Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Bedtime Routine: A Bore and a Blessing for you.

A predicable bedtime routine is key in sleep training. It should be the same low key, warm cuddly activities at roughly the same time every night in roughly the same order. It starts to drive one up the wall after awhile but it’s all worth it that first night that you see gears turning in baby’s eyes and you can all but here them think “Oh! It’s bedtime now.” I remember the first night Sweetpea started rubbing her eyes when I began her bath. It delighted me to know all my work was paying off and she was starting to connect the warm bath with the forthcoming sleep.

I like to save the daily bath for the kick off to the bedtime routine. It's nice and warm and it helps them to relax. While sleep training I used a lavender scented baby bubble bath. It certainly doesn't work like the commercials promise (ha!) but anything that helps baby unwind is certainly welcome in my house. I don't use it anymore but the kiddos are sleep programmed so they don't need the extra fluff of lavender scented baths.

Every household will have a different routine they find comfortable. Here’s my bedtime routine for Longlegs and Sweetpea. Longlegs has long since been programmed so I feel more loosey-goosey with his schedule. While I feel comfortable that Sweetpea is sleep programmed I still don’t want to take any steps backwards so I keep her schedule trucking right along. "Don't watch the clock - watch your baby."... I remember reading that somewhere. Well, I watch both. It's been my experience that leaving the decision of when bedtime is up to the baby spells disaster because they like to fake you out and can mask their sleepiness. Then when you notice how tired they are getting it's all but too late and they've become overtired. And getting an overtired baby to unwind is T-O-U-G-H.

I like to start before they're even really tired. This gives us lots of time to decompress in a long bedtime routine. By the end of the routine they are just starting to get a wee bit sleepy. I've got our bedtime routine down to half an hour but it used to be about forty five minutes.

Bedtime is at 7:00pm for Sweetpea and shortly thereafter for Longlegs. (7:30pm)

6:30pm: I start running the tub. While that runs I gather all the necessary articles for Sweetpea’s rendezvous with the Sandman. Pyjamas, towel, bottle (all prepared and heated), pillows on the rocking chair. Honey bear (her lovey)… all there? Check.

6:30 – 6:45pm: Bath time for Sweetpea. Depending on how I feel sometimes Longlegs joins her. Sometimes he waits until after she’s in bed before I start on him.

6:45 – 7:00pm: Out of the tub. Dry off. Loving rubs. Pyjama time. Say goodnight to the family. Back into her bedroom. Turn out the light (but I keep the door open so I can still see via living room lamps) and have our night time bottle in the rocking chair. The buzz from the television doesn’t bother her. (In fact, my babies like to hear some muffled household noises as they go to sleep to let them know that Mom and Dad are nearby. It’s far more disconcerting to lay them down and subject them to total silence.)

7:00pm: Bedtime. I say her prayers, rock/burp her in front of the crib and lay her down, making sure to tuck Honey Bear beside her.

Then I do the same thing with Longlegs but replace the bottle with a sippy cup of milk and tack on a bedtime story (or two) at the end. I aim to get him in bed by 7:30pm but will accept 8:00pm if things are running slowly.

And there you have it. My night… every night. Same Mommy place. Same Mommy channel. It may be mind numbing some evenings but knowing that my babies are sleeping soundly in their beds, cuddled by comforting routines… I feel all the better for it.

And the games begin the next morning at seven a.m. No more sleep ins for this Mommy.

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