Bedtime Routines

As a midwife I spend a lot of time talking about newborn sleep and it can be shocking for new parents to learn that most babies won’t sleep through the night before they’re one and when I say sleep through the night I mean sleeping longer than 6-8 hour stretches. Newborn babies sleep about 2-3 hours at a time {MAX} and what you mightn’t know is that their sleep cycles are roughly 40 minutes long. At the end of each cycle they do wake - they might grizzle, groan or cry but don't go rushing in, just wait, because they might just do another sleep cycle for you.

Establishing a bedtime routine can be really helpful - I'm not promising longer sleep but I do promise positive sleep association. My son's are now 11, 5 and 4 and we've been performing the same routine for over a decade but with one small impactive addition, more on that shortly. I know that bedtimes are not always smooth sailing especially if we're tired or have things we'd like to do once they're in bed so I'd like to offer you my 5 cents {5 tips} on how to make bedtime a little easier;

  1. ESTABLISH A PATTERN - Work on developing a bedtime pattern from when your child is young, it might look a little like - dinner, bath, pjs, teeth, book, song, cuddle and lights out. When we keep it the same our little ones feel secure and they learn to know what's expected of them and boy, let me tell you - they will let you know if you've missed a step.
  2. WIND DOWN BEFORE BED - I'm certain that it's not just my boys that find their second wind after dinner and energy that I haven't seen all afternoon comes bubbling out of them. Sometimes I feel myself bubbling over because I'm trying to prepare them for bed and it's as if they've just slurped an energy drink. What I've found helpful is setting up an activity while they're in the bath without making a big fuss, if I make a fuss they're less likely to engage in it. I might lay out some colouring or set up a family game of Jenga or build the small train track and what I find is they come out and play calmly, they wind down.
  3. MAKE BEDTIME FUN {without winding them up}  - Make bedtime feel like a special time of day. My boys used to roughhouse with Jeremy before bed but I found that wound them up more or someone got upset and there were tears. Right now our fun is having a race to brush their teeth - our two little ones are COMPETITIVE and to avoid any more tears Jeremy and I always finish brushing their teeth at the same time, TIE! Get them involved, let them choose the book or the song.
  4. BE CONSISTENT - I've learned that consistency really is key for bedtime. I'm sorry to break it to you but I don't believe that keeping babies or children up late means they'll be more tired and sleep longer - I believe that good sleeps promotes good sleep so, consistent naps and bedtimes is what's required. 7.30pm is our magic bedtime number!
  5. GIVE 20 SECOND HUGS - I read somewhere that long hugs are better for you, they release oxytocin often referred to as the bonding hormone responsbile for making use feel good. When oxytocin is released it stimulates the exact opposite of stress, calming us down. So, how long does a hug have to last to release oxytocin? According to the internet, the answer is 20 seconds. For about a month now part of our bedtime pattern includes me hugging the boys for 10 seconds and them hugging me back for 10 seconds and I'm convinced long hugs are GOOD for you ♡

Image used with permission, thank you @angalie.watson

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