When you have a baby and have older kids, it can be really hard to maintain a sleep schedule and routine for your baby. Use these ten tips to help maintain your baby’s routine while still allowing your older kids to be involved in activities outside the home.
When we decided to have a fourth baby, one of my biggest concerns was how I was going to manage the baby’s sleep schedule while still getting my three other children to their extra curricular activities and school.
I immediately started thinking it through.
Since she was my fourth, I knew there was a certain time frame of schedule that had worked for my other three children as babies and had an idea of when she would be eating and sleeping.
I talked with our piano teacher and the owner of the dance studio where we go months and months ahead of the Fall so I could have some input on when classes happened (yes, my piano teacher thought I was crazy, but she knows me well enough that she already knows I am crazy).
I am ever-mindful of the idea that baby joins a family. I take that to mean that baby will sometimes make sacrifices to fit into the family, and the family will have to also adjust to welcome baby into the family.
Baby joins a family. That means that baby’s needs are addressed–not that baby has to just deal with it because that is the way things are. There are things we can do to help make sure everyone is giving and taking.
Here are my tips for maintaining a baby’s sleep schedule while still letting older children participate in their activities.
The first thing to do is to evaluate the activities you are planning on and be sure they are worth the difficulties they are sure to bring up. This is important to do no matter how old your other children are.
- Is it worth the money?
- Is it worth the time commitment?
- Is it worth the time that will be spent away from family?
There is no one right answer to each activity. Even the same activity can be great one year and not the next. For example, the three years before Brinley was born, we did ice skating lessons. It is a fun winter activity that is great for burning energy at a time when our kids are highly house-bound by extremely cold temperatures. We all enjoyed ice skating lessons.
The winter after Brinley was born, however, my husband and I decided we would not do the ice skating lessons.
It is a 30 minute drive from our house and always around dinner time.
We decided the stress it would cause with having a 6 month old baby in tow was not worth the benefits. We can instead go ice skating as a family a couple of times and do it at our convenience.
2- Make a List of Activities and Potential Schedules
Once you have decided which activities you will participate in, write them down. Write down the activity and how often it is and at what times. For example:
Swimming Lessons – Every other Wednesday – 6:30-7:30 PM
Then I would add to that what time you will need to leave your house and what time you expect to get home.
As you add activities, don’t forget to add things like school drop-offs and pick-ups.
Once you have your activities written down, write down possible schedules you can see baby having.
This is tricky because baby’s schedule changes quite often. A baby might start on a three-hour schedule, but then move to a combo 2.5-3.5 hour schedule, then 3-3.5, then 4.
There are certain things that will remain pretty consistent, though, like morning wakeup time and bedtime.
So when I was planning Brinley’s schedule, I felt pretty confident I could do a 7:30 wake up time (I did know from experience, however, that some babies are 7 AM wakers). That would mean 7:30 bedtime.
3-Sign Up For Best Times
As you determine your schedule, sign up for activities at what seems would be the best times to work with baby’s schedule.
For example, I had a few options for when each girl could take dance class. In all reality, very little is going to be “perfect,” and even if it was, it would only be perfect for a small window because the baby’s schedule will shift anyway.
I signed up for our piano lessons so they ended when my husband was home from work. That way, I wouldn’t have to stress about picking kids up from. I only need to worry about getting the kids to the lessons, and then one of us could stay home while the other one picked up.
As you are thinking about the best times, focus on the times that would be best for the beginning of baby’s life. Remember you want to establish solid habits from the beginning. As babies get older, they can be more flexible.
>>>Read: “Flexible-izing” a Baby
4-Adjust Baby’s Schedule
Then of course, there will be times you can’t have any control over, like the start of school each day. Adjust the baby’s goal schedule as needed to make this all work as well as possible.
Sometimes, you will have to do things in a less-than-perfect way.
One day when Brinley was a baby, I needed to pick McKenna up from dance followed by Kaitlyn from school (my mom usually did McKenna and my husband usually did Kaitlyn). Because of this, Brinley had to nurse, then we were in the car for the next 45 minutes, then she got to eat her solids. Perfection? No, but it worked.
>>>Need help keeping baby awake in the car? Read 10 Proven Strategies to Keep Baby Awake in the Car
5-Be Prepared to Adjust Again
Even with my best laid plans, there were some things that were shifted after Brinley was born. And yes, it caused me some anxiety, but we adjusted our strategies and got everything worked out.
Carpooling is such an awesome tool. Sure it is green and that is nice and all, but above that, it makes life easier for everyone involved! I had a neighbor I carpooled to school with each day. She drove one week, I drove the next week, etc. It was so nice to have a whole week that I was not worried about driving to school.
