Toddlers and bet time routines

5 years ago

I’ll start this off by saying that I truly believe that good bedtime routines start almost as soon as the first night.  With Peanut we were cautious to teach her the difference between day and night the day we brought her home from the hospital.

The first few weeks, when the baby still breastfed multiple times during the night, we made small strides:  keeping the lights on, shades open, and didn’t protect her from many daily noises during the day; keeping the lights off or dimmed, shades closed, and limit the noise and interactions during the night.  It didn’t take Peanut very long to catch on and within a couple of days she started to understand the difference – knowing the we would keep her up to play for an hour or two when there’s daylight and that she was only up to eat, get changed, and go right back to bed during the nights.

After the first couple of weeks, Peanut was waking up once during the evening to breastfeed around 2am and sleeping soundly the remainder of the night.  We were in sleep heaven.

toddler bedtime routine

However, at 4 months it was as if some switched flipped and our little sleeper decided that she didn’t want to sleep anymore.  She began waking up regularly, crying for her pacifier, and getting her arms loose and free from the swaddle blankets.  We tried to let some time pass in hope that things would change, but a couple of weeks later Peanut was officially out of the swaddlers and keeping us up most of the nights.

That’s when we downloaded a copy of Ferber’s sleep training, wrote up our own schedule and routine, and went to work.  The transition wasn’t easy – we fumbled as we tried to take away the pacifier at the same time and changed our mind.  We adjusted our bedtime routine until our little P was happily drifting to sleep on her own.  But when we decided to do the sleep training, we were both 100% in and ready.  The whole thing took about 3 nights and we haven’t looked back since.

toddler bedtime routine

That’s not to say that we haven’t face a hiccup or two.  When Peanut is sick, she wakes and cries for a little while a couple of times at night.  We check on the video monitor to make sure that she’s ok and let her fall back asleep.  Some nights we watch for a couple of minutes as she cries and searches the crib for her pacifier and if she’s not having any luck, we’ll walk in and hand it to her.  This doesn’t happen very often and never after 9-10pm.  When we’re traveling and Peanut isn’t used to her surroundings, she’ll cry or whine for a few minutes when we set her into her portable crib and walk out of the room.  Those nights we let her cry and she will settle within 2-5 minutes on her own.  But overall, bed times haven’t been stressful and we’ve been sleeping soundly since 4.5 months.

toddler bed time routine

One of the reasons that I think we’ve been so successful is that we stick to a solid routine (one that’s evolved over time until we found something that works for us) and that we never, ever go in just because she makes a small peep.

Our routine is pretty simple and one that I’ve seen many parents use: dinner, bath, books, and bed.

Every day, pretty much regardless of whats’ going on, we all sit down to eat dinner between 6 and 6:30pm.  Unless we have dinner plans or are running really behind, Jon and I eat dinner with Peanut.  She loves the company and we found that she will eat better and more if we’re all eating the same thing at the same time.  With the exception of things like sushi, something super spicy, or dinners out, we also all eat the same thing.  Partly this is because it’s way easier for me (I honestly just do not have time to make everyone a different meal) and partly because she loves to eat what we’re eating.

Depending on what time we sit down, dinner is either immediately followed by bath time or there are about 15 minutes of television (Angelina Ballerina) for P to wind down and us to clean up.  At 7 sharp we start running the bath and P toddles her way over into the bathroom, ready for the next step.  Bath time is just about her favorite time of day, especially since she knows that it’s followed by her very favorite time of day – nunu time.

As an aside, I completely didn’t understand the whole nunu thing as a name for a pacifier until someone pointed out to me that it’s a brand.  Our daycare has called the paci a nunu since the day we started there when Peanut was 3 months old and we totally tried not to adopt it, but it’s too late. So now a paci is a nunu in our household.

At 7pm sharp the tot gets a bath with a ton of toys while one of us is reading a book or checking our iPhone.  It’s a great 15 minutes of full relaxation – unless someone throws water at you.  Then it’s way.

Bath time is over at 7:15 and we pull Peanut out, dry her, brush her teeth, give her Fluoride, and bring her to the bedroom to change to her night diaper and pjs and go to bed.  By 7:25 we’re in the rocking chair, reading 3 books (whomever didn’t give the tot a bath usually reads the books…unless there are some errands…then it’s a toss up).  At 7:30 we hugs and kiss the tot goodnight and put her in bed, fully awake.  We turn on the nightlight with music and projector, say good night, and take our spot on the couch.

toddler bedtime routine

And that’s that.

The Peanut wakes up and goes to bed whenever – we notice her playing on the monitor from time to time, but we never get her up before 7am or go in her room after 7:30pm.  It’s been our routine for almost a year and it’s been great.

If you’re interested in reading about an older toddler and a baby sleep routine, check out Marriage Confessions post.  And if she’s not in your reader, add her.  Like asap.  Seriously - she’s my favorite blogger ever.

What’s your bedtime routine? Do you or the toddler dictate the sleep and wake up time?

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