Establishing a Bedtime Routine
I’ve decided to do a series of posts for all you new parents out there. You are not a part of the public education system yet. But time will go much faster than you think… I’m sure you’ve heard this many times from veteran parents like myself and it’s true!
My girls are now ten, and doing the math, my husband and I figured out our girls are now well past the half-way mark of time they’ll be living with us before they go off to college. (Talk to parents of college-age students and it will make you teary eyed!) That said, this post is for all the future public school moms and dads out there… these posts are FOR YOU!!!
I remember those first few months/years as a new parent. I fantasized about the day I’d bring my girls child to kindergarten and have hours of uninterrupted time to wash clothes, pay bills and buy groceries. (This may not sound very exciting to those without kids, but any new parent understands you take what you can get, right?) I dreamed of showers that lasted more than 10 seconds and yearned for the day I could take a poo without getting interrupted (I know it’s gross, but it’s it must be said).
We all understood that when we deicide to have kids, we’d be giving up more than a little independence. We’re OK with that. Nonetheless, more important than any desire to do our own thing is the biological necessity to get sleep! I mean, how can you be the “best mommy in the world” when your so bleary eyed, you can’t even see straight?
I’m no expert on the sleep thing. But as a mother of twins, you can definitely call me a survivor. And when I say survivor, I mean it. Not getting sleep IS TORTURE.
I remember how I woke up one night to the cries of a crying newborn after getting only 20 minutes of sleep and mumbling to my husband, “Didn’t we already fed her?” He promptly replied, “That was the other one.” :/
With this story in mind, you will understand why getting our girls to sleep was my number one priority in life as a new mom. (Let’s just say, we were definitely NOT going to try the “family bed”.) In the early days we had a co-sleeper attached to the side of our bed to make feedings easier–which my husband aptly named the “no-sleeper”. Needless to say, as soon as the girls were old enough, we made the move to cribs and haven’t looked back since.
So, it goes without saying, the greatest gift we ever got as new parents was advice from our nanny on building a nighttime routine to help our little ones go to sleep. Interestingly enough, through the years our routine has obviously shifted as my girls have grown up. Nonetheless, many aspects have remained the same. In fact, no matter what crazy times we’ve faced (and we’ve definitely faced a few!) we all look forward to this special time during the day to slow down and be together before sleep.
Tips for Setting a Bedtime Routine
With this in mind, I’d like to share a few tips on establishing a bedtime routine that gets your kids (and YOU!!!) to sleep:
Establish a “runway” for sleep
Don’t expect your baby, toddler or child for that matter to be ready to sleep the moment you plop them in bed. Kids bodies, like adults bodies need physical and emotional cue to signal the mind that it is ready to go to sleep. We usually start our bedtime routine an hour – 45 minutes before bed.
Grown ups may be able to function with a little more flexibility in their schedules. Nonetheless, kids do best when we stick to regular schedules. Figure out what works best for your family and try to stick with it. If you decide that 8 o’clock is good bedtime, stick with it. the more consistent you are the easier it will be for your baby/child to habituate to this schedule. Having a set time is also a great way to prevent arguments about bedtimes when kids get bigger. You just say, “Eight o’clock is bedtime!” like it’s the word of God. It’s just a fact. No sense in arguing with that! (As a former teacher, a bedtime checklist are a great way to go. Check out my post and other downloadable checklists here!)
Limit screen time
Research shows that electronics can overstimulate our brains. In that regard, I always notice that my girls don’t seem as ready for sleep when we watch a movie just before bedtime. Try to preserve at an hour before bedtime free from the screen, including smart phones and tablets as well as television screens.
Bathing is a great way to get mellow
Babies love bath time. It’s a great way to get warm and snuggly before bed. Even though babies might not need to be bathed every day, if you are trying to get your bay into a regular sleep schedule, I’d highly recommend it. Kids, on the other hand may not need bath time every night. Nonetheless, we all need to wash faces, brush teeth, etc.
Read to me!
Even though my daughters are now ten years old, reading time continues to be our most special time of the day. Research shows that children whose parents read to them have a head start on language and literacy. They also love cuddle time with Mom or Dad. Even little babies respond to the sound of their parents voice as they are being read to. If you want your child to be a good reader, this the the number one thing you can do to help them. And as far as I’m concerned, when kids get older, there is no reason to stop. In fact, when I was undergoing chemo to treat cancer, this was the one routine I made an effort to do not matter what. And, when I was too tired, my girls came into my room and read to me.
Music for babies
My girls don’t listen to music anymore, but when they were little it was an important part of our bedtime routine. It made them feel safe when I kissed them goodnight and closed the door. In fact, there was one CD in particular that we had to play for bedtime. The familiarity of the lullabies, lulled their little eyes to sleep. Check out my Pinterest board here.
Silly kisses and hugs … and lots of them
I didn’t grow up in a family that did a lot of kissing and hugging. I knew I was loved conceptually. Nonetheless, little kids define being loved in very physical ways. Make sure your kids feel loved by giving them lots of hugs and kisses throughout the day, and especially at bedtime. Bedtime is a great time to share appreciations for your child. Tell him or her what you love about them, how you are proud of them, why they are special. Bedtime is also a fun time to share love in fun and silly ways. We went through a period where we gave all kids of kisses: Eskimo kisses, butterfly kisses, kitty kisses. We also used to blow each other kisses filled with amazing deserts (“I’m sending you a big mountain of chocolate ice-cream filled with marshmallows and topped with a big pile of whipped cream!”) Our latest silly good-night routine is competing to out-love one another. (“I love you more than sunshine!”)