We also carpooled to Kaitlyn’s dance class. My husband drove her to dance class and my neighbor picked up. Kaitlyn and the neighbor girl thought it is so cool that they were driven to dance by a dad.
7-Involve Your Spouse
This leads me to involving your spouse. My husband drove to dance class. He just dropped them off on his way back to work from lunch break. On that day, he had a little bit later lunch (this was one stress for me–her dance class got moved back by 30 minutes, but he was able to adjust his lunch with no problem).
He also took the kids to swimming lessons and I stayed home with the baby.
Divide and conquer to make things easier on everyone. More on that below.
8-Ask For Help
I asked my mom to drive McKenna to and from dance class each week. McKenna LOVES this special time she gets with her grandma each week. My mom will also come over and watch Brinley at times if needed.
I also have a neighbor who will watch Brinley when needed during nap time. I do the same for her sleeping children.
When McKenna was a baby, I drove carpool for Brayden’s preschool. Each week on my day to drive, my dad came over and hung out at the house with Kaitlyn and McKenna slept. He did all sorts of fun things, like played ponies with her. He also had the patience to teach her how to play games on PBSKids.org.
So ask family members, neighbors, older people you know, teenagers, etc. to watch your sleeping baby if needed.
9-Divide and Conquer
While I love being at everything I can, I realized I had to let go of some things when I had my fourth baby. There were things just my husband went to and things just I went to. Your baby will not be a baby forever.
We did our best to work things out to both be there, but if one couldn’t, we accepted it as the reality of having multiple children.
10-Sign Up Close to Home
When considering where to take piano lessons, go to preschool, where to take dance class, and all of those activities when I had napping kids at home, I took proximity to home into account. I would choose a place 10 minutes away over a place 20 minutes away.
Utilizing these methods, Brinley was able to be just as consistent as any of my other children were with sleeping needs.
- Tips to Successfully add Your Baby to the Family
- How to Plan Your Perfect Babywise Schedule
- How To Expertly Manage Disruptions to Your Baby Routine
- How to Balance Multiple Schedules
- Balancing Baby’s Needs With Family’s Needs
- Planning Your Schedule for Multiple Children
- How To Maintain a Sleep Schedule with School Disruptions
This post first appeared on this blog in February 2013
11 thoughts on “Managing Baby’s Routine with Older Kids’ Activities”
I LOOOOOVE this post!!!! I have told many people, many times that i personally believe the first year of life is CRITICAL and that for that year our family will revolve (for the most part) around the baby's schedule and needs. I too stress about school and have found solutions that allow my baby to get her needed naps. She has to eat her lunch later in order for us to pick up her brother each day but she's adjusted to that pretty well! i agree with you about doing my best to revolve around the baby's schedule and then letting them adjust to the things that we cannot change. ASKING for help is super tough to do but it's worth it! seriously, this might be my favorite post you've done 🙂 I'm going to send it to my husband haha!
I love using my wrap carrier (Moby) for times when I need to run errands or to activities with my older son. My baby sleeps well in it so he gets his nap and we get to get out of the house! I do try to limit outings to once a day.
I would often leave the baby home to nap with my husband and take my oldest with me out and people often commented on how I didn't bring the baby but I just said, you know what, there will be plenty of time to bring the baby into the great big world very soon. Now, I'll let them sleep!
Good post, thank you for publishing it 🙂 I have a question: when you say you let your neighbor watch your baby while she sleeps, does it mean that you take your baby to her house to let her sleep there? Or does your neighbor (and her kids) come over to your house while baby sleeps? Or do you take the monitor to her?Thanks!Aymee
D&H Thanks for your tip!
expat, it is so true! And right now, I worry about the flu and RSV.
Aymee, we have done it all ways. We don't have one set way. A walk-in closet and a pack and play or bassinet is great for that situation. And the peapod.
Another tip for those reading this post late, is for going to school. Growing up, we lived three blocks from school, but Mom didn't want to bundle baby up every day for the walk so she enlisted the help of an older neighbor kid. She lived a block away and walked with my sister and I.
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Hi, thanks for this post and your great blog. I'm not sure if you're still responding to comments but here goes. I have a 3 yr old and 4.5 month old and a few days a week we need to head out in the morning for the toddler's activities. My infant is on a combo 3-3.5 hour schedule and is STTN. She sleeps when we're out (in the car/pram) but never more than one 45 minute cycle. So on those days she is either awake a long time before her feed (which she isn't too cranky about) but then is ready for a nap not long after feeding and it's easy to slip into feed/sleep/wake or I feed her earlier and then we get off schedule. Any tips?