Some parents look forward for their kids bedtime knowing that it would go smooth and soon after their kids would be charging energies for the next day. For others, is the most challenging part of the day, it comes with tears, screams sometimes for both parties included. If you are in need for some tips when creating the routine, or yours doesn't seem to work quite yet, have a look to these proven and tested secrets of an effective bedtime routine:
1. TIME IT
Check how many hours your child should be sleeping per day. If your child is still taking naps, calculate that the time between his last nap and bedtime doesn’t exceed 4 hours, that way he is not too tired to sleep (yeah, that IS possible!). Also, take time aside for the bedtime routine; you don’t want to end up with an over an hour routine or rushing things up in 10 min. Half an hour should be fine.
I would like you to take a look at what happens before the bedtime routine. Probably there is dinner and while you are cleaning up the kitchen the TV is on, the kids are playing video games, or they eat watching Curious George on the tablet, then you put them in bed and takes ages for them to finally give up to sleep.
But what if one day you don’t get the same response? What if your child says s/he needs an extra hug just after you left his room? I mean they need your hug, why would you deny it, right? Then you set your limit and the way you will respond. If you say “this is the last time I’ll…” You need to mean it! And mean it for real. Or else your child would insist in trying to discover how many more times can they get out of bed and delay sleep time.
Who should you empower? Your kids! By creating a routine they feel comfortable with, they’d feel in control of. Knowing what to expect gives them control. Talk and describe what is happening and what is next (yes, even if your baby is just a few days old). As your child is growing-up you can let them switch of the light on the way out of the bathroom, choose the pijama they would like to wear or the book they would like you to read. Keep it easy and accessible, two options at the times is enough.
Do it by reading a book ...or well 3 books in my case. Or by nursing and caressing his ear, by playing with their toes or braiding their hair, meditating, do breathing exercises or giving a massage before saying your prayers together. Scientists assure that a strong parent-child tie provide the baby’s first model for relationships and cultivate a sense of security and self-esteem. Tell them how much you love them, how much they meant to you, how proud you are of who they are.
6. WRAP IT UP
Every day before I went to bed I would like to replay what I’ve done for that day (mostly images; laughing or crying; new things my kids tried or how tired I was by breakfast :). There were highlights and there were bad moments and I started realising how on some days with difficult experiences it was harder to let go and get in the mood to sleep.
I realised Lu had difficulties letting go and was worst after a special event, e.g. when her sister first birthday came, Lu wouldn't sleep, she would cry and shout “pa-r-ty paaa-r-ty paaa-r-ty!”. When I started using it with my girls the response was amazing: Her eyes would pop up as if knew what she was thinking. While we help them to get dress for the night I would go with a really calm voice something like: “Today was a long day, Today was Lala’s birthday, we put up some balloons and Nanna came over, we read some books, sang and played. You helped daddy prepared the cake, umm the cake was so good wasn't it?"- Keep in mind what catches your child’s attention during the day, this more probably will be part of one their night dreams; Lu would screech “caaaake, caaaake! - Yes, at dinner time you got a bit upset because we couldn’t find your blue plate. You had so many emotions. - look at your child’s face, offer empathy and a hug if needed-. Then we sang happy b-day and you helped Lala to blew the candle, how much fun we had! - and we went to the bath, got all cleaned and now it’s time to rest. It’s been a long, great day! now sun has gone to bed and it’s our turn to do the same, a hug, I love you, I will put you in the bed now”. The acknowledgement of their emotions at bedtime gives a feeling of closure and it helps to make a smoother transition into a good night’s sleep.
Trust your child, your baby, your toddler, a capable human being. Sleep is a learned skill and I invite you to trust that your child is able to learn that skill. Place your newborn drowsy but awake in bed. Those first months you might need to use some rocking here and there which is fine, but try to do it just half way, until they are calm and in drowsy stage so they can work in learning the skill. After the big 4th/5th growth spurt the transition is usually easier and soon they would learn the skill. If you have a toddler who is still rocked to sleep you might need some extra tips, but you don’t need to give up your night sleep for it. Ask for help!
Trust also yourself! You are capable to offer your child the opportunity to learn. YOU ARE the best expert in your child and by observing you are able to detect patterns that might be keeping him awake. Trust your instincts and if you believe there is a medical reason, have your Doctor check it out since some sleep disturbances can be caused by medical conditions and not just behavioural.
What is your favourite bedtime secret?
Wishing you sweet dreams,
Daniela S. Mendez
I've been blessed with two girls that have been my best school and inspiration. I know what it feels to have your whole life affected for lack of sleep, to be too tired to function! Now as a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach® my goal is to help your family to have the sleep you deserve.
Contact me to grab your proven and excellent quality sleep advise!