Since I posted about having a sleep routine on Instagram, I was inundated with messages so thought I’d share the intel here!
The phrase ‘good sleeper’ is one that makes me feel a little uncomfortable as it suggests that some babies are ‘bad’, which they are absolutely not! Sure, some find it a little trickier to settle at night/during nap time/always but these things can be learned.
Please note that I am by no means a sleep trainer or newborn expert. My advice is purely based on what worked for my own two children and may not be anything that you wish to enjoy with your own family, but I always get asked so it’s only fair to share! I’m one of those annoying people who you might avoid talking to at a Baby Sensory class because I smugly have sleeping children BUT I don’t believe this is just been through sheer luck – it’s all down to routine, good habits and consistency. Oh and a good selection of story books!
FYI: Did you know that if you read your child a book everyday up until the age of 5, they would have heard 1846 stories!?
Routine, routine, routine
I cannot stress how important I feel this is for children – not just for improving sleep but children (and adults!) are naturally creatures of habit and seem to be so much more relaxed when they can anticipate what is coming next. Erin and Rory both know that once I start preparing their milk, that it’s time to tidy up and will soon be bedtime. I’ll outline the usual routine but obviously a huge part of parenting is flexibility and what works for us might not work for you.
So Erin and Rory have their dinner sometime between 4.30-5.30pm. We try to eat as a family at the weekends but during the week, it’s practically impossible as Charlie doesn’t get home until 7.30pm.
Around 6pm, I get the children to ‘help’ tidy up. We have the IKEA Kallax units for toy storage which are ugly as sin, but make it easy to lob everything in at the end of the day. Even at just one year old, Rory is still able to get involved and loves putting things away in the boxes (and usually getting them out two minutes later). I normally give Erin a certain job to do, like collect all the DUPLO, for example.
Both children then have warm milk, while I run around and tidy up the rest of toys, wash up and feed the dog.
What happens once you’re ready to take them upstairs?
At 6.30pm, we go upstairs, brush teeth, and get Rory changed and ready for bed. We read a story together while he’s in his cot then I’ll lay him down with a muslin, that he uses as a comforter, turn out the light and leave him to it. (He would never have a dummy, as much as I tried to get him to take one!) He sometimes moans for a few minutes but is usually fast asleep by the time I’ve put Erin to bed.
Then it’s into Erin’s room for get her ready for bed and story time and usually that’s when she decides to have the longest conversation ever about everything in the universe to get me to stay in her room for a little longer! There’s no perfect parenting here though – she also has a muslin comforter and a dummy too. Yes, I know, she’s nearly 4 but you can’t win ’em all.
But what if they cry?
This might be an unpopular opinion, but they are not going to suffer from just being left for a few minutes. Obviously I am not advising to leave them being hysterical for hours but I would just go back in, try not to pick them up out of their cots/beds, but lay them back down, stroke their hair, sing them a little song, whatever it is to offer some comfort, then leave again. Eventually they will give up and personally I would take a few nights of hearing them moan, feeling like the worst mum in the world, knowing that every future night would be an easy bedtime, with happy, well rested children in the morning.
But when do you bath them?
I used to try and bath Erin in the evening, before bedtime, but I was still working then and picking her up at 6pm, rushing home with a tired toddler and that just wasn’t working out for us so now the kids have a morning bath. Not everyday mind as it dries out their skin, but usually as and when they need it. Bathing them in the evening meant they were so tired that they’d be grumpy and whingey when trying to get them out of the bath and ready for bed so now they enjoy their morning splash about together before Rory’s nap time – it works so much better for us.
Should I cut out nap time so they sleep at night?!
I vote no but again, I’m sure there are lots that would disagree. In my opinion, sleep breeds sleep. When either child has had a good nap during the day, they always sleep better at night. This could be due to the fact that children are demons when tired so trying to get them to sleep when they’re overtired and uncooperative is just not the one! Rory is just moving to one nap a day, rather than two, and currently this is based around nursery run times. As much as I’m an advocate of routine, the routine has to fit in with your other children and life.
So that’s it really… I know I make it sound so simple and it can be quite tricky to implement but just persevere and after a few days they should settle into a new routine. It only takes 3 days to learn new habits and unlearn old ones! Most of all, make bedtime a nice part of the day. Get children excited about choosing a book to read and their special time snuggling up with Mummy or Daddy at the end of the day. I’m always happy to talk through routines and sleeping a bit more so leave a comment or get in touch if you’ve got any questions.
But, what next…?