Sunday, August 14, 2011

Developing a Bedtime Ritual with Baby

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 is part of your bedtime routine?


Unknown said...

Oh, I loved this post! We've only got a 5 month old, but his routine for bedtime is crucial! We were so blessed with an "easy" baby - he was sleeping through the night (9-11 hours) by the 2nd month, but we still implement a routine! Bath, 1-2 books and prayer time, lullabies and warm bottle until he is sleepy...then into the crib he goes! Now, Mommy needs a routine! Seriously, I think I need to develop a little ritual like his to calm my heart/mind and tell my body it's time to rest. Hmm - maybe that should start with getting off the IS midnight! :) Thanks for a great post!

The Blonde Duck said...

As a lady who is planning on starting a family soon...what time is a good bedtime? I've head everything from 6-9 p.m.

Erica said...

Love your post! Thanks!

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Lee said...

I've sort of stumbled into this one. I'm a night owl and don't like to get up early so my kids go to bed around 8 pm. They sleep an average of about 12 hrs and have for years. And this is with naps too. My 6 year old is up @ 7 and my 3 year old would sleep till 8 if I let her. Some kids need a little less sleep so try out a time and see what works for your child. Now both take a little time to settle down when I put them to bed, but I figure that's good too. They're just settling their minds and learning to fall asleep. Remember it's not set in stone. You can keep adjusting till you find a time that works for your family.

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