Monday, 21 May 2012

What's Your Kids Bedtime Routine?

WARNING!! Mummy post alert!

I'm intrigued. We have a bedtime routine in our house, does everyone else? I'm not sure where it came from, or if my siblings and I also had one, but pleased and possibly smug sounding to report - it's working well.

Both our boys had turned two, youngest Nate recently, when we decided it was time for them to have 'Big Beds'. And the move from cot to bed made it seem apparent that it was also the right time to get them used to going to sleep by themselves. 'Self Soothing' as my UK NHS mothers manual used to call it.

Are some of you shocked? Reading back to make sure I said age two? It's apparently possible for a newborn baby to learn to self soothe, and it's all about teaching them early the 'correct' sleep associations, meaning the things your baby associates with going to sleep and therefore perceives it needs to do so. 'Correct' sleep association tools would be a bottle of milk, a teddy bear, a blanket. 'Incorrect' sleep association tools are, er ... well Mummy and Daddy apparently. If you cuddle and rock your baby to sleep, then your baby will perceive that they need you to do so. I remember dire warnings from the midwife and in bold in the manual something like "the longer you leave teaching your child, the harder it will be. ROCK YOUR CHILD TO SLEEP AND MAKE A ROD FOR YOUR OWN BACK!!!"

Luckily for me, I also remember feeling strongly when I fell pregnant with Tallen, now four, that I wanted to be, wherever possible, a Natural Mum. I ended up unintentionally taking it way too far and having unplanned (and I can assure you, unwanted) totally natural childbirth. With both my children. Another post some day. But I do remember deciding, and no doubt announcing loudly to Hubby, that I wanted to follow my instincts, rather than the text books, as much as possible. Aren't first time Mum's funny?

And Bedtime Routine is one of those areas where I read/heard the general opinion of the great 'they' who decide all these things, and decided I didn't like what I was reading/hearing. I ignored the advice and up until the age of two, both my children fell asleep with the aid of cuddles, songs, rocking and their Mummys booby, breastfed that they are. And it all felt very right and natural to me, a very close and bonding time with both my boys that I'm so glad I didn't miss out on. For Hubby too, who'd be passed a baby for winding that would fall alseep so happily on Daddys chest or shoulder, and be gently laid down in a bed we'd prewarmed for him without much issue at all.

Which brings me back to todays routine, now they are two and four and not attached to my boobs any more. They now have the same bedtime routine, one which Tallen has enjoyed since the age of two, and it works so well with both of them now I'm so glad I listened to my heart at the time.

If going to bed on time (Nate 7p.m., Tallen 7:30), there's a story and then Tallen gets tucked in, Nate has a small baby cup of warm milk and they're both sung two or three short songs, which chills them out nicely. If we're running late, we skip the story. Then we kiss them, wish them a good nights sleep and leave them with a night light on.

If they get up, straight back to bed. If they whinge or moan or try and extend their day in any way, tuck them back in, straight back to bed. You get the drift. If they wake early, they're allowed into our bed for a last snooze and a cuddle before morning but other than that, they know if they come out of their rooms or wake at night, after a quick check that they're okay, they're back to their beds quick quick. So they tend to stay there.

Now of course, this is our routine and we apply it when we can. We are a 'real' family here. Sometimes the kids fall asleep in the car on the way home late from somewhere. Sometimes the kids fall asleep at a relatives house, because Hubby and I are having fun and we're not ready to go home yet. Sometimes we're at home, but we're tired, we put the routine off and then suddenly it's an hour passed bedtime and the routine becomes rushed and the possibility of a story and the number of songs to be sung dramatically lessens.

BUT nine times out of ten, that's the last we hear from them until morning. Can I get a 'woop woop!'? Hey? Not bad huh? Gimmie a high five, go on. It's one of my proudest Mummy achievements so far.

How's YOUR bedtime routines and what age did you teach your children to 'Self Soothe' to sleep, if at all? I'm curious me ...

As a foot note ('cos it's at the bottom) the songs Hubby and I sing vary, depending on which one of us is doing the routine, but I always end with the same song. 'Wonderful World' by Louis Armstrong, here's the lyrics in case you feel an urge to sing-a-long and I wouldn't blame you.

Would suggest a higher key for the ladies though. If I sing it in Mr Armstrongs key to the boys, they just get the giggles and then we're never getting them to sleep.