How do I raise 2 children alone

Help, I have to put two children to bed alone!

Sibylle Lüpold has been advising families on sleep for ten years. In this section, she addresses typical problems and errors relating to children's sleep in loose succession and provides solutions that have proven themselves in practice. Part 1 dealt with the nightly emergency solutions that many families practice instead of fundamentally rethinking the sleep situation. Part 2 was about the end of the afternoon nap.

Many parents who already have one child and are expecting the second worry about how to go to bed for two children when the first child still needs a lot of support. Often the first child is still in toddler age when the sibling arrives and is therefore not yet able to go to bed alone in the evening. The autonomy in this area, which may already have been partially acquired, is often temporarily lost again due to the crisis of the "detoxing". The older child understandably reacts with jealousy of the baby, who suddenly receives the full attention of the mother and perhaps the father. The little sibling is breastfed, carried and even allowed to sleep with mum - of course, the older child no longer likes to sleep alone. Meeting the intense needs of two children when going to bed (when the need to bond is additionally activated by tiredness and darkness) may well be possible for a couple who can split up. But what if only one parent is at home and has to do justice to both children at the same time?

The dilemma often arises from the fact that both children (asleep) sleep in different rooms and that both children need different levels of support. For example: The older child should fall asleep in their room and bed and would like mom or dad to lie with them and read a story. At the same time, however, when the older child should go to bed, the baby is very unhappy, cries a lot and / or wants to be carried. The parent needs all his energy to calm the baby down and at the same time cannot devote himself to the sibling, who needs intensive attention right now in order to be able to fall asleep relaxed.

Possible solutions:

  • Stick to it: At best, mom or dad can lie down with the older child and feed or hold the baby while they read a book or quietly sing songs. If that doesn't work out right away, it makes sense to stick with it anyway and be patient. In the long term, this is the simplest solution. If the baby is crying, the parent gets up and carries the child around in the nursery. The older child is not left alone, the baby can calm down through the carrying and movement. The family may have a large ball or a small trampoline on which the parent can bounce the baby while sitting / standing.
  • The big child can go to the parents' bedIf the baby is crying and the older child is bothered by it, it can be helpful if the older child is allowed to lie down in the parents' bed (because it is not receiving any attention at the moment) (this often provides more security than their own bed). It might be better to fall asleep there, even if it has to wait for mom / dad now.
  • The big child is busy with an (audio) book: Since it is now left to its own devices for a moment, the parents can allow him to look at a book or listen to a CD (possibly with headphones if the baby cries loudly). The older child should not be left to their own devices for too long if they are under 3 years old. The mother or father better stop by and tell him that they have not forgotten.
  • Put off: If that doesn't work at all, it can be more relaxed for everyone if the older child doesn't have to go to bed yet. It can then simply be with the others in the living room or in the kitchen and play something. If it falls asleep on the sofa (or on the floor), it can be carried to bed after the baby has calmed down or has fallen asleep.

Since evenings with two (small) children can usually only be relaxed if the older child is as patient and cooperative as possible (we cannot expect that from the baby), it is of central importance to meet the needs of the older child as much as possible going to take into account and help him deal with his jealousy.

Ideally, parents try to give both children the same thing as possible. Of course, the older child will no longer be breastfed or swaddled, but it is also allowed to cuddle up with the parents and sleep near them. Sleeping alone can be approached (again) more relaxed after this difficult initial period.

Fetch up during the day what is missing in the evening

In the evening hours, most babies want to be fed and carried more often and they also cry more. It can be difficult to concentrate on the big picture at the same time. But if the parents allow him a lot of attention during the day (e.g. while the baby is sleeping or being carried) and if it is also allowed to sleep with one of the parents at night (e.g. with dad in a large bed in the children's room), then can it is better to deal with having to wait briefly in the evening for the baby to calm down.

It is also important to give the grown-ups (who inevitably come up short now and then) space to express their feelings (anger, disappointment and sadness). Instead of expecting them to “pull themselves together” or even to be happy about the addition to the family, they can verbalize how they feel about it. When it says: "My brother is stupid!" or «Can't we just throw my sister in the trash? It annoys you! " is the answer: "How can you say such a bad thing!" not very effective. It is more helpful to react with understanding and also to accept negative feelings: “Yes, I understand that you think your brother is stupid because mom and I now have much less time for you! That is really difficult for you - but we still love you as much as before and it will be easier again, you will see! " Or: “Yes, throwing it in the trash is a good idea! Do you have any other ideas what we could do with your sister? ». Because the older child is accepted with his stressful emotional world (or rather emotional chaos), he can deal with it better and will - contrary to the expectations of some parents - be able to accept the new situation more quickly.

Break the vicious circle

Emergency solution: If nothing works, then you need support from an additional attachment figure (grandparents, neighbors, friends or, if necessary, paid, patiently introduced and loving care) who either carries the baby or brings the big child to bed. It may be difficult to organize someone - but this additional support is usually only needed for a few weeks. If this prevents one parent from falling into total exhaustion or the family structure from escalating, the effort makes a lot of sense.

Basically, it is about understanding that all people can only sleep well when they are relaxed. Tension and excitement before going to sleep have an unfavorable effect. In many families a vicious circle develops that repeats itself in drama every evening. The baby cries more and the older child really revs up again because the stress of the parents is carried over. The whole family feels totally at the mercy of it. The children are too small to develop helpful strategies - adults can go there and recognize the dynamics and consciously break through. This can be done through a completely new sleeping arrangement or new bedtime rituals. It is important to replace everything that has already been linked to negative feelings with new, positive elements. Sometimes unconventional ideas are needed, such as a short walk (although the children should go to bed now!) - or an exuberant dance lesson in the living room - the (more relaxed) moment shared together can help to get out of the stressful vicious circle.

You can read our interview with Sibylle Lüpold, which is one of our most read texts and was published in abbreviated form by the “Tages-Anzeiger”, here: “It is no use to a baby if it sleeps through the night”More information and advice addresses: