My absolute least favorite part about parenting? Bedtime. At my house, it’s not an enjoyable time of chatting with kids about their day, reading bedtime stories and giving kisses before tucking them in as they drift off to sleep. Instead, I feel like every night, after bath, we’re gearing up for battle.
Please note: I know I will miss these days eventually.
I know some people long for nights where they’re up with kids, but they’ve not been able to have children or have suffered an unthinkable loss. But in the moment, night after night, it’s sometimes just really hard.
It wasn’t always like this. My firstborn was sleeping through the night at seven weeks. I don’t know how we got so lucky. We were so thankful. But of course, that didn’t last.
Once he became a toddler, getting him to bed became a fight every single night. He’d climb out of his bed and stick his little hands under the door as he cried out “Mama,” over and over again. Sometimes, he’d fall asleep on the hardwood floor, and we’d have to carefully wedge the door open without scraping up his arm before placing him back in his bed. As he got older and was able to talk more, he’d stall in every way possible. How will we do this with two kids? I’d wonder. And then our second was born… and the older one seemed like a dream!
Our second son slept through the night the first night he was born… and I think that’s pretty much it. He’s 2 now, and still a terrible sleeper.
For most of our boys’ lives, bedtime has been solely my responsibility. My husband was third shift, meaning I put them to bed as he got a few hours of sleep before leaving for work. When Covid hit, he started working from home and often had our youngest downstairs with him as he worked on his computer. I finally got some sleep then!
We’ve tried sleep training, bedtime routines, comfort items, all kinds of night lights, sound machines, music, rocking, singing, adjusting nap time and bedtime, you name it… the list seems endless. Maybe something that didn’t work for us, works for you. But after talking with the pediatrician and other parents, here’s our list of “do’s and don’ts” that I hope will help you, too.
Co-sleeping did not work for us.
One of our kids wants to take up the entire bed. The other wants to sleep directly on top of me. It did not work for us to lay with our kids. I would always fall asleep, and it would be impossible to sneak back out of the room without them waking up. Sometimes, I’d end up downstairs at 3 a.m., watching The Office on Netflix as my youngest munched on animal crackers. Turns out, that was not a good idea either. That was a hard habit to break, with him asking “stairs” every time he’d wake up in the middle of the night. We didn’t do the cry-it-out method.
Our pediatrician recommended a very strict bedtime routine.
Same process, same time, every night. Once the boys are in bed, that is where they stay. Go in every 10 minutes, soothe them, put them back in bed and walk out again, repeat times a million.
So that’s what we’ve been doing. Bedtime routine starts around 6:45 p.m. with baths. Then they get a snack, watch a Bluey episode, and it’s time to brush teeth and get in bed. As I’m writing this, my husband is now on his seventh time putting our youngest back in his bed. I’ve already tried at least 10 times.
But does it work, you may wonder?
Yes. Once we have kept up that routine, it does work. But if someone gets sick or is teething, the routine is thrown off. There are times that we just can’t get home to start the process in time. We travel and go camping. Even the littlest thing seems to take a couple weeks to get back on track (and the pediatrician told us all about how it’s hard on kids). While it does work, it’s just not sustainable.
But we try. We do our best to keep our routine and hopefully limit the nights we are getting up and soothing a crying kid every 10 minutes for an hour.
What else can we do? Seriously, I’m asking… how do you do it?