Bedtime and sleep. Two of the most talked about and probably Googled topics on parenting! There is nothing more difficult than battling night times and sleep, and over time the sleep deprivation builds up!
If you have been following me for a while on my YouTube then you will now that I am a gentle parent and practice a lot of attachment parenting. Depending on age and how the boys are, we do on occasions co sleeping and bedshare in the early years. However, we have always been quite firm with bedtime. I wouldn’t go as far as saying strict as that is not a word I like, but rather establishing set habits early on in a gentle way. And for both of our boys, so far it has worked.
I have needed it to work, because 99% of time time I am doing bed time alone due to my husbands job. I need time to myself on an evening and I have managed to achieve this fuss free.
I would say do this as early as you can. For me it was pretty much from 6 weeks with my eldest as I will go on to explain. Unless Poorly or going through a sleep regression, both children now settle on their own to bed. My 4 year old son Sebastian kisses me goodnight and rolls over to sleep. He has done this since he was very small.
1. Once upstairs, there is no coming back down!
It was actually a health visitor who told me this. Probably the only one I liked and ever saw when my eldest was a tiny baby! She said that once I took Sebastian upstairs at around 6.30, it was bath, story, feed and bed and no coming back down.
I have a large group of friends who are parents. On a recent discussion, the ones who said they took their children back downstairs are the ones who said that they struggled to get them in bed or who fussed. I know this isn’t always the case, but a few of them tried the no-back-down method and it changed everything for them.
Children know that bedtime is their only option and won’t try and push the boundaries as easily.
2. Bath is symbolic and not just to get clean!
We have noticed more of a struggle to settle the boys if they don’t have a bath. Because they have had one every night since they were small as part of their evening ritual, when they go without it feels like something is missing for them.
Bathing for some can seem like it is over stimulating perhaps but actually we found that this actually helps. The boys do splash about and have fun, and it seems to release that last bit of energy. Once out there can be a lot of running about and chasing them . But as soon as nappies are on and in bed ready for a story, I notice the eye rubbing and yawning!
When they go without a bath, they don’t get this and it takes longer to get them to that point. We use Aveno Bath Emollient as our water is very hard and they don’t bath for longer than 10 minutes.
3. Decent black out blinds and dim lights
Just before I take the boys up, I put up all the black out blinds and turn on the lamps. Especially in summer, they go from a light day lit room up to a nighttime feel environment. Some say I am excessive with my blinds but it works! We tried Gro Blinds and while they are brilliant especially for travel, I did feel they it was a pain to take up and down each day for me. So I got Easy velcro Blinds. These are black out fabric but on velcro and so easy to rip up and down and stops all light! We also have normal curtains and roll blinds on top of that!
You can even get hooks to roll them up and down! This has been sometime that we are really glad we have done and really helps on those early summer mornings and light evenings.
4. Start early but don’t expect too much
This routine or method works best if you start it early on. Sebastian didn’t have colic and I was able to get him into this routine from about 6 weeks. My youngest Albert had colic so was down with us until about 11 weeks when we were then able to put him to sleep before 9 and gradually brought that time back to 7. We just went with the flow but as soon as they were ready, we were consistent. And we have been ever since.
There will be hurdles. Especially during sleep regressions. We found the worst one for bedtimes being the 18 month and 2 year one. We have struggled then but it ends within a few weeks. For that I just sit with them until they go to sleep and also do the Pick up, put down. Meaning if they cry when I leave the room, I pick them up with a gentle shushing noise and then out down. It is hard and takes time but is more gentle than crying it out. Cry it out,controlled or even timed crying is something I won’t do, but also not at all suitable during a sleep regression which is developmental.
5. Adapt with age.
As children get older they will need things adjusting. For example, Albert is 18 months old and is currently going though a hard sleep regression. He has started crying if I leave the room so I need to stay with him until he settles off. I am happy to do this as it won’t be forever and gradually will start to leave the room once he comes to the end of the regression. My eldest did this at 18 months and again at the age of 2 ( another regression!).
Sebastian will sometimes sit and read his book in bed or play a game on his iPad while he waits for me to settle the youngest. I limit this time but it gives me that chance to put the youngest one down before him. Sometimes I do it the other way around, it all depends on how they are on the day.
He has always been an early riser so he has a Gro Clock and is not allowed out of his room until the sun comes up at 7. He often wakes before then go to the loo or simply because he is awake, but he will read until it is yellow. If it is very early, I go in an encourage him to to back to sleep, explaining that he will feel poorly and grumpy if he doesn’t.
Making sure they have full tummies is essential. Either milk or a nice evening supper of cereal/toast can help. We find this helpful as sometimes the time from dinner to bedtime can be 2 hours if we eat at 5.30.
Also make sure they are not overtired! If they have skipped a nap or napped less, put them to bed 30 minutes to an hours earlier. It may seem odd but sleep promotes sleep.
I do hope this helps and please do message me on how you get on if you decide to try these tips. I would say be flexible with them and again adapted them, But generally I think consistence is key.