Sleep Training With Siblings in the House

Siblings on a chair

As we embark on the sleep training journey it is common to worry about how our own sleep and the sleep of siblings in the house may be affected.  As parents we always want to make things easier for our little ones but sometimes in doing so we can reinforce those habits and supports to go back to sleep in the hopes we don’t wake others in the house.  It’s important to note though that we can do both, we can work on independent sleep and also let the rest of the family get the sleep they need.  Those first few days of sleep training are a big change for everyone and it is normal to see some crying as we make those big changes.  There are steps you can take to help everyone understand and adapt to these changes, including siblings who may be in the house.

Here are some of those areas to look at and support when we are working on sleep training with siblings in the house:

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Talk about the changes 

Depending on the age of the sibling we can involve them and let them know what changes we will be making. Talk about why we need sleep and how sleep helps our body do all the fun things we love such as running, playing and learning.  Let them know that we will be teaching their sibling to sleep and because this is new for them we might see some crying as they learn.  This is a great opportunity to talk about a time when something was new or scary for them,  how did they feel and what they did that helped.  Get some books for the library on sleep and talk about all the fun new things a baby or toddler will learn as they get more sleep throughout the day and night. Explain that they may hear their sibling cry but it’s okay, we are watching them and supporting them with this new learning and soon we will see it get easier for them. 

Use White Noise in Both Rooms 

Use a white noise machine in both rooms.  White noise can be natural from a fan or air purifier or you can download a free white noise app on an old phone or ipad or get a sound machine.  Use them on the connecting wall to help drown out some of those noises.  If your older child seems resistant to using white noise, involve them in the process of picking a background noise, start at a really low level and slowly adjust it up as they get used to it.  White noise is an easy tool to help them both sleep better ! It is important to know though that the only way children learn to sleep through each other’s noise is to let them practice. It’s okay if they wake each other, give them some time to practice settling back to sleep and soon everyone will be rocking that independent sleep. 

Practice What They Can Do If THey Get Woken Up By Their Sibling

 While this may seem silly, practice makes perfect.  Explain that they may hear their sibling and that is okay, model what they can do if they get woken up.  They can hold their stuffy or blanket, close their eyes, take some deep breaths or think of their favourite story to help their body go back to sleep. Practice with them at bedtime, have them pretend they were woken up and practice what they can do to go back to sleep. Building this confidence and skill will help if they do happen to get woken up. 

Schedule Bedtime For The Baby Or Toddler Who You are Sleep Training Before Siblings

It helps to start earlier with bedtimes those first few days. Plan baby or toddlers bedtime atleast 30 mins to an hour before their sibling.  Staggering the bedtimes will allow you to divide the attention to your new little one you are sleep training and hopefully have them settled so you can do bedtime with sibling.  Often this will also help baby to be settled and not crying when we put sibling to bed.  Having support as well the first couple days can be helpful so that one caregiver can support the baby and one can occupy sibling and provide some connection time to help them through the transition. 

Choose a Method That Supports Your Parenting Style and Family Goals

Each method has its unique positives and challenges, both in the time you may have to devote and how your little one might adjust. Choosing a method that fits your parenting style and your little ones temperament can be essential in making the process go smoother. Know that any method takes time and it is a skill they are learning, have patience in the process and that you have chosen the method that is best for your family.  Read more on methods and how they work here (link article below ) 

Be Confident in Your Choices 

When we are calm and confident in explaining things and in supporting your new little one in the sleep training journey everyone will feel that.  Take a deep breath, ask for support those first few days and know that you can get through it.  Sleep training is a journey but it is oh so rewarding when you have the first full night of sleep. Know that you are making changes that will benefit your whole family and the more you are confident in that, the more everyone will feel the same!

Sleep Consultant Jolan Holmes
Sleep Consultant Jolan Holmes
Jolan Holmes, B.A., E.C.E, R.C.C. and Certified Sleep Consultant lives in Anmore, BC with her husband and two beautiful boys. She has over 20 years experience supporting families and children with developmental, behavioural and mental health needs, as well as working specifically with little ones with sensory processing challenges and Autism. Jolan was certified as a Sleep Consultant through the Family Sleep Institute and trained as a Good Night Sleep Educator.

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