It's 7:34pm in the Ellenberger house and, as usual, Jane has just gone to sleep. All is quiet. No one is crying. No one is yelling. No kicking. No screaming. Dan and I are sitting on the couch - he with a glass of wine, me with my laptop - relaxing.
