Early Bedtime Routine, Better Sleep

A consistent bedtime routine is a great way to end the day, and helps your baby or toddler relax and prepare himself for sleep.  Our bedtime routine has changed quite a few times as Rocco has grown from a newborn into a toddler over the last two years.  We have it down to a science now, and it works brilliantly about 90% of the time.

Sleeping Rocco

Sleeping Rocco

When Rocco was a bit younger, I made the common mistake of keeping him up until he showed obvious signs of being tired.  I was not putting him down for naps or bedtime until the whining started.  He would start getting upset about every little thing that went wrong.  His balance was off and he would start rubbing his eyes and yawning.  Some days, he did not take a nap until two o’clock, which started pushing bedtime as late as ten o’clock.  Although I had read dozens of books, I was regularly reminded that waiting for my toddler to show obvious signs of tiredness meant that he was overtired and I had waited much too long.  Several sources mentioned that very young children need to go to sleep much earlier, and that the ideal bedtime was around seven o’clock.  I wanted my evenings back.  Rocco was not the only grumpy one.

Several months ago, I decided to put Rocco on a better sleep schedule and follow a consistent bedtime routine for 30 days and see what happened.  The results were amazing and had a positive impact on every part of our day.  He was happier and much easier to deal with all day long.  He was getting the sleep he really needed and I was getting an extra three hours to myself.  I felt like a new person, and a much better mom.  Changing his sleep schedule was an excellent decision.  My only regret is not having done it months earlier.

The first day, I got him up an hour early, so he would nap before noon.  Surprisingly, he did very well with that and was asleep at 11:45 a.m.  I made a commitment to be home by five o’clock to start our new bedtime routine.  I gave him dinner in his high chair at five o’clock sharp.  He watched a PBS Sprout cartoon, which kept him happy in the high chair for 30 minutes and he ate most of his dinner.  Usually, he put a fight about eating and tried to climb out several times.  Television can be a wonderful tool when used wisely.  After dinner, Rocco had a bubble bath with a tub full of toys.  This had not happened since he was under a year old.  I usually gave a tired, crying toddler a quick three-minute shower.  He loved his bath and stayed in there until six o’clock.  After his bath, I dressed him in cozy pajamas, sat with him in the rocking chair in his nursery, and nursed him for about 15 minutes.  Everything was so much easier because it was early and he did not seem tired.  Before, everything was a battle because he was overtired.  After I nursed him, I explained that we needed to clean the milk off of his teeth, so we went back to the bathroom where I brushed his teeth and swabbed them with mouthwash.  Normally, he resisted and cried when I tried to clean his teeth.  He could not have been more cooperative.  With a full tummy and clean teeth, we returned to the rocking chair for three bedtime stories.  Before, he was wiggling out of my lap and whining while I tried to read to him.  After his stories, it was time to sit on the potty chair (he had just gotten out of diapers at the time).  Again, no resistance.  I showed him two more bedtime books and told him that I would read them as soon as he was in his bed.  He happily climbed into his bed and put his head down on the pillow!  This was a first at bedtime, and it was only about 6:40 p.m. at this point.  Again, this step was usually a big struggle and I felt like I was wrestling an alligator to get him into bed most nights.  I tucked him in and read him two more books.  I expected it to take him a long time to fall asleep so early.  He was sound asleep halfway through the second book, at 6:50 p.m.

It took about ten days for Rocco to adjust to going to sleep that early.  At first, he woke up several times a night before two o’clock.  After two weeks, he was sleeping nine hours in his bed, getting up to use the potty at four o’clock and coming in my bed to nurse and go right back to sleep until seven o’clock most mornings.  When he used to go to bed as late as ten o’clock, he was still up at four o’clock to nurse and never slept later than eight o’clock.  By making his bedtime earlier, his sleep increased from ten hours a night to twelve on average.  The length of the nap never changed, and has been an hour a day since he was 14 months old.

Putting Rocco on an early nap and bedtime schedule has been a totally positive experience.  I highly recommend this to all parents of toddlers.  It’s worth a try and hopefully many parents will find that it improves their child’s moods.

Thanks for reading ~ Sid

Published in: on February 13, 2009 at 1:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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