Bedtime routines can be quite tricky to get the hang of. Some children literally don’t want to sleep and others ask to go to bed. But we all need our sleep and we all do what we can to survive. Whether that be driving around the block for 20 minutes so they fall asleep in the car, reading 20 stories until their (or your) eyelids droop, or letting them splash in the bath for hours on end.
One thing I suppose you can take from this post, and all our posts during #sleepweek is you most definitely know your baby best. What methods and tips work for your family, might not necessarily work for the next, and we’re all just doing our best.
The boys absolutely thrived on their bedtime routines. Bath, bottles, stories and lights out. I’m not going to lie, Rob & I did too. We needed that time in the evening to re-energise for the next day, and to tidy up after them! Now they are older we definitely miss spending time alone together in the evening as the boys are often awake until late.
We’ve definitely tried to follow the same bedtime routine with Anabelle but have had to be a lot more flexible as the boys are often at clubs until late. Sometimes bedtime is 8pm, sometimes it’s 9pm and sometimes it is as late as 10pm if she’s napped in the car when we’ve been picking the boys up from said activity.
All of them however have been amazing sleepers and once lights are out, kisses and cuddles given, have all gone to sleep no problem.
We have in the past sleep trained each of them at some point. But that is because we’ve known they can do it, and were just slipping into a habit of relying on us (each time after they’d been poorly and we’ve allowed them to share our bed). I appreciate that sleep training isn’t for everyone, but the times in which we did do it, we personally couldn’t have coped if we hadn’t. I know the thought of letting your little one cry sounds heartless, but I assure you none of them were in major distress, and just needed a little encouragement they could do it by themselves again. It also wasn’t a full on cry it out for hours approach. It was a small interval leave the room, then come back to sooth for a short while before leaving again approach. Each of them got the hang of it quite quickly and after an evening or two were back to getting themselves to sleep independently again. I definitely feel the intermittent soothing helped as they didn’t feel totally abandoned.
Again I know this approach isn’t for everyone, and I’m not saying you should definitely try it. But if you get to a point where you NEED your sleep and feel something needs to change it’s ok to consider this option too. That’s not to say it’s fail proof. I have friends who have tried this on both their children. One adapting really quickly and the other never grasping it at all.
I didn’t really start doing a bedtime routine with Elle until she was three months old. Since then we’ve always done bath time and then feed or cuddle to sleep. Although she’s been through phases of wanting to have a later bedtime, of waking up during the night and of sleeping through (all dependent on teeth, sleep regressions etc) I always stick to bed and bath. I think the most awkward phase we’ve been through was when Elle stopped breastfeeding, as my fail safe way of getting her to sleep was completely taken away! For a good few months I’d have to lie with her on our bed and then transfer her to her cot once she was asleep. Now she’s 20 months, we have a couple of bedtime stories, and then it’s into her cot to lie down. I always sit with her, and hold her hand – she’s never been one for falling asleep on her own. Depending on how tired she is, dropping off can take anything from 10 minutes to an hour…we’re currently enjoying the ‘throwing everything out of the cot’ phase. But I wouldn’t change how we’ve done things – yes bedtime for us is quite a commitment but she still needs that reassurance. And, on the whole she’s a great sleeper. I think there’s a huge amount of pressure on people to not ‘make a rod for their own back’ and get their little ones dropping off in their cots happily singing to themselves, but I’m a firm believer in doing what works best for you.
Right from an early age we tried to introduce a bedtime routine. Not because I was adamant they would fit a routine (they didn’t till about 4 months) but because it gave some structure to my otherwise chaotic day, especially when Alice arrived. At 6 we head upstairs for bathtime and they have a good 20-25 minutes splashing round.
Now they are older (3 and 4) we tend to only do baths every other night and sometimes a shower in between but they still much prefer the bath and copious amounts of bubbles. Pjs on and we head downstairs for cuddles. The girls no longer have milk (they refused when I took their bottles away) but we still snuggle down on the sofa and they watch a bit of a film or a few of their favourite programmes. I know some people say no TV before bed but it has always worked well for us. Then just before 7 we head upstairs for teeth cleaning and a wee wee. The girls both get a story each and they either have these in their rooms or as a treat in mummy and daddy’s bed. Lights go off and then I normally don’t hear another peep.
It was a little bit more chaotic when Alice was a baby as she would often scream as I was trying to read Molly a story and then just became a mischievous toddler.
We’ve had issues, such as when we took Molly’s dummy off her, as she could no longer settle herself and was up and down the stairs about 100 times and was often not asleep till 10ish which was awful. We’d have to sit with her until she went to sleep. Eventually that changed and she went back to dozing off by herself. Alice is the complete opposite and NEVER gets out her bed. She still calls me despite the fact she can get out herself.
Luckily they are both amazing sleepers nowadays. Now Molly is at school I find bedtime is slightly earlier whereas it used to sometimes be more like 7 30/8 as she waited up to see Daddy. We do let them stay up occasionally at the weekend but if it’s much past 8pm we pay for it the next day with two grumpy girls.