How not to do bedtime: A Guide

As mentioned here, babies and sleep is like a big issue in parenting world. Some people have even made a career out of guilting parents into thinking that they somehow are ruining their child by not having strict routines and naps.

Why the big deal?  Basically, we all love sleep and having a child under the age of four usually means you’ll be getting less of it.

Sleep restriction happens in four main ways.

  1. Your child doesn’t nap for long enough/at the right time/for too long/before a meal/after a meal/in their cot.
  2. Your child doesn’t realise that X time is actually their bed time.
  3. Your child doesn’t realise that anything before 6am is classed as still night time and therefore needs to return to sleep.
  4. Your child enjoys waking up sporadically, during the night, at random times for no apparent reason.

So, that’s how sleep is affected but what strategies do I have to overcome these issues? Well erm, I have none.

To reiterate: sleeping strategies – I have none!! Sorry about that…

In fact, at 16 months we still have no set bedtime. Some of you may recoil in horror at this (ooohh judgy) but then I’m sure (read hopeful) that some of you can relate to this situation.

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So, how come some babies are down and out at bang on 7 every night and some are not? Well the answer to that is pretty simple – it depends on several variables: the child, the parent/s and the routine.

For us in the googling household a bedtime routine began waaaaaaay back when Pudding was a wee 8 weeks old. There was a set piece of music that indicated that bedtime was occuring, a bath then pyjamas and a pre bedtime feed which usually lulled pudding to sleep. We worked our way down from 11pm to 8pm gradually.  And that was where we stopped. No moving from this 8pm – in fact sometimes it would dart back to 9pm. Quite frustrating.

In fact tonight was a 9pm bed time, but yesterday was an 8pm bedtime. Now I know some of you will be nodding your all knowing heads and thinking it’s down to nap times, amount of food, stimulus etc that Pudding is reacting to but I think it pretty much comes down to the fact that Pudding just wasn’t ready for bedtime tonight.

In fact, lets be controversial here, I don’t think I have any control over when Pudding goes to bed – I can plan, prep and preach that it is bedtime but if madam isn’t ready to cut Zs it ain’t gonna happen. No matter how much I dictate. Damn.

How do we move forward from here? Somewhere in my gut I have a feeling that, by the time she’s of an age to communicate with me and is aware that bedtime is at a particular time, we will achieve the illusive 7pm bedtime that I feel is appropriate. In my head I’m hoping this will be around the age of 2….. (parents of older children laugh in glee at my naive optimism). At 16 months it’s just not quite fitting into place; when you throw into the mix part time nursery and part time home routines it’s certainly not helpful to the whole regular bedtime routine. At the present time, mummy just has to keep consistent and focused and be in denial hopeful  that eventually bed time will not be quite as much of guessing game as it currently is. Generally,  I should just appreciate the fact that Pudding enjoys spending time with me at bedtime as I have a suspicion that when she’s 16 years old she’ll be less inclined to involve me in her pre bedtime routine (plus, from the impression I get from the 16 year olds I teach, I’ll be lucky of she isn’t rolling her eyes at me and communicating with curt grunts at that age).

For the time being, I am not going to not lose any sleep over the current irregularity of bedtime (pun intended), in fact I am going to embrace it. Let’s enjoy the sporadic, non regular sleep patterns because at least it keeps things interesting…

It’s also important to remember that there really is very little control that I actually have over bedtime – the fact that I am on the brink of sleep at bedtime whilst Pudding is the most active and wide awake she’s been all day is actually quite ironic.  Sometimes I actually wonder what would happen if I climbed into the cot and had a snooze whilst leaving her to her own devices….chaos would pretty much ensue. So that won’t work but it would provide a nice opportunity for a mid evening power kip and we all love a PK!

So what shall we take from this bedtime guide:

  1. There are 4 main types of sleep restriction (see above).
  2. There is no rhyme or reason as to what will make for a bang on 7pm bedtime.
  3. You, as a sleep luller/bedtime facilitator, really have very little impact/control over said bedtime.
  4. Linking to point 3, it really is coincidental if your child sleeps when you’d like them to (as much as the parent manuals tell you it isn”t).
  5. Just relax and accept that one day there will be a consistent bedtime as long as you keep at it and don’t beat yourself up for not always achieving it.

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As we all know, children like to throw curve balls at any given time, just because they’re in a routine doesn’t mean they’ll stick to it! The more you keep this in mind the easy it’ll be…at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Anyhoo, that’s all for now. If you have any effective sleep strategies you feel I could do with you know where to drop them! I’m off to bed! Nighty night!

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