Whether you have a baby, toddler, or an older child, bedtime is a common time of the day where we as parents, experience chaos.
Here's a short anecdote about bedtime from my own experience...
When I was a teen, my dad and step-mom had four kids in three years (twins were in the middle), and needless to say, their home was chaos at bedtime. When I was visiting one summer, and all the kids were in elementary school, bedtime was a nightmare. As in, I was personally afraid of that time of the day, and it wasn't even my problem.
This is how it went down.
The parent (my dad) tells the kids that it's bedtime, kids go running away from parent, jumped on the couches, and threw pillows back and forth.
10 minutes later, they were all screaming for a bedtime snack.
A few minutes later, back jumping on the couches.
Eventually, they were herded upstairs. Just imagine trying to get 4 hyper cats to go in one direction...yeah, it didn't work well.
Then the kids were all jumping on the beds, throwing blankets, PJs, pillows, and stuffed animals.
It easily took another 30-45 minutes to get everyone in PJs, teeth brushed, and sitting down for storytime.
And during storytime, there was always someone jumping from bed to bed, or yelling at a sibling, or throwing a stuffed animal.
You think that would be the end of it, but it wasn't.
Then it took several more minutes to get all four of them to actually stay in their room, and then in their bed.
The whole process was close to two hours.
I was seriously terrified. I saw my dad be completely exhausted and defeated every single night.
So maybe it's not that crazy in your home at bedtime. (I hope it's not because it was seriously nuts) But if there is even a small portion of chaos in your home when it comes to bedtime, here are some of my expert tips to help you.
Because bedtime should be easy(-ish).
Bedtime should be enjoyable (most of the time).
Bedtime should be no longer than 30 minutes.
Okay, let's get on with the tips!
Whip that bedtime routine into shape!
I often hear from parents how their current bedtime routine takes at least an hour, if not longer.
It's just too long.
You're likely missing your child's sleep window and dealing with a cranky baby, or a hyper toddler. Neither of them will go down to sleep easily because you've missed the sleep window.
So here are a couple of examples of a solid bedtime routine:
Bath, lotion, diaper, feed (keep them awake and actively feeding), PJs, book, and to bed awake.
Having a step or two between your baby's feed and the act of putting them to bed is key to allow them to fall asleep on their own.
Offer a snack every night before going up to get ready for bed. We then avoid the 'needing a snack' stall tactic if we deal with it at the beginning.
Bath, PJs, brush teeth, books (max. 3), a song, and then to bed awake, without assistance (ie. being rocked or having someone lie next to them to fall asleep).
Bedtime between 7 - 8, or it's too late!
Without going into a big scientific talk on sleep and how an early bedtime helps your child sleep better, let's talk about appropriate bedtimes.
7 pm (sometimes 6:45 pm) to 8 pm, is a great time to have your kiddos in bed. It allows them to have as close to a 12 hour night as possible.
Children, up till age 12, need 10-12 hours of sleep at night.
If your child is a 12 hour a night kind of kid, but you're only allowing for 10-11 hours a night due to a late bedtime, their sleep 'debt' accumulates quickly.
What that means is that your child will be chronically sleep-deprived.
Now you may not know that your child needs 12 hours. They may be sleeping a solid 11 hours plus naps. BUT if you don't have an early enough bedtime, you might never know.
When I work with clients, we slowly move bedtime around to find the sweet spot for that child. I've had clients whose child needed 11 hours, not 12, but we made sure of it before settling on the 11 hours.
My bedtime rules of thumb
If your baby is looking really tired while you are getting them ready for bed, then you need to start the routine earlier. Even just 15-30 minutes can make a big difference.
If they are looking very awake and alert, and you're seeing a lot of protests once they are in bed, then you may have to move their bedtime back a bit, even 15-30 minutes can make all the difference.
Know that some protest is normal. A lot of protests, meaning more than 20 minutes of protest or crying, means something is off and needs to be addressed.
Is your toddler really hyper at bedtime, and is taking more than 20 minutes to fall asleep?
Then their bedtime is probably too late.
I know it seems weird, as you look at your child and think "they just aren't tired", but actually, they are.
When toddlers are overtired, they become hyper. That should be a cue for you to make some adjustments to their bedtime.
Is bedtime still taking a long time due to requests? My general rule is that there should be no negotiating at bedtime.
Because it's hard to make it come to an end.
Get them their snack and sip of water ahead of time.
Get them to sit on the potty before bedtime, even if they say they don't have to go. Just say "Just in case any pee needs to come out, we just have to try!"
Have a limit of how many books you'll read, I suggest 3.
Is one parent more likely to give in to requests? Forward them this email...
I wish for bedtime to be an enjoyable experience (at least most of the time).
I wish for your kids to be well-rested.
I wish for you to have some much needed alone time, to work, to relax, to have a conversation with your partner, to recharge for the next day.
If you've done what you can and still feel like things aren't going the way you want them to. Let's talk. I'm here to help you, 1:1, to get things sorted out. Send me a quick message here.
Here for you,