There are so many rituals of motherhood: the bathtub bubble crowns and first-thing-in-the-morning cuddles. The Here comes the airplane to get her to eat her peas, and that one song you sing to him each time he cries.
Of all the rituals of motherhood, though, bedtime is my favorite. The bedtime routine not only serves an important purpose— to get your little one to sleep— but it’s also one of the best ways to bond with your child.
Like so much about parenting, there is no one “right” way to approach bedtime; it truly depends on your baby’s age, the rhythm of life in your home, and your child’s temperament. Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way that I hope will be helpful to you.
1. Forget “One Size Fits All”
My oldest has always been a rather flexible child and as a baby he wasn’t difficult to soothe. When my second child was born with colic, rocking him to sleep and leaving him in a crib for the night was not an option. Instead of accepting that each child is different and has different needs, I tried to force my baby into a routine that didn’t work for him. What worked best for him was nursing, swaddling, bouncing/patting while on an exercise ball, and co-sleeping. Two years later my daughter was born. I braced myself for another colicky child but her temperament was pleasant and she didn’t require much soothing. She even rejected the swaddle that was a lifesaver with my son.
2. Be Informed but Follow Your Instincts
I believe that as mothers we’re hard-wired to know what’s best for our children. Co-sleeping was not something we’d ever planned, and to be honest I had some concerns about it. I read about it and consulted our doctor and in the end, I followed my instincts that it was the best option in our situation. I was right!
3. Make it a Pleasant Experience for You, Too
Embrace the bedtime routine with your child. If a bath is part of your routine, use products you love. Snuggle in close. Listen to their breathing as they settle in to sleep.
4. Get Daddy Involved
Bedtime is a wonderful way for your baby to bond with Daddy. Dads can create their own sacred rituals with babies, and bedtime can and should be one of them. Some dads have difficulty with the hands-on care for newborns, and bedtime is a great opportunity for them to build parenting confidence from early on.
5. Be Flexible
The only certainty about babies is change. The minute they adapt to a new routine and you think you’ve got it all figured out, they show you who’s boss by changing all over again. Lots of factors can affect babies’ sleep schedules: teething, growth spurts, and sickness are among the most common. Listen to your baby and pay attention to her ever-changing needs and know that everything is going to be ok.
6. Remember that This is the “Good Stuff”
When people tell you to “cherish every moment” and that they “grow up so fast” the image they’re bringing to mind is most likely cradling their tiny sleeping babies from days gone by. It won’t be long before the crib becomes a toddler bed and your child’s off to preschool. They’ll soon outgrow the sleepers and swaddlers and won’t need you to sit with them, rocking, patting, soothing them to sleep. Remember that “big picture” when you think of the hundreds of other things you “need” to be doing while you’re in the midst of the baby days.
What are your best bedtime tips? Share them in the comments below!