Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Early to bed

Uncommon Grace has written a beautiful post on her belief in a seven o clock bedtime, and how she organises her life to get there.

It got me thinking about our battles with bedtime, and our journey to a consistent and happy bedtime routine.

Right from when Munchkin was born I wanted to have a set bedtime, but for the first few months it wasn't to be. I've written before about what a sensitive and high-needs little person she is. I quickly discovered that while a sense of rhthym was something I strived for on a daily basis, but any actual routine was impossible.

She screamed in the bath, refused any attempts at infant massage. We tried white noise CDs, sleepy essential oils, baby calming homeopathic treatments, but she would have none of it. Sometimes she was so so tired her eyes would look like they were on stalks, and we would have to drive up and down the motorway with our Baby Mozart CD on full bore to get her to sleep - and even that wasn't failsafe. Sometimes we found that bouncing her quite firmly on our laps, facing outwards, while watching television (not very Steiner I know but desperate times) would get her off to sleep - she was so unpredictable.

Until she was turned one, bed time was anywhere from 6.30 till 10.00. Routine was not even in our vocabulary.

We wanted a bed time, but we knew that she wasn't ready for this level of external structure. You try putting a child to bed who is bouncing off the walls, or turning purple with rage at the idea that you might be 'winding down'.

So for us it was baby steps all the way.

Then finally, at around I think 13 months or so, I started taking her to bed each night, shutting the door, and reading stories, singing songs, nursing and cuddling, with the lights dimmed.

There was some resistance to this as she would try to bash the door down and collapse in my arms in tears at this new routine. But her protests were shortlived - she was finally at the age where she was ready for a more rhythmical bedtime.

Now some nights she takes my hand and leads me to her bedroom ... while blowing kisses at her Dad. She knows the drill.

So, our routine is a little different now from the common wisdom around bedtime routine.

For us, it worked to give her a bath before dinner, not after as seems to be the common wisdom. Bathtime is just too exciting, too stimulating for our sensitive little girl.

We have a bath around 4.45, and then dinner as a family most nights, at about 5.30. Then by 6.00 dinner is over and she has quiet play with her Dad, sometimes in her bedroom. At 6.30 its time for teeth brushing and bed time stories in bed with mummy, and lots of milkies. By 7.00 she is usually asleep.

So, if any of you are struggling with this whole bedtime routine, believe me, it does get better. I'd love to hear what your bedtime routines are.


Dawn said...

Oh my...that driving around with the baby Mozart C.D. brought back memories. That was exactly what we used to do with my daughter who's now nine! She's a great sleepernow and it's our son we have a harder time with. He has every excuse in the book on why he can't go to sleep at night...we've finally made peace with just giving him a basket of books, a soft light, and letting him look at books in bed until he falls asleep.

Maymomvt said...

Just to give you hope-- For Hels (12) I give her a kiss at 8:15 and at 8:45 start telling her to "finish her last page" so she'll turn out her light at 9:00. That's it :)

For Lou (9) we have a double bed for her. I climb in, read a chapter of whatever book we're reading, give her
"Four Corners" and either pass out with her (at which point Hels then reads all night) or say goodnight and leave. Here's the link to "Four Corners." Even Hels still wants it occasionally: ttps://

Henitsirk said...

We have had a lot of struggle over bedtime. We've kept pretty firmly to a bedtime between 7:30-8 pm. Earlier than the recommended 7 pm, but it's what works for us.

However we've not had very good success with bedtime routines. We've tried reading/telling stories, dim lights, singing lullabies...and they still don't really settle down very well.

Part of the problem is that I think my kids are growing/grown out of the need for naps, so that when they go to daycare and have naps, they don't feel sleepy enough at bedtime. That will change later this summer, thankfully.

I also think that at 4 and 5 1/2, my kids are moving past the "lulled to sleep" stage and are more in the "do it themselves" stage. I think we're going to have to start doing something like what Dawn described, which is what we've started at quiet time (no more naptime!) on weekends.

jenny-junebug said...

I honestly didn't have much luck either with setting bedtimes for young infants. Somewhere between 9-12 months a bath/story/bed routine seemed to fall into place. Of course, the arrival of #2 threw everything out of order. My biggest challenge these days is getting the two of them to settle down in the presence of each other. With two boys ages 3 and 18 months, they seem to feed off each other. My husband and I take turns doing the story/bed routine with each child. We alternate kiddies. At these ages, we've found most success in keeping the kids separate. Of course, when my husband is away, bedtime is a bit of a disaster! I wonder if this will get better as they age....anybody have any thoughts/experience?

Thanks for another great post!