Ill be the first to admit bedtime is rather unorthodox in our house. Nap times also follow a more casual pattern, my little ones tend to do the ‘plop and drop’, rather than regularly scheduled naps. I do make certain that if they don’t sleep we at least do quiet time every hour and a half, as I have discovered going much longer than that without rest results in an acute case of windmill mode. Occasionally one or the other, (or both) will go on a nap strike despite my efforts and the dire and unfortunate state of windmill mode ensues.
Due to my teaching schedule, we eat dinner pretty late. Our usual evening schedule consists of dinner after 8pm, making an early bedtime for the kiddos very difficult if we hope to have any family time at all. After I finish teaching, we feed, change and put the babies in their jammies, sometimes giving them a quick bath. They both then usually fall asleep near us in their bouncy seats, leaving us a few quiet moments to eat dinner and catch up on the day. We all four go to bed at the same time. Diapers are changed for the last time, we swaddle them up, and they both nurse to sleep. Swaddling was something we introduced later, our first attempt was not well received by my itty bitties, (think full fledged screaming rebellion). Now they love it, it has an instant calming effect and it is an important part of our little bedtime routine. I don’t have a very set routine, we try to read a story before they pass out and we nurse and cuddle to sleep, but that’s about it.
Now, bedtime is different for every family, and you have do what works for you. Last week I had a wave of mama guilt that perhaps I should be having the babies to sleep at a certain time every night, and that maybe my lack of bedtime routine was setting us all up for disaster. I chose a night in which I didn’t teach as late, and we did bathtime, story time, and to bed by 8pm. At first, they crashed into what appeared to be a deep sleep. However, a mere 15 minutes later, bright, eager little eyes were darting around the room and smiles and giggles were growing in volume. I got back into bed and nursed them to sleep again. A little bit later, the wiggles started and my tiny wrapped munchkins were wide awake again. (I do highly recommend this process if you desire to get your daily workout in while trying to get your babies to sleep. Up, down, into bed, out of bed. Repeat).
This process continued for over the next few hours, when they finally fell asleep for good. (Or at least for the next two hours). They woke up unusually early the next day and with a major case of Cranky Baby-itis. (Mama also had an equally major case of Cranky Mama-itis).
After pondering the failure of our attempted bedtime, I realized I could either commit to this process and keep at it until they learned the habit and it worked, or I could continue with our current routine which is working great. They go to sleep at some time before 10, they fall asleep fast and stay asleep, and then stay in bed until usually after 9 with a quick nursing snack or two. They wake up full of smiles and in the most wonderful moods. Thus, I determined that, at least for now, a strict bedtime was not something I deemed worthy of the effort. I get up early in the morning while they’re sleeping and that gives me a little time to accomplish some house chores and work, etc. I do like that my children seem to be learning flexibility in scheduling, and as they grow older hopefully won’t have their balance completely upset when we have events, go traveling, etc.
Will this routine continue working? I don’t know, as I said before parenting is a constantly changing learning process. I do know it worked for my parents and my sisters, and I love that growing up, while we always got our needed sleep, we also got to watch fireworks and roast marshmallows and have many experiences a strict bedtime would not have permitted us to partake in. I hope to be able for my own children to have those experiences, I know they were a huge important part of my childhood. And of course, what works for babies today may not work tomorrow, and hence why my personal mama playbook is an ongoing source of discovery.