Bedtime Routine for Two Under Two!

Updated on April 24, 2010
B.B. asks from San Diego, CA
18 answers

I have two lovely children 6 months and 24 months. I am adjusting to life with 2 little ones, but am struggling at dinner/bedtime. My husband works late so Im on my own all day with the kids. My 2 year old still requires so much attention and my baby needs to be nursed/rocked to sleep. So the 2 year old is constantly waking up her brother or preventing him from falling asleep. We do dinner, baths, books and then bed. I'm finding it's taking me 3 hours to get them fed and down. I'm losing my mind and my little ones are overtired and exhausted. I need HELP!

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So What Happened?

I want to thank everyone for their advice and input. I really needed the support and feel like I learned so much from all of you. Mostly that I am not alone and that every parent with more than one child goes through this at some point. I have implemented many of your ideas including earlier bedtime routine and bathing my little ones together and I am very happy to say that it is working. I really appreciate all of your help!

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answers from San Luis Obispo on

The other moms gave you some great ideas. I don't have any advice other than to hang in there. Sounds like you're doing a great job and are just overwhelmed. It will get easier, I promise.



answers from Honolulu on

Buy a copy of "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Dr. Weissbluth. He's a pediatric sleep expert and this book has helped me with all of my sleep problems. I have a bunch of advice I could offer, but the book puts it in words more eloquent than I can explain. Good luck!

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answers from Los Angeles on

I'm sure you have gotten tons of great responses already but I have a suggestion too. When you have to rock the little one and the older one is still up and about tell her it's time to settle down and give her a "baby" to rock too. If she has a doll that she can rock with you and have her go through the motions to get her baby to go to sleep too it will make her feel like she is doing something important too. Little ones love to mimic. When my girls were little this actually worked with my older one. They are twenty-one months apart. Good luck :P

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answers from Los Angeles on

Experience has taught me that the #1 sanity saver is a schedule. It lets the kids know what to expect so they feel comfortable and confident that the person running the show knows what they're doing, and it gives mom the peace of mind to know that there is an end to the day and exactly when it's coming. Here's the thing about a schedule, though - you cannot deviate from it, especially in the beginning. It's the only way to really make it stick. Dinner at 6:00pm sharp. Bath at 6:30 sharp. Books at 7:00pm sharp. Bed at 7:30pm for one kid. Bed at 8:00 for second kid. Glass of wine for mommy at 8:05pm sharp! Good luck!!


answers from St. Louis on

I didn't read all the responses, but my daughter was 2 when my son was born. They share a room and now if they go to bed at the same time, I read them books together before bed, tuck my daughter into her bed and tell her that I need to rock/feed her brother and that when I put him into bed, if she's still awake I will rock her. She is usually comfortable and doesn't want to get up! I then will put him in his bed and either sit for a few more minutes in the chair next to her bed or tell her I'm leaving the room and leaving the door open.

Explain to your 2 year old that she is sharing a room with her brother and when the lights are out, you have to use a nighttime voice (whisper). If she talks or keeps getting out of bed, give her 1 chance and tell her that if she does X (talks, gets out of bed) that you will take baby brother and she will have to go to sleep in her room by herself and he will not be able to sleep there. You may need to put him in a play pen in your room or something until she understands this. I would think (and hope) that she would catch on quickly! Good luck!



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi B.,
I had tons of problems with my daughter when it came to bedtime. She insisted that I stay in her room until she fell asleep and then would wake up in the middle of the night to come into my bed. The day finally came where I just couldn't take it anymore. Then I found this book called "Sleep Sense Program." This book showed me that the bad habits my daughter had were actually being inforced my me, and insome cases even created by me. It taught me by implementing a VERY strict bedtime ruitine, things could go much smoother. So I thought, "what the heck, I have nothing to loose!" I understand that you have a different situation having to tend to a baby, but it may still be something you can do.
Where do I begin????? Well, I started off saying the same phrase to her and doing the same things. Such as; "it's almost bedtime", then "bedtime is in 5 minutes", then of course, "it's bedtime, lets go brush your teeth". I know there is nothing unusual about these phrase, but I said them the same way, everytime. (especially at the same time every night) When I would read her books, I even went as far as reading her the same 3 short books for weeks at a time. That way, when the 3rd book came, she knew what to expect. I also left her room saying the same goodnight phrases. This really worked for my daughter and she caught on fairly quickly. I just think that a very strict bedtime ruitine just might help your daugher transition better. If you want certain things to happen, then you have to be consistant and stick by your beliefs. Being consistant works for children. I can forward this Sleep Program book to you if you would like to read it. Shoot me an email at [email protected] luck!



