If you're the mother of a baby or toddler, chances are, you've been struggling with setting a bedtime routine that works every night, without fail. I've been there, and I'm delighted to share the simple steps that worked like a charm, every night, to get my babies to sleep.
1. Make the Decision
Time: 4:32 p.m.
As you pick macaroni and cheese off the ground around your baby's high chair, you decide on the spur of the moment that tonight, you'll get baby to sleep on time - maybe even ten minutes early! - and enjoy some quiet time with your husband.
2. Try to Remember
Time: 4:36 p.m.
Alone time with the husband... hmm... you try to remember, did you shave your legs in the shower this morning? Wait. Did you SHOWER this morning?
3. Let the Hubs Know
Time: 5:03 p.m.
Even though he’s only in the next room, text the hubs to let him know you’ll be expertly momming the baby into bed early tonight, so he can do whatever he needs to do to prepare. It’s been a while. You’re a bit rusty on the sexytime ritual. Hubs receives the message, reads it, and snorts laughter. Perhaps you will read a book instead.
4. Tidy up
Time: 5:06 p.m.
Set baby in bouncy seat, play saucer, or on soft blanket on the floor with a variety of organic wooden toys, while you tidy the front room and kitchen. Baby refuses to play with organic wooden toys, tries to chew on the edge of bouncy/saucer/blanket instead.
5. Relaxing Bath
Time 5:48 p.m.
Bedtime is fast approaching, so you run a warm, lavender-scented bath for baby. Baby shrieks like a banshee and splashes lavender-scented water all over the bathroom. You decide to join baby in the tub, since you’re already drenched and you’re needing a bath anyway.
6. Relaxing Bath, Part Two
Time 6:02 p.m.
Baby has poo’d in the tub, so you lift baby out of the water, drain the tub, swish clean water to wash little poos down the drain, rinse yourself and baby in the shower, and try to wash your body and hair with one hand. Baby is having a ball, wide awake, most definitely not relaxed.
7. Dress Yourself
Time: 6:19 p.m.
Wrap baby in towel, try to dry yourself with one hand, slip your yoga pants and tee shirt back on while balancing towel-swaddled baby on one hip. Realize you still haven’t shaved your legs.
Time 6:26 p.m.
Take baby into his bedroom, apply sleepy-time lotion to baby, who is wide awake and ready to play.
Time: 6:31 p.m.
Choose adorable pajamas, lay baby in crib near pajamas, turn your back for three seconds to grab a diaper, turn back around just in time to see baby boy spout pee all over pajamas and crib.
10. New Jammies
Time: 6:34 p.m.
Put diaper on baby, THEN find another pair of cute pajamas.
11. Change Crib Bedding
Time: 6:40 p.m.
Remove pee’d-on sheets and blanket from crib, and make crib up with clean sheets and blanket. Hide original blanket from baby’s view, as he loves the dirty blanket best, and may refuse to sleep with it in the wash.
12. Put Bedding in the Wash
Time: 6:48 p.m.
Baby has seen the dirty blanket and wants it, RIGHT NOW. Put blanket in the wash on “quick wash” cycle and hope baby can sleep without it, since bedtime is now less than an hour away.
13. Read a Story
Time: 7:02 p.m.
It’s less than half an hour til bedtime. Let baby choose one favorite book, then cuddle baby in rocking chair while you read it in a soft, gentle voice. At the end of the story, baby shrieks for it to be read again, so read the book again. Repeat for about half an hour. Don’t try to skip pages, either, as baby will know.
14. Last Bottle/Feeding of the Night
Time: 7:31 p.m.
Offer baby a bottle or to nurse. Rock baby gently in glider while baby enjoys a last feeding of the night. With any luck, baby will drift peacefully off. It’s now one minute past bedtime.
Stare at baby’s face while he nurses, trying to determine if he’s sleepy. He does not appear to be sleepy. He will occasionally stop nursing for a few seconds, and when you look down to see if he’s drifting off, he’ll start again. If he’s bottle-fed, he’ll just toy with the bottle, not really drinking it.
Time: 8:03 p.m.
As baby becomes more relaxed, try to swap the nursing or bottle for a binky. Baby does not accept.
17. Is He Asleep?
Time: 8:09 p.m.
