You already know the basics: the routine, the schedule, the story. Yet, getting your adorable little one to bed can still a power struggle. Or may be you are still crosseyed after all nighttime awakenings. There are a few uncommon ideas that can help you make the “sweet dreams” process closer to your dreams instead of a nightmare.
1. Skip the bath fun
I love the long bath! So relaxing! But my first baby was getting too excited. It took him a really loooong time to settle back down. We ended up ditching the nighttime toys and bubbles in favor of a quick shower and filling bath with toys in the morning. Worked very well for me: he was happily splashing right in our master bedroom bathtub, as I we were brushing our teeth and getting ready right next to him!
2. Avoid Milk before Bedtime
A glass of warm milk contains some special sleep inducing pheromones. For my baby it is a must. For his two brothers – a big no-no! How come? A lot of kids (little and pretty big!) are getting woken up by their bladder at night. Even the babies in diapers can getting their sleep disturbed as they are wetting their diapers or even worse – getting a diaper change. Splash a thick layer of baby lotion on those yummy baby bottoms, get a good nighttime diaper (I know a mom who managed to put on two!), and consider skipping liquids before bed.
3. Dim the lights!
We have heavy curtains. And blinds. I’ve recently seen some research that extra lights even clocks or phone charging blinkers) disrupt brain‘s resting time. We skip the nightlights, but when the bedtime problems get out of the way, we tend to actually keep the curtains slightly open – it is easier for the older ones to wake up once there is light in the room; and it is easier for the us to put them to bed during the time away from the house, if they are not used to perfect conditions. But that’s later. At this point we need to take every step making it easier for the little one to fall asleep.
4. Let baby pick the time
I always tried to put kids to bed as soon as my husband was home, to let them spend some time with Daddy. When we realized we need major changes to our bedtime routine to start getting some consistent sleep at night, time was the first adjustment. Babies are generally like little roosters: they prefer going to sleep early and waking us up at dawn. Doesn’t sound too enticing? Worth the trouble – they are more rested, fall asleep easier and sleep better during the night..
If you try to push their bedtime to a later time, most likely your little one will wake you up much earlier than usual: it is a lot harder to fall asleep and stay asleep when you are overtired. I know parents who have had great success putting their kids to sleep at 7pm, 6pm, even 5!
Watch your little one for the signs of getting tired: yawning, rubbing the eyes, rubbing their noses, or the opposite – getting more irritable and jumpier. Some little ones tell you straight away by rubbing their eyes and getting cranky. Some actually get more energetic (mine for some reason bounce off the walls, whenever they feel tired)! Their movements tend to have some air of frantic motion.
Determine the best time for your baby and STICK TO IT.
5. Get a good reason to leave… and come back.
This is our best one.
It is important to leave before your baby is completely asleep. While I am strongly against Cry It Out approaches, I believe that kind methods eventually of teaching baby to fall asleep without your help is crucial.
How to do it without leaving the baby to cry? Packing up some patience, doing it slowly, tiny step at a time.
At first it is hard (especially if you vowed never to use Cry It Out methods, like we did). We use tricks: Mommy needs to go to the bathroom! Mommy needs to bring you your teddy bear! Mommy needs to feed the cat! I step out, and in a two seconds (literally!) come back inside. Not enough time for the bathroom trip, but it doesn’t matter: at first your little one needs to learn that you’ll ALWAYS come back. No need to cry, yell, wake up in the middle of the night terrified. If you said, you’ll come back, he is not stuck in this bed until morning: you’ll come back right away, as you promised. Or if he calls you. I strongly believe that this confidence helps them feel more relaxed and sleep better at night. And, again, every time I get stay outside of longer, longer, longer.. shorter, than longer again…