Reader Meg (for those of you on Offbeat Tribe, you can find her here) shot us a question about a certain time of the night that can be quite a challenge for parents–new and experienced alike–THE BEDTIME ROUTINE.
(DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUN)
In all seriousness, I am excited to address THE BEDTIME ROUTINE (I’ll stop doing that now) because getting Jasper to go to sleep has been an epic experience. I don’t want to call it a battle because that implies that it’s been something negative, and I wouldn’t go that far.
Specifically, Meg asked: “I was wondering if you would consider tackling one of the most (in my opinion) fraght with judgement and conflict mommy topics out there…the dreaded bedtime. As someone stuggling with the topic (and the actual deed) I would love to see this handeled in a manner outside of the catty birth board dichotamy that is all I have seen so far in my extensive searching of the interwebs.”
Anyone who has tried to get a resistant sleepy child to go to sleep knows that there’s not one cut-and-dry approach to take. There are a few dominant models for what to do once your child is asleep (i.e. CIO vs. attachment parenting), but that’s not what we’re talking about today–we’re talking about what takes place BEFORE you get into bed.
In a nutshell, here’s the experience my answer is based on: we co-sleep, breastfed around-the-clock until two weeks ago (meaning Jazz nursed all night LONG), and have a child who really digs going to sleep while nursing and/or rocking. I have made up different songs to sing him to bed (it helps when your child has six names, because you can sing them all as a nursery rhyme), all of which will work, depending on his mood. Also, unlike some of you INSANELY LUCKY PARENTS with wonder-babies who fall asleep as soon as someone says car, Jasper didn’t fall asleep in any kind of vehicle until he was ten months old.
Having said that, here are some tips and tricks:
- If you have a rocking chair, ROCK. Jasper is a rocking addict now, but the chair was the only thing (besides breastfeeding) that would work for the first ten months of his life.
- If you sing…sing, SIIIIIIING (OMG, Travis. Sorry, guys). For real, though: songs are integral to a good night’s sleep for Jazz. We usually rotate out four or five smash hits, all of which have his name in there somewhere–he’s got six names total, so it makes for some musical sweetness.
- Once your baby outgrows the rocking chair (J still rocks somewhat comfortably, but the day is coming), move out of it. I now spend a good deal of time vertical performing what I call the mama-rock. Basically, I hold him while standing, and bend my knees, alternating from side to side. This is exhausting, but, on the flip side, gives you killer calves and thighs if you do it regularly enough. Since we’ve stopped nursing, this is actually the only way Jasper goes to sleep during the day.
- If your baby will respond to your partner, OMG, bring them in. Jasper would NOT let Sean put him to sleep for the longest time–something about this was mama-only-territory. Recently, I’ve started shooting more weddings late into the night, so Sean has been in charge of bedtime. Out of necessity, he has developed his own routines–we discovered that if Sean tried to do what works between Jasper and I it just pissed Jasper off. Now, they do what I call the dad-sway. It’s not always as painless (sometimes Jasper protests with tears) as the mama-rock, but it accomplishes the same means in more or less the same amount of time.
- If all else fails, give the car a try. It didn’t work for us until the last month or so, but now we can take Jasper for a drive if he’s still up around 9:30 or 10pm, and sleep ensues.
So, Mamas! What do are your bedtime routines? What works for you?
Note from Ariel: We’re not interested in getting into the “Cry it out” debate here. We want to hear what works for YOU — not why you think what works for other people isn’t a good idea.