answers from San Diego on

Go to - problems solved! Get Davis' video - she is AMAZING! I consulted w/her and both my children go to their crib or bed - I tell them, "night, night - xoxo" and they put themselves to sleep. It's the best thing in the world! Your 6 month old should be going to bed between 5p&6p and your 24month old between 6:30-7:00 (yes, that early! Watch your baby for sleepy signs and you'll see). I had two that were 1 1/2 years apart. I would start bedtime routine w/baby at around 4:00.....then put her down and then start bedtime routine with the older right after I put the baby down. It was tough for awhile but it's easier only dealing w/one than with two. Are they in separate rooms? If you are feeding the older after you put the baby down, then the oldest will be busy doing dinner, bath, pj's, story then bedtime. Good luck! :)



answers from Los Angeles on

My husband works late too, so with 2 kids and 1 parent it just takes longer! When my first kid was too young for school - the best thing I ever did was keep her up late. She got to see her daddy before bed, instead of just on weekends . . . and she slept VERY late in the morning, giving me some alone time when I first woke up.

Great advice below - my kids are a little further apart (6 and 1), so my timing is different than yours beause the older one can entertain herself while I rock the baby. But a few helpful tips. I DO give them baths together IF my oldest agrees to be my helper and make it a relaxing spa for the baby by helping to wash and sing to him (and not get the little one in splash fights!) They both always go to bed faster after a relaxing bath. I use lavendar soap and the aromatherapy KNOCKS THEM OUT!

All women need an encouraging place to get support and for ongoing connection. I invite you to join the free Compass personal development network at There are also lots of coaching resources for life balance that I can honestly say have kept me from a nervous breakdown!



answers from Miami on

My kids are slightly further apart in age. I bathed them both together once my son was 6 months old by putting him in one of those white bath seats that they sit up in. They hook over the side of the tub. I let my older one play while I dried and dressed the baby.

I would put the older one to bed first and hold or nurse the baby while you're reading to your daughter. Sometimes you'll get lucky and the baby will fall asleep so you can put her in the crib after your daughter falls asleep. Good luck!



answers from New York on

Many times it does take that long from the start of dinner to both kids being asleep so just start early enough to allow enough time. Mine are 4 and 16 months. If you can sleep train the little one to be put in the crib to fall asleep if might help. My 16 month old has a much shorter routine than my older one. Also the older one had to be in bed first since the baby still naps and can have a slightly later bedtime. It is really hard to get 2 kids in bed with no help!



answers from Austin on

My boys are 18 months apart, too. I would bathe them together. Then you can dress them, read to them (I used a rocking chair and held them both in my lap) then lay the 2 year old down.
My kids are 3 and 5 now, and all I can say is that it DOES get better. Just hang in there. I know that it seems like it won't ever stop but this IS the hardest stage.



answers from Kansas City on

I know exactly how you feel! My two little ones are 18 months apart, and I have an older child as well. When mine were the age of yours I had to figure out a schedule that worked for everyone. What I would usually do is first nurse the little one, second feed the older ones dinner, finally do baths. Unfortunately, after that is all done it is time to nurse again, and the bed. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. My husband works second shift, so I know what you are going through. I still have my stressful nights now and then, but they are far and few between.
Best of Luck to you.



answers from Sacramento on

I only have one, so this isn't advice as much as just a brainstorm. Since a 6 month old can be a bit more flexible with bedtime, would it be possible to put the 2 year old to bed first? Is your husband home by bedtime? Could he spend some one on one time with the baby, while you do bedtime with your older one? Even if he's not, it might work to do dinner and bath and story together, then tuck the 2 year old in, give kisses etc, and take the baby out of the room with you. Do the baby's bedtime (rock and nurse) AFTER the older one has fallen asleep, so he can have a quiet room to go back to.

Also... What time is dinner? Any chance you can move that up (at least for the kids) so that it can go dinner, mello play time, bath and bed without you feeling like you have go 100mph just to get through it?

