Skip to main navigation Skip to content
Please enter a search term

Sleep issues and parental exhaustion

Sleep issues and parental exhaustion

I read the article on sleep deprivation. I have a toddler and new baby, so can’t nap during the day. What strategies do you recommend for people like me? My eldest (2.5) stopped napping around 18months and has recently started being very wakeful at night (awake 2:30am until 4 or 5am) so I’m bouncing between the two kids all night as the toddler won’t accept my husband (she just escalates) and baby won’t take a bottle. We have no family nearby and my husband is often away for work too - I’m exhausted.


Two children under eighteen months certainly is hard work, especially with a new baby and active toddler who is exploring the world at a fast pace. We know babies, toddlers and mums need a rest and adequate sleep. A toddler can struggle with the invasion of a new baby taking all the attention away. Struggling wth these thoughts and also loving the baby at the same time.First step is the GP in case there are underlying issues.

A quote by Pinky McKay I remember well as a parent is ' give yourself permission to ease off and do whatever works for you for your self-preservation'. This might mean housework activities or picking up toys, go on hold to get adequate rest to find an answer. Sometimes sleep problems can increase as we try harder and harder to find the answer, stress levels can increase, and babies an toddlers tune into this.This will allow time to plan an approach and try a few ideas. Anni Gethin and Beth Macgregor support this by offerring ideas for self settling so you can settle your baby;

  • Understand how much both children need you at this time in their lives. Think about what they are trying to tell you.
  • Have soothing calming music playing in the house 
  • learn about your emotions and how to regulate them when you are feeling heightened
  • Develop empathy for both children. Try to understand why they are being so wakeful.
  • practice some deep breathing techniques (in fact a fun activity to do with a toddler are breathing games - e.g pretend to blow up the balloon with your hands breathing in, hold then pop - breath out)
  • Although hard to do try to see this time as temporary, parents survive and babies and toddlers will sleep
  • Notice what is happening in your body and any tesnsion
  • Remember how much you love both of your children, everything about them in those moments you are in aweof them.
  • Self talk, reminding yourself yes that it can wait until tomorrow.
  • Seek out and join a playgroup 
  • Find an early learning environement to book both children in, or just the toddler. 

Some suggestions,... knowing you may have tried some;

Start some routine rituals;

  • Routines are helpful. We do this, then this, then rest. Being routine rigid can also become stressful as babies and toddlers cannot tell the time, nor grow and develop by the clock. 
  • A bedtime story every night for the eldest, and have dad do this when he is home, lights low, soothing or low noise and child tucked in. If it is a favourite book and dad adds some character to the story, it will become a favourite time together. Some find an audio story helpful especially if the baby is in your arms at the time. It is still important to be with the eldest.
  • an afternoon rest time for all. This need not be a sleep for the toddler however they need to know it is a peaceful rest time listening to a story. You will find they may drop off to sleep.
  • some foods can cause wakefulness - you may try eliminating sugary drinks and food before bed or at lunch before rest time. 
  •  Find an activity you can enjoy with both children - for example a walk

Special Time with Partner

  • story time
  • a walk with the toddler
  • a farewell ritual when dad goes away as this can be tough understanding

It is important to introduce some regular rituals dad has with both children

There are many reasons why a baby or toddler wake often or have difficulty getting to sleep. Sometimes it is temporary  however if not it is best to consult a GP for further advice.Remember that staying as calm as possible at sleep time is important as you want your baby and toddler to go off to sleep knowing they are safe and all is well in their world.

Ann Gethin & Beth Macgregor (2007) Helping Your Baby to Sleep - Why gently techniques work best

Pinky Mckay (2006) Sleeping Like a Baby - simple steps for infants and toddlers

Marie Stuart

Marie Stuart

State Social Inclusion Coordinator QLD for Goodstart Early Learning

See more