn’t imagine entertaining the thought of adding more children to our family without getting a decent amount of rest.
Sleep training our newest addition will definitely be a priority, but who knows what that will look like!