How We Do Bedtime

How We Do BedtimeMy daughter was a rotten sleeper. When she was 8 weeks old we started a bedtime routine and clung to it like barnacles to a rock in the hopes that it might help her sleep. While I’m not sure it helped her, I do feel that it helped us. It gave us solid way to end the night after what was often a chaotic day.

Today, though, my daughter is 3 and is finally sleeping through the night regularly. This has allowed us to ease up on the strict routine and exchange it with something a bit more fluid. Even so, we still very much do have one.

At 7pm she’s sent to her room for a little independent play or playtime with Dad, who she typically doesn’t see until just before dinner. At 7:30 playtime winds down, she gets into pajamas and is sent off to the bathroom for one last use of the potty and brushing teeth. Then comes the one part of the routine that has never changed: all three of us settle down to read books. We have read to her, together, since she was far too little to understand. When she was a baby we had a futon in her room (for, you know, those nights when it’s just easier to sleep in there) so we would sit together and read to her. The futon was eventually replaced by a rocking chair, and now we all crawl under her bunk bed into her “reading nook.” We read two to three books and then she climbs up into bed.

Once there, she HAS to have her sip of water. If we forget, she’ll definitely let us know. Then she’s tucked in with one stuffed friend and ends the night with a story. Her favorite thing right now is that one of us tells her a completely made up story. Sometimes they’re stories about her adventures, sometimes they’re silly stories about our cat, and sometimes they make no sense at all. She doesn’t care, just as long as she gets a story.

Then, theoretically, lights go out and we’re done. Some nights she goes right to sleep, other nights (like tonight, as I type) involve a few trips back in as she struggles to wind down. Even so, nights are much easier and calmer than ever before. Now, I truly do feel that a routine helps her sleep. Since she’s older and understands what we’re doing, knowing each step and what follows really helps her move smoothly through the evening. Bedtime fussing is reduced, and on the nights when we accidentally miss a step, she has a harder time settling down to sleep. So even though we’re not as firm on the routine as before, I still firmly believe in its benefits.

Kate Cunha is a mother of one 3 year old girl. Sleep is a big deal in her house!

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