Sleep: a routine and safety rundown

Being a parent is HARD. Bedtime seems to be one of the biggest struggles for so many parents. When my son was small, we didn’t really have a routine for bedtime, and I regret it now. I’d just let him sleep whenever, and I’d try to sleep when he did. But as he grew, we needed to have him asleep at the same time every night, and it needed to be early. So we came up with a basic routine, and had to basically teach him how to sleep. Now, at age five, he more or less goes to bed at the same time every night. With his younger sister, I wanted to avoid the drama and just get her on a schedule from the start, once she started sleeping through the night more often than not.

So we came up with a basic routine that has helped the kids learn to get to bed, and has helped us get more sleep as a family. It goes something like this: they eat dinner together; the older one gets his bath while the little one gets pajamas on, has storytime and a bottle, and gets settled into bed. When she’s asleep, the older one gets pajamas on, brushes teeth, has story time, and gets to bed.

Five-year-old bedtime routine

5pm: Dinner
6pm: Bath (2-3 times per week, generally I let him decide, unless he’s stinky)
6:30pm: Pajamas
6:50pm: Brush Teeth
7pm: Storytime (He gets 30 minutes of reading with us, longer if he gets ready for bed more quickly)
7:30pm: Bedtime

One-year-old bedtime routine
: Dinner
6pm: Pajamas
6:15pm: Cuddles/Bottle/Story
6:30pm Bedtime*
*If the little one fights bedtime for more than 30 minutes, we get her up and let her play for 20-30 minutes, then try again. 95% of the time, this does the trick and she goes down without a fight.

When we first started this, my oldest child was about two, and we were flailing and struggling to get him to sleep AT ALL. We made a visual chart for him so he could see and understand what was happening and what was needed, which really helped him. We recently upgraded him to a chart with times listed as well—now that he’s old enough to understand time—so he can associate time with tasks, and work on his clock reading skills.

This is what worked for us. Maybe it will resonate with you, and you can adapt it to meet the needs of your family.

Bonus: Here are five tips for safe sleep, as I learned them and have practiced them:

1. Follow the ABC’s of safe sleep:

A: Alone (not bed-sharing, no blankets, toys, pillows, etc.)

B: On their back (if they roll onto their belly on their own, it's totally fine)

C: In a crib (or bassinet, or pack n play that is approved for sleep)

2. Room-share if you’re able to, for at least the first 6 months
3. Baby monitors (if you’re not room-sharing)
4. Sleep sacks are great for keeping babies warm while they’re sleeping
5. Do not smoke around your baby

Unfortunately, there is no consensus among pediatricians on a way to safely bedshare, because by design, adult beds are not made with the needs of infants in mind. If you do still choose to bedshare, it is important to reduce the other risk factors for suffocation while sleeping. No pillows, big bulky blankets, stuffies, etc in the bed near baby. If you take anything that makes you drowsy, like sleep aids or alcohol, do not bedshare. If your partner takes anything that makes them drowsy, do not bedshare with them in the bed. Doctors agree that the safest place for baby is in their own bed. But sometimes, life happens and that doesn’t work, so make sure you are informed about making bedsharing as safe as possible.