Creating a successful bedtime routine has been a 22 month journey and honestly I'm not sure the journey will ever be over but rather ongoing. I'm sure it will change as the kids age and as our schedules change but right now we're doing what works for us at the moment. We have previously tried to set bedtime routines and failed, so I want to share with you how we did it, in hopes that it works just as well for you. The turning point for us was really just being ready, being consistent, becoming comfortable with them crying for a bit, because they are going to cry, and having patience.
A & S have slept in their cribs for well over a year and a half now but like most babies, they went through phases of waking in the middle of the night, not going to sleep for well over an hour and just not being the happiest babies they could be.There came a point several months ago that Silas became sick, we were tired, had become lazy with our consistency and we ended up bringing him to bed with us. This was after months of us not co-sleeping. Big mistake on our part. Of course he became accustomed to sleeping with us every night and enjoyed mama's cuddles. I'll admit I fully enjoyed the cuddles just as much as he did but I couldn't move. If I moved an inch, he was not a happy camper and that wasn't working for me. A mama's gotta move around some, get up and pee and attend to her other children in the middle of the night. Thankfully, my husband is great at co-parenting and took on the role of attending to A in the middle of the night and well I quickly learned that moving and going to the bathroom wasn't an option and things had to change.
I should mention that we've always rocked them to sleep as well, from day one we rocked them then put them in their beds after they were asleep. It worked for us for several months, we enjoyed the quality time with them and it's what worked for our family. Well, at 22 months that just simply wasn't working for us anymore. I was tired, my husband was tired, A & S were getting crankier at bedtime, waking every night and none of us were enjoying it. We had to change it up. We ended up transitioning their cribs into toddler beds back in October, at 19 months, best decision ever! Only thing I wish we would have done differently is transitioned them sooner. They love the gained independence. They climb in and out of them all day, jump in them and think they are so much fun! We'll deal with the bed jumping another time.
Part of getting a smooth bedtime routine going was creating a better routine from the time they wake up until the time they go to sleep. Now, now... don't run away just yet. I know what you're thinking... "our lives are too chaotic for a routine", " strict routines are ridiculous" etc. I promise we're flexible when needed, they aren't missing out on anything and life has gotten so much easier for all of us.
Our day looks something like this:
7:30-8:30am Wakeup & eat breakfast
Immediately following breakfast: morning routine
- sit on potty
- brush teeth
- change diaper
- wash hands
- lather with lotion
- get dressed for the day
- brush hair
9:30am Snack (if requested)
11:00am Eat lunch
7:15pm Give warning that they have 15 mins unti they have to get ready for bed
7:30pm Bedtime routine
- sit on the potty
- brush teeth
- change diaper
- wash hands
- lather with lotion
- get jammies' on
- read 3 books
By 8:00pm Lay them in bed, kiss them goodnight and leave the room.
The first 3 nights they cried for quite awhile, about 30-45 minutes. It was hard, probably harder on my husband and I than A & S but hard none the less. My advice to you, do not go in the room until you absolutely think you need to. Unless they've cried for an excessive period of time with no signs of giving it up, there really isn't a need to go in. Not only does it show them that you're not going to stick with the routine but it generally makes them more upset when you leave again.
You will know when the time is right, until then it's hard to be successful. I had to lock their door so they wouldn't get out and disrupt the routine from the get go (note: I highly encourage you to unlock the door before you go to bed, in the event of a fire etc. you will not want anything to prevent you from getting to your child quickly). The door lock didn't work long though, Silas figured out how to unlock it on day 5 during nap time. This put a damper on things but I just stand at the door and hold it shut if needed during nap time. I might add, they never cried out of fear but rather out of frustration. Fearful cries are always attended to immediately with hugs, kisses, cuddles and redirection.There were a few middle of the night cries that were definitely fearful cries and they we answered by going in loving on them for no more than a minute, laying them down and walking back out. Now a week later, when we put them to bed they go to sleep within a few minutes sometimes less than a minute! They aren't excited to be going to bed at this point but once we leave the room they're fine. They usually whine for a second but nothing serious. It's amazing ! If they come out in the middle of the night, we simply redirect them back to bed, this is less than thrilling at 2am but it does the trick and after about an hour they're back to sleeping soundly. I trust that these wakings will come to an end soon and we will be on the track to complete success. In the meantime, we will adjust accordingly.
Now, nap time on the other hand is a bit more challenging. It's light outside and their room isn't dark so they take quite awhile to fall asleep. I have accepted it, let them play until they decide to go to bed. Regardless of what they choose to do, they have to stay in their room for an hour. If at an hour they're still not asleep, which has only happened once with one of them, I go ahead and let them out of the room. Most days they're asleep within 15 minutes and sometimes as little as 5.
Be confident in your decision to stick to whatever approach you take and you will be successful! For us, letting them work it out themselves wasn't an option until now. None of us were ready for it, I strongly believe you will know when you're ready and that's such a wide range for each family. In order to be the best mama I can be, I had to create a better routine and it has resulted in greater happiness and better sleeping all across the board. I hope you feel the same once you find the right time to start a routine that works for your family.
Feel free to ask any questions! Good luck mama, you've got this. In the meantime, spend your days and evenings cuddling and loving on your little one's as much as possible so that the transition is easier on you all.