Sleep-training an Infant with a Toddler in the Mix

Time to sleep train a baby? Here's how to handle your toddler.

Sleep-training an infant is hard enough without adding a waking and cranky toddler to the mix. But how do you keep your older children asleep while your youngest is bawling in the room next door?

The good news is hard-core sleep-training typically doesn't take long, and by the third night the crying jags are considerably shorter. I surveyed moms who have traveled this road before and found some tactics to keep your older kids snoozing in their beds while your infant learns to self-sooth and sleep. Give these seven tactics a try, and with a little luck, the whole family will be getting more sleep in a matter of days. 

Ship the toddler to Grandma's house for the weekend.


Parents with family nearby should make the most of the proximity and plan a sleepover for your toddler during the early nights of sleep-training. This will allow you to devote your sleepless hours to your infant without the fear of your toddler waking. Having your toddler at Grandma's for the weekend might also mean a little extra (and much-appreciated) downtime for you during the day while your infant naps.

Have a backyard or basement campout.

If you live in a mild climate and have an older toddler, consider having one parent do a backyard campout with big brother or big sister during the first night of sleep-training. If the backyard isn't an option, try the living room or basement -- any place that's removed from the nursery. Camping, in any form, is a fun distraction for your oldest and likely will lead to a very tired toddler the next night.

Diffuse essential oils.

While there isn't much research yet, some essential oils are thought to have properties that support a healthy sleep. Nicole, a mom and an essential oils consultant, recommends diffusing lavender essential oil either at bedtime on continuous mode or on intermittent mode to last longer. The other option is to turn the diffuser on the first time the child wakes to support a restful sleep and calming effect, she said. A few drops of lavender oil could also be added to your toddler's bath. 

Run a humidifier.

Never underestimate the power of white noise. A noisy humidifier has the added benefit of putting moisture in the air while also drowning out your infant's screams. Put one in both kids' room for added affect. Humidifiers often advertise how quiet they are, so opt for a loud-ish one while shopping. If you decide to go the humidifier route, take care to keep it clean.

Play music or run a sound machine

Similar to a humidifier, playing a sound machine or music in your toddler's room will help buffer noises from the nursery. If you play music as your child goes to sleep, consider keeping the disc on repeat throughout the nights of sleep-training.

Cuddle your toddler while your infant is crying

I've found my oldest sleeps like a rock... when she's with me. So while you're watching the clock waiting to comfort your youngest, stand by your toddler's door and if he or she wakes, you'll be right there for a quick cuddle to get them back to sleep.

It might be just fine.

Janelle, a mother of three, says to never underestimate what your toddler can sleep through. "I was so afraid of waking the boys... But it didn't wake them at all!," she said of sleep-training her infant daughter. As a bonus, her youngest sleeps through her older brothers' noise, too.

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