Bedtime routines: the nitty-gritty

Filed under: Toddlers Preschoolers, Feeding & Sleeping, Bedtime

Over the past two years, bedtime for Bean has evolved quite a bit. There was the time, before he was a year old, when I'd have to have him physically on my body for him to go to sleep. Then there was the rocking phase. I hated the rocking phase, mostly because the rocking chair we own totally sucks. It's impossibly hard (not the coveted glider I wish I had, for sure!) and I would feel like I'd slipped into a weird alternate reality: there in the semi dark, rocking and singing lullaby after lullaby.

Around the time he moved to a big-boy bed (18 months-ish?) we skipped the rocking and started snuggling and reading stories, followed by lullabies, until he'd finally close his eyes. Then we'd tiptoe out, breathlessly, in slow motion, for fear of waking him. Bedtime at this phase was dramatic, and drawn out. It took forever to get him to go to sleep--a forever I began to resent.

Finally, I decided to draw the line in the sand: bedtime would be done after two books and a few hugs and kisses. Lights out. Sleep tight. Done. At first this was met with much protest. Then less, and eventually it more or less worked. But he still tries to negotiate: "Just one more kiss, just one more snuggle." And when that fails, "I missed you mama. I missed you when you were at work today. I love you. Come snuggle with me." Clever little monkey.

So that's pretty much where we're at. We start the bedtime routine at 7--with a bath, and a sippy cup of milk. And he'll go to bed for either one of us--after two stories and however many snuggles and smooches. Most nights he will actually go right to sleep (after said negotiations.) But some nights--more lately than in the past--he's been just lying there wide-eyed in the dark for almost an hour. If I leave my studio which is right down the hallway from his room, he'll call out, "Stay close by mama!" And he's started wanting the hallway light on.

I know on these nights he has too much going through his mind, and he somehow can't settle himself down. Recently I've started playing music for him, low, on my computer next door. But I'm not sure if this helps or not. I cant decide if I should just let him be--let him settle in whatever way he can figure out--or if I should give him some method for soothing--like music.

I want to know the nitty-gritty from all of you about your toddler's bedtime routines. What do you do? How does it work? When does your toddler go to sleep? Etc.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.