I love to hear about a good bedtime routine. Some of my clients reveal the spa-like services they offer their sleeper, other reveal the threats and/or bribes they issue right before bed. Some are anxious about how bedtime will unravel, dreading the tears and the multiple trips back and forth from crib to kitchen and back again. Others have given up; curling up on the floor of their sleepers room with an ipad for company.
In the end, we all share the common task as parents, we need to get our baby, our toddler, our 1st grader ready for bed, pretty much every night. We read, brush teeth, bathe, bottle, massage, sing, nurse, pacify, and more. It is a lot of work, and I get pretty sick of it some nights. Actually, I keep pausing to write this, because we are away for the weekend and the novelty of the new room is a little too stimulating for two sisters, and I keep hearing cries for me.
I have finally become resigned to my fate - or maybe I gave up long ago, but I have decided to shift some of the bedtime routine to my respective sleepers. I don't mean that they will have to file up the stairs singing so long fare well like the well behaved Von Trapp children. Rather I need to think, and you can too: how can they do a little self-soothing to prepare for sleep with parental guidance rather than direct involvement.
Here are some of my ideas based on recent experiences with clients:
1. Do you have a baby or toddler who loves the bath? Let them swim! Sign them up for swim class during the day, take them for a dip at a neighborhood pool, or find a kid friendly fountain (Natural History museum anyone?). This doesn't have to happen before bedtime, just some point in the day. If you can't swing a day swim trip, do a big play bath. Also don't start the bath when your baby is melting down. Try to time it a full hour before bedtime.
2. Heavy lifting - babies and toddlers are furiously working on understanding their bodies and how they work. Let them push furniture, carts, piles of toys, and so on. They like to feel weight and the success of using their bodies to alter their landscape.
3. Let a baby/toddler/even older child carry a task out to fruition. Think how good you feel when you get something accomplished - like bedtime:) If your toddler is working through a puzzle or a block tower, let him complete his task. If your baby desparetely wants to roll, practice, practice, practice, helping her to realize her goal.
4. Figure out and respect independent self-soothing skills, from head pushing, pressure seeking activities, to the need to roll around and thrash around in the crib. Let these sleepers scratch their itch so to speak.
5. Create a womb-like environment as you prepare for bedtime, give your child pressure on both sides of his body, sandwich him in between you and the arm of a chair, or between you and a pillow. Give his body pressure as you carry out your routine tasks. Diapering, teeth, bottle and so on, can be supplemented with strong consistent pressure, pats, squeezes to help your baby unwind.
6. Last but not least, work with your child's sleepy cues. If he is tired, but his bedtime is 30 minutes away. Go with the tired not the clock; it usually is a win win answer every time.
Keep your eyes on your sleepers, they often have good instincts ... they just need a little independence.