Good luck. Sounds like you've got your (wonderful) work cut out for you.




answers from Chicago on

Drop the bathtime before bed. Do it in the morning when everyone is not so stressed out. And something that I did was to make your bathwater for the older one and put the little on in (you will have to hold the baby of course but you can bath them both at the same time that way. your older one can play in the water while your washing the baby. the put him/her on a towel next to you. I did that and kept the carseat right there so that when the baby is done right into the carseat he can go so you can then wash the older one. its not ideal and its stressful. But it does get easier. another option is to just not do a bath every day. make dinner easy too. throw stuff in the crockpot. or cook big on the weekends when hubby is home to help and then do leftover stuff or pull out stuff as my kids call it. i make a bunch and the freeze dinners for later in the week.



answers from Los Angeles on

perhaps a neighbor child could babysit an hour or so around the time you feel most 'crazy' and entertain one or both while you take a break for yourself... Don't feel alone! EVERY mom struggles with this problem (usually at the sundown hour). I used to take a walk (baby would fall asleep). Too tired to do that, I would pack them in the car and drive around until the both fell asleep (eleven months apart). Classical music bored them to sleep. Don't tried to do everything right during this time of day. Alter the routine. Just sit on the floor and hug them or play music and dance with them. I swear they figure out the routine and do what they can to push you exasperation buttons. Honestly, it still brings tears to my eyes when I think about those times but the sweet memories linger on... Good luck! You will survive.



answers from Los Angeles on

This was a really tough time/age for me with my little ones. At six months, the baby needed quiet time to fall asleep, which the older one didn't allow. And the 2yr had just transitioned to his big bed after falling out of the crib, so I couldn't put him to bed safely in his crib first. I remember one night walking down the street with the 2yr old crying in the stroller and the baby crying in the front carrier... at 11:30 at night! I tried everything, and all of the suggestions below are great, but didn't work for me. Hiring a teenager to play with the 2yr old seems like the best idea I didn't think to try.
I ended up making the 2yr old's room safe and putting a gate on the door. (no furniture he could climb on, locks on the drawers and closet) I would set him up with a "special" activity/toy, then go to put the baby to sleep. It wasn't ideal, and took a few nights of the 2yr old screaming a lot, but it eventually worked most nights. (I had a video monitor I could bring to the baby's room so I could make sure the 2yr old was safe).
And it DOES get better! Now they are 1 and 3, the 3yr old enjoys his "quiet time" - we save his favorite toy for then and still use the gate, and the 1yr old goes to sleep in less than 10 min. Easy as cake! They both still wake up at night, but the 3yr old understands that if mommy isn't in her room, to check the baby's room, where I have a blanket on the floor that he just lays down on until I'm done with the baby.
It hasn't been easy, but know it will be worth it when they are best friends someday. And the nights that daddy is home are that much better!



answers from San Diego on

I did/do co-baths. You can get a little seat for your 6 month old so he can sit in the tub with your 2 yr old. My boys are a further apart, my oldest was 28 months when my youngest was born. I also let my littlest play next to the tub while my oldest was still playing.

I also recommend scattering bedtime. Your youngest can be sleep trained. I would have a nice little routine and let him cry it out. Put your daughter in front of her favorite cartoon for the 5 minutes you are going to be away (as long as that's safe. I live in a tiny very baby proofed apartment with no stairs). While crying it out is stressful on you, your daughter won't notice and you can sit and have some quiet play like blocks while she watches some cartoons.

You also need to work on getting your daughter to go to bed easier. It's tough at this age. You could even scatter the bedtimes the other way if your little one can handle it. Put your 6 month old in a playpen with some toys and go back and forth while putting your oldest down.

And start early! Have them sitting for dinner by 5pm, bath 6pm, bed 630 or 7pm at the latest. That way, if it does run late, they aren't getting to bed at 10pm.



answers from San Diego on

Same situation here. My husband is deployed. Will you oldest watch a video? I start the bedtime routine at 5. And if you finish early, kids that are fed and bathed are so much more relaxed. Similar to you, we do dinner, bath, PJs. After PJs, I let the oldest watch a video while I give the youngest a bottle and put her to bed. Then the oldest gets to finish the video while I clean up. After video, we'll play (quietly in room), teeth, potty, books then bed. And I bath mine together. I put the little baby in the big tub. It's fun for the girls and easier on me. Adding that video into the nighttime routine has saved my sanity. I am pretty strict about TV time, but I'm talking maybe 45 minutes here. GOOD LUCK!

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