Mamas, what are your bedtime routines for your minis? So many of my mom friends and my lovely magpie readers have encouraged me to cement a bedtime routine and stick to it day after day, insisting that it lays an important foundation for good night of sleep. On a recent visit to Chicago, my sweet sister (mom to a toddler and, soon, a second son!) implored me: “Consistency is so key with kids. Consistency, consistency, consistency.” It’s led to multiple conversations with Mr. Magpie on the topic. We’ve been pretty fluid with minimagpie thus far, following her cues as to when she seems tired or hungry, which has in turn led us to put her on a loose routine that has helped us pre-empt meltdowns. (We had observed that if we let her go much longer than 2.5 hours without sleep, things got a little dicey, so we have been able to proactively put her down for naps before she over-tires herself.) That said, we’ve become increasingly structured about bedtime, almost always following the same pattern of activities that I loosely recounted in my day-in-the-life post (what did you think?) and using the same products night after night. You can see them in the collage below and click on each image to get product details, or read about Le Why in the sleeptime routine outlined below!:
+Bath. I used to bathe her every other night in fear of drying out her sweet little skin, but I’ve switched to nightly baths in the last week. (P.S. My favorite bath gear.)
+Dress in jammies.
+Place in sleepsack. We alternate between a few, including an Aden + Anais silky soft one, which is super lightweight for summer. I am currently coveting one of these beautiful De Buci baby styles. I do this primarily for warmth now that she’s no longer wearing the swaddle since she’s started rolling over and it’s no longer safe to keep her swaddled. (Also, she was starting to resist the swaddle and writhe her way out of it on the regular!) By the way, we considered using the Merlin Magic Suit as a transition — it sort of immobilizes the baby’s arms so that the startle effect doesn’t keep her awake! — but instead started swaddling her with one arm out, then both arms out, and then just put her in a sleepsack and it all worked fine. I find that it helps if I’m sort of holding onto one of her arms, keeping it in place, while rocking her to sleep, so both arms aren’t flailing all over the place.
+Turn on sleep sheep. By the way, I love this travel-sized version — there’s a full-size, too, but the travel size comes with a little velcro strap that you can use to affix it to just about anything. We tie it to one of the rungs of her crib since you’re not supposed to place any blankets or toys in the crib with baby for fear of suffocation. Although — people go nuts over this noise machine, too.
+Turn on night light. I love this little giraffe night light because it never gets hot to the touch and the plug part swivels to accommodate whatever direction your wall outlet is oriented. If you have a similar safari theme in your room but aren’t interested in dropping nearly $50 on a nightlight, consider this adorable elephant style! So precious.
+Turn off overhead light and turn on bedside table lamp (by the way, I have this inexpensive but chic Target lamp in her nursery and I LOVE IT. You tap the base to turn it on and off! Genius for a mama with her hands full!)
+Hand mini one of these loveys — mini owns the lamb set. She immediately starts chewing on its face. One of my friends strongly advocated for the lovey — she said her daughter sees it and immediately associates it with bedtime; it puts her in a “sleep state of mind.”
+Read her a book. We have lots of bedtime favorites, but I love Goodnight, Moon and Llama, Llama, Red Pajama right now — they’re short, they have soothing rhythms, and they have a bedtime theme. Plus, both are interesting for her to look at while she’s five months old.
+Say her prayers — “Now I lay me down to sleep // Pray the Lord my soul to keep // If I should die before I wake // Pray the Lord my soul to take” — and then her intentions: “God bless Mimi and Grandpa, Gigi and Doe, etc, etc.”
+Turn out bedside table light and either give her a bottle or rock her to sleep. Stroll up and down the hallway if she’s crying. We’re now playing around with sleep-training. It’s a current source of constant conversation in our household (my, how dinnertime topics have changed!) — what to do, how much of it, why. Some of the thoughts/words of wisdom I’ve absorbed from loved ones, and the diversity of perspectives should demonstrate that there’s truly no right answer here…
+”You have to commit to sleep training for a week and truly let the baby cry it out every night. It’s hard for mama, but it’s sort of like ripping off a bandaid. Do it for a week — it honestly only took us a few days! — and she’ll sleep like a dream. Just keep your eyes on the prize.”
+”I wouldn’t worry about sleep training until around six months, when your doctor tells you your baby can go for a full night without eating, and then begin to ease into it. There are gentler forms of sleep training you can play around with!”
+”Go in for a few minutes and comfort her and then, in an adult voice like you expect her to understand, say: ‘Emory, go to sleep.’ Sounds crazy, but my dad [a pediatrician] told me to do that and I think it worked. It’s hard to hear them cry, but the sleep is so good for them!”
+”Sometimes it takes awhile, but I always comfort my baby verbally while standing alongside the crib, occasionally rubbing his back or side, and let him fuss until he falls asleep. Sometimes I need to come into and out of his room a half dozen times, but I try not to pick him up. He needs to learn to fall asleep out of my arms.”
+”I let my baby fuss it out for the number of minutes of her age in months. So, if she’s four months, I let her cry or fuss for four minutes before going in to comfort her. If she’s five months, I let her fuss for five minutes before intervening. And so on. It felt like a more humane approach for me.”
It should also be noted that some moms never “sleep train” and others do so from birth! I have one mom friend who has had her baby sleeping through the night since a month old, and she literally closes the door at 7 PM and does not open it until 7 AM. There are lots of approaches here!
OK, mamas: tips? tricks? must-dos? Please share in the comments! I’m curious about what other steps you add to your bedtime routines, and if/when/how you sleep-trained! Ears are open.
P.S. I’ve heard good things about these night light buddies for toddlers — they project stars onto the ceiling are apparently very comforting — and also these OK to Wake clocks, which let your little ones know when it’s “OK” to get out of bed.