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This post is based on personal experience and not to be taken as medical advice. Consult with your doctor when making medical decisions.
If you’re anything like me, establishing a bedtime routine for your kid can seem like a daunting task. I can’t even manage my own consistent bedtime routine! How am I supposed to put a routine in place and make this strong-willed minion consistently go through the same routine night after night? As it turns out, it has been one of the easiest things for us as a parents, once we decided on what that routine would look like.
Here is what Little Man’s bedtime routine looks like currently:
5 – 5:15/5:30pm Dinner
Let’s face it, 5 pm isn’t an easy dinner time for most families. Since Little Man goes to bed at 6:15, though, this is the time that works best for us. Hubbaloo and I usually eat dinner with Little Man and we make sure that we’re all eating the same things. Depending on how tired or hungry it, dinner can take anywhere from 10 – 30 minutes.
5:15/5:30/Whatever time he’s done with dinner – 5:55pm Playtime or bath time
Every other day Little Man gets a bath right after dinner. The days when he doesn’t, we usually play in the living room. Honestly, after a day apart its my most coveted time of day. He loves bathtime, so both of these could basically be qualified as playtime.
5:55 -6pm Get ready for bed
This includes a diaper change, fresh pjs, and brushing his teeth. He hates getting his teeth brushed (especially right now as he’s getting several new teeth), but I brush his teeth. Tthen let him “do it himself” for a couple of moments until he’s ready to hand me the toothbrush.
6 – 6:15pm Bedtime stories and prayers
This is my favorite part of our bedtime routine. Little Man and I go into his bedroom, grab his pacifier from his crib and he pops it into his mouth, then sit in the glider in his room. We turn on the lamp on his nightstand and I grab a stack of 4 or 5 books. He picks one, we read it; he picks another, we read it. We usually get through 2 or 3 books. I’m not going to lie, we usually read the same handful of books on repeat, as they’re his favorites. Then, its lights out. I either hold him in the glider or stand up and I say a prayer. Then I kiss him 10 million times (more or less), tell him I love him and lay him in his crib and walk out of the room.
Figure out what’s realistic for you and your family
A 5pm dinner time followed by a 6:15 bedtime is not realistic for everyone. We largely try to follow the Weissbluth method for Little Man’s sleep schedule, which basically means that you’re trying to get your kids to bed as early as possible, which helps to ensure that he/she is getting the sleep that they need.
In our case, Little Man goes to bed at 6:15 and is asleep within minutes with no crying. Then he doesn’t get up until between 5:30 and 6:30am. It helps that Hubbaloo and I have pretty flexible work schedules, though. Plus, we live very close to work and daycare, so we can reasonably get Little Man home in time to be able to make a quick dinner before 5 or to re-heat food we made or prepped the night before.
If you’re not sure what’s reasonable AND best for your baby, you can talk to your child’s pediatrician about some different options/methods you can try.
It doesn’t have to be as strict as you think
I think one of the things we got caught up on when we were first thinking through Little Man’s routine was being concerned that there would be days when things wouldn’t be exactly like they were the day before. For example, Little Man gets a bath every other day (unless he really needs one), and the fact that it isn’t a daily activity has seemed to have no impact on his ability to get settled once bedtime rolls around.
For us, we’ve found that there are a couple of things he really relies on, but other things can be fluid. One example of this: he will absolutely start to melt down if he’s not getting dinner at 5pm. However, he’s fine with the fact that some days he has a bath and some days he plays in the living room. Figure out which things your kid absolutely needs built into the structure.
The most crucial aspect of this is really the bedtime itself. Keep in mind that all of the aspects that you build into your bedtime routine are critical to helping sooth your child, so I truly believe you should have aspects of your entire bedtime routine that are consistent. However, Little Man has proven to me that keeping the bedtime strict is critical. If we divert from his 6:15 bedtime more than 5 minutes, he get’s significantly fussier. But as it is now, even if he’s incredibly tired, he’s just mellow and comforted by the routine. We have in place.
Some ideas you can incorporate into your child’s bedtime routine:
Go for a walk
Listen to music
A cup of milk
Say goodnight to everyone
Hugs and kisses