My sweetheart's sleep routine
I know this may seem incredibly OTT for some people, but those with a child who will not sleep will understand how the tiniest detail about their routine can become a point of obsession in their quest for rest! I hope this can serve as an example of a sleep routine that works for my family and the level of detail that is sometimes needed to help a little one get ready for sleep. I am very specific about my daughter’s routine for sleep because I never want to experience sleep deprivation again. She is now a champion sleeper, I can almost guarantee I will not see her for 12hours every night. It has been life changing for us all because I can now be more present with her without losing myself in a haze of exhaustion and dread! But this is not down to luck, this is a direct result of a lot of hard work and honing of a routine that works for her. If you would like me to work with you on a routine to get your little one sleeping sweetly, please get in touch!
So here is the sleep routine for my daughter, and we do this Every. Single. Time.
The routine always includes turning on the baby monitor as it plays a little tune that makes her smile. We go into her room with low lighting from a lamp, change her nappy, get dressed into clothing for sleep (take off a layer for nap time or pajamas for bedtime), pick up for a cuddle, spray some lavender pillow mist into the air away from her cot, kisses for mummy, say key phrase (‘nap time now Elowen’ or ‘bedtime now Elowen’), turn off the little light, lullabies while I lay her down and do up her sleeping bag, finish the same three lullabies I sing every time sat across the room from her, ignoring if she stands up or rattles the cot bars, lay her back down if necessary after lullabies, pat tummy briefly and say ‘shh shh shh, good girl’, stroke her hair and say ‘sleep tight sweetheart’ and leave the room. I then get the baby monitor and make a cup of tea to congratulate myself!
If she cries (which is rare these days) and I can see on the monitor that she is safe, I give her at least five minutes to see if she settles (the tea is a good distraction for this time!) If she is calm after five minutes but still awake, I leave her to it. If she hasn’t settled at all and is still fussing I will return, now equipped with caffeine, to briefly shh/pat and repeat key phrases. I leave the room after 20-30 seconds. I remind myself I am not there to stop the crying or fix the situation, only to reassure her that I am still here and will always respond. Our secure attachment will not be threatened as a result.
At bedtime we try to spend about half an hour playing together, the three of us, with no screens. I then say ‘bedtime now Elowen’ and I carry her upstairs, we make sure to swtich to ‘night mode’ with soft voices and low lighting. I get her undressed in her room and grab her towel while daddy runs the bath. We brush her teeth, with a brushing teeth song (brush, brush, brush your teeth to the tune of Let’s go fly a kite!) followed by a bath. This can include lots of playing and laughter, almost to burn off any energy before sleep. Daddy then wraps her in a towel and they look in the bathroom mirror together before carrying her through to her room where we both help with nappy and pajamas. I then say ‘bedtime now Elowen, say night night to daddy’ as I lower the light. Daddy says ‘Night, night Elowen, I love you’ and gives her a kiss. He then hugs me* before leaving the room. Elowen and I sit in the chair while she has her milk. Then we continue with the routine as above from the sleep spray.
* This used to be because bedtime was so stressful and he would reassure me that he would watch on the baby monitor so I could signal if I needed his help. Bedtime used to take up to three hours and I would have to leave the room several times to cry because I didn’t know what to do! He would have to go in to soothe her while I pulled myself together and then I would try again. It went on and on and it was awful! When we would eventually get her to sleep, we had no time to switch off before bed and it was a miserable time. However, I’m happy to say that now the hug is a reminder of how far we have come and that we made it through together. (We also use the hug to whisper about the snacks we’re going to eat in front of the TV!)
Bedtime takes about 30minutes and naps between 5 and 10minutes. I no longer dread putting her down for sleep and even if we hit a blip like teething, she may just need a little extra comfort, or take a little longer than usual. But I have confidence in her sleep skills and my newfound resilience! Ah, sweet sweet sleep makes such a difference!