Before I became a mom, I was an aunt to a sweet little girl who we occasionally took care of when her parents were away. Her mom did an amazing job training her to sleep by herself even as an infant by following a sleep-training guide recommended by a best-selling book. I could do that – or so I thought!
Fast-forward to three years after, when I became a mom myself. I read and reread the same book, adjusted and readjusted the process. Still, my newborn won’t sleep without being sang to, read to, or carried. I ended up tired, cranky, and even annoyed that I was not getting this one thing to work!
I eventually abandoned sleep training and mothered the way I knew how – getting to know my daughter and creating our own bedtime ritual.
The importance of routine
In our Positive Discipline parent education classes, we often emphasize the importance of having routines with children. Even babies learn to feel more secure if they know what is going to happen next.
This sense of security translates into a calm and happy baby – which, in turn, means keeping us parents a wee-bit sane! And we know all too well how important that is as we end the day.
Establishing a routine from when they are young also instills good sleeping habits which will be helpful when they start going to school. Studies have found that poor or inadequate sleep greatly affects academics and behavior.
The magic of rituals
Just like adults (or perhaps even more than adults), babies need help telling their bodies to calm down and get ready to sleep. A warm bath, a gentle massage, and dedicated quiet time are wonderful ways to cue babies that bedtime is coming. Using scents to associate a particular smell during bedtime can also help babies sleep faster.
As our babies grow older, bedtimes become chores that they start resisting. A ritual that includes one-on-one time with mommy, however, makes children look forward to it. Snuggling under the covers and reading aloud a favorite book is our go-to bedtime bonding ritual.
While we don’t have a set bedtime in our home, my husband and I make sure that we begin our night time routines as soon as we see signs of tiredness in the Energizer Bunny. Setting a bedtime or being aware of signs of tiredness can also avoid tantrums caused by fatigue. An overtired child will also most likely find it harder to sleep.
Our bedtime ritual has slightly changed from when the Energizer Bunny was an infant. What once was a simple ritual of bathing, putting on pjs, reading a book or two, and nursing her to sleep now includes bedtime prayers and end-of-day sharing of the happiest, saddest, funniest parts of our day. Oh, and no, the Energizer Bunny is no longer nursing! Those first few weeks were definitely a struggle, but I am so thankful that we found our own bedtime rhythm as a family.