Baby’s been still for at least two and a half minutes, so you very gradually stop rocking, remove the bottle from his mouth/stop nursing, and begin to plot rising from the chair.
18. Hubs Ruins It
Time: 8:12 p.m.
Just as you being to rise, by degrees, from the chair, hubs sends you a text message asking how it’s going, and when your phone vibrates, the baby’s eyes fly open. You sink back into the chair and resume rocking.
19. Curse the Hubs
Time: 8:16 p.m.
Baby is wide awake, and you silently curse your husband for waking the baby. Whilst rocking, you finger-comb your still-damp-from-the-shower hair and are secretly glad you didn’t shave.
20. Drifting off?
Time: 8:32 p.m.
Baby is now drifting off again… isn’t he? In the darkness of the baby’s room, as night has fallen, it’s hard to tell. You begin to rock more slowly again. It’s now an hour past baby’s bedtime. He may not be drowsy, but you are.
21. Nodding off
Time: 8:34 p.m.
You catch yourself nodding off and become angry with yourself. What about grown-up time with the hubs and/or the book you wanted to read?
22. Slow down
Baby seems to finally be asleep again, so you slow the rocker down and begin standing up again.
23. The Long Walk
Time: 8:52 p.m.
Walk/shuffle slowly across the floor, from the rocker to the crib, while using your arms to mimic the rocking motion of the chair. Baby is still asleep.
24. Bump into Crib
Time: 8:54 p.m.
You’ve accidentally bumped into the crib in the dark. Baby’s eyelids flutter. You freeze. After three minutes, baby sighs and you relax.
25. The Lay-down
Time: 8:58 p.m.
Ever-so-slowly and gently, lay baby in his crib. Keep your hand on him to help him “settle.”
26. Run into Hubs
Time: 9:02 p.m.
As you back slowly away from the crib, you run into hubs, who’s come into the room the say goodnight. You let out the tiniest of gasps, and the baby’s eyes fly open.
Time: 9:04 p.m.
Baby realizes his blanket is missing and begins to cry. Hubs takes baby to the chair for more soothing, while you put the blanket from the washer into the dryer.
28. More Rocking
Time: 9:10 p.m.
It’s now almost your bedtime. You sit on the couch and sneak in three pages of your book while hubs rocks the baby back to sleep.
29. Blanket, Part Two
Time: 9:25 p.m.
Since the blanket is made mostly of fluff, it takes only minutes to dry. The ding the dryer makes when blanket is done drying is much, much louder than you remember. Baby sleeps through it.
Time: 9:28 p.m.
Hubs gently sets baby in his crib, you cover him lightly with the blanket, then both back slowly away toward the door.
Time: 9:32 p.m.
You and hubs meet on the couch and fall into each other’s arms. He doesn’t care that your hair is wet, or that you’ve been wearing these yoga pants for two days running, or that you haven’t shaved your legs. Bliss.
Time: 9:40 p.m.
Just when things begin to get interesting, hubs gets a Facebook notification and his phone dings – from inside the baby’s room. You both freeze, mid-smooch, straining to hear baby. He doesn’t make a peep. You resume snogging.
Time: 10:00 p.m.
For some reason, the theme song to Calliou starts playing on the smart TV hubs left on. Your desire flees instantly as you imagine the whiny, bald brat, but you soldier on.
34. Is He Awake?
Time: 10:06 p.m.
As you and hubs lie on the couch in a happy after-glow, your damp hair askew, you both freeze in alarm when you think you might have heard the baby cry. Shushing each other, you listen harder.
35. Tiptoe in to Check
Time: 10:08 p.m.
Tiptoe into baby’s room together to see if he’s awake. He is not. Hubs retrieves his phone, sets it on silent, and you both walk away, gently closing the door behind you (without latching it all the way shut).
Time: 10:15 p.m.
You and hubs go through your own bedtime ritual, then collapse into bed.
37. Bad Dream?
Time: 10:36 p.m.
Just as you begin to drift off, you hear the unmistakable sound of baby waking. Is he laughing? What is he doing in there?
38. Start over
Time: 10:40 p.m.
You go through the entire rocking/sleeping/setting in the crib/tiptoeing out process again at least three more times before midnight.