by Shea Moses
It is overwhelming to welcome a new baby into the family system. Tackling just one child's schedule needs can be a daunting thing to navigate as a new mom. Each time a subsequent child is brought into the family the weaving and workings of new schedule will lend a learning curve, but it can be done!
As a mom of 4 children, who all have different sleep needs, I have worked through making sense of our day several times over. For sanity's sake, I need some order to what the day will hold. It has taken a lot of trial and error, but we have an ebb and flow to our day and everyone's needs *mostly* get met each day.
Wake time and Bed time
I aim for everyone's day to begin and end at the same time. I feel like if I do this, everyone will hungry at the same time each day, and usually they will ready for sleep at the same time each day. To follow suit with my favorite Babywise philosophy, begin as you mean to go. If when they begin school you want them waking at 7 am and going to bed at 7 pm, begin working towards those times as a goal in infancy. If you want them all to go to bed at the same eventually, take the steps necessary by adjusting feeding times to make that happen. Write out an ideal schedule beginning with a consistent wake up time and end it with a consistent bedtime.
Recognize your non-negotiables
Are there places you have to be a certain time, each day, that you do not have control of? My oldest daughter goes to first grade at public school. I was shocked when they did not consult with me about what time school would begin and end each day (insert sarcasm here). They are tardy if not in the doors by 7:50 am and I have to pick her up between 2:50-3 pm everyday (yes, there is a bus system - but I just enjoy going to get her). For five days each week we are in the car at these times, so I knew we needed to plan accordingly around those times. On Sundays, we attend church. I know that I am going to have to plan around Sunday School hour and Worship hour. These are non-negotiables. I have no control over the times, but I have to contend with them.
I also have set a non-negotiable for my own home. That is, no matter what else is going on during the day, we carve our 2.5 hours after lunch for nap and rest time. The majority of the children in my home still need this time to nap or to rest (7 year old is at school most days, but on weekends she rests during this time with a book or quiet activity. She joins the 5.5 year old who does the same. The 3 year old and the almost 2 year old still nap heartily at this time).
When I had a newborn/infant I kept the first nap of the day just as sacred, as I am big believer for babies that age, that first nap sets the sleeping tone for the day. If it is off, its likely the rest of the day will be off. I would also adjust feeding schedules and napping schedules to make sure that the baby would need a nap in the middle of the day while the older kids would either nap or rest.
Who is the most flexible?
When something "extra" comes up, or there needs to be a temporary change in the usual routine of things, let the child who seems to be the most flexible wing it for a day. Usually, they can bounce right back into the normal routine without a blink. Also, take advantage of those times where a child grows out of a nap and simply because of time, becomes more capable to handle a little more time awake. In my home, the oldest always seem to be my "most flexible". This may not be true for each family - some children just by personality may be more flexible than others, so that should be taken into consideration also!
Sample Routines for Multiple Children
Here is what a typical day looks like for our family. We have 4 daughters, ages 7, 5, 3.5, and 22 months.
6:30: wake and eat breakfast
7:00 brush teeth, get dressed and ready for the day.
7:40: leave to take oldest daughter to school.
8:00 3 girls have sister time while I clean up from breakfast and do a few quick chores
9:00: On Monday and Wednesday I take the 5 year old and the 3.5 year to a pre-school
9:30 I go to the gym, they have childcare
11:00 back at home, will work through a learning book with the 5 and 3.5 year old 22 month old colors or plays with a book at the table with us. (Or sometimes we have her do independent play time during this time of day)
11:45 more sister time while I prep lunch
12:00 eating lunch
12:30 nap time for the 22 month old
1:00 rest time for the 5 year old, nap time for the 3.5 year old (I try to tackle a chore here)
*I have a sitter come to my house while I do pick up to sit with the nappers/resters*
2:25 Go pick up middle sisters from pre school on monday/wednesday
2:50 Pick up the biggest sister from school
3:00 outside time for the 3 oldest girls. 22 month old usually still asleep
4:00 work on spelling and reading with oldest daughter
5:00 getting ready
6:00 eating/finishing eating
6:45 baths an showers
It is not this regimented every single day, but this is generally what we try for. Obviously things come up - like class field trips or doctors appointments that will throw things off, and on those days we go with what we have. There are days where working in our workbooks isn't going well and we are melting down - so we move on to something different. If illness has struck our home, we throw most everything out the window. Every member in our family knows/understands that sometimes we have sacrifice our schedules/activities for another. I feel like in the end, it all ends up balancing out. It is a busy life, but the basic structure really keeps us afloat and basically all in good moods!
Sample Schedule for an infant and toddler in the home
When we welcomed our 2nd daughter, our oldest was 3 days shy of her 2nd birthday. It took me 6 months to find that rhythm, so I wish I had looked harder to find a good sample schedule for a toddler and a young infant. I thought I would share what ended up working for us during that stage!
7:00 desired wake time for both toddler and infant. Nurse infant, then feed toddler
8:00 infant 1st nap, toddler has alone time with mom
9:00 independent play for toddler/mom does a quick chore, gets in a quick at home workout maybe
10:00 wake and nurse infant, toddler plays in the same room or maybe has a snack. Maybe a host a playdate at your home while the little one sleeps.
11:00 infant down for nap 2. Have a more structured activity for toddler (puzzle, blocks, read some books)
12: lunch for toddler and mom
12:45 wake and nurse infant
1:00 toddler down for a nap
1:45/2 infant down for nap
3:30 toddler and infant up, nurse infant
4:00 outside time/screen time for toddler
5:00 infant down for catnap/ getting dinner ready
5:45 infant up, nurse. Family eats dinner
6:30 bath time
7:00/15 nurse infant, bedtime
10:00 pm - possible dreamfeed for infant
*may be a MOTN feed here, depending on what the infant is doing/taking at the time*
Sometimes you will need to run errands, and that would normally take place for us during the infants awake time after their first nap of the day. If not then, I would try to sneak out after hubby got home and try to go by myself. Also, I usually start my kiddos in a MDO/Pre-school program for 2 days a week when they turn 2. So that frees up the schedule a little bit as well. Many days during the season of life when the little one is taking so many naps, I enlist the help of babysitters coming to sit at the house with a sleeping baby so that I can get a few things done.
You can read my post today, Discipline 101, over on Giving it Grace.