Thursday, June 19, 2008

Developing a Bedtime Ritual

Do you struggle to put your baby to sleep without nursing or a bottle? Is it an ordeal to tuck in your toddler at night? Do you find yourself returning to their bedside time after time each night?

We have been there and there is a better way. Although it's a refining process, and there will be ups and downs, developing a bedtime ritual will save you a lot of heartache in putting your children to bed at night.

Try to chose a time of night (or daytime nap) that is consistent with your child's sleep needs. If you try to put your child to bed too early, he will be frustrated by still needing to expend energy. And if put to bed too late, your child may be agitated and find it hard to settle himself down from exhaustion. Take note of when your child starts to become cranky. Is there a consistency from day to day? Try to put your child down 5-10 minutes before that crankiness each day. And remember to put a baby to bed when she is calm, but not asleep. This way she will learn to self-sooth and not depending on you to put her back to sleep when she wakes in the middle of the night.

Evaluate what you value. For our family, we value reading, dental hygiene, and some prayer time. So our bedtime ritual looks something like this:
  • Using the potty one last time
  • Snuggling up with 2-3 books with Mommy and Daddy
  • Brushing teeth
  • "Rock a bye baby" song
  • Prayers
  • Tucked into bed
The whole thing takes about 30 minutes which may seem like a long time, but it helps us accomplish all the things that we find important. And there are a few variations. When we're away from home, we can't do prayers in the rocker. But we still try to keep as many of the elements in place as possible.

Remember the comfort items. My son has a couple of lovies and a special blanket. While he'll always sleep better in his own bed in his own home, having these few select items with us makes bedtime easier. I can't count the times I've heard him say, "I want my lambie" on a long drive as he's ready to doze off in the car or climbing into bed.

If your child is in daycare, try to establish a naptime routine that is consistent with your childcare providers routine. Many daycare providers will darken a room, run a fan, or play music. Check with your child's teacher and work out a routine that will work for you.

And be consistent. It's hard on the weekends or those mornings when I really need to run several errands. But being as consistent as we can be with our kids pays off in dividends. We have happy, confident, secure child because of the time we've taken to be consistent and provide the predictability they crave.

So what will be a part of your bedtime routine?
Bedtime rituals work for me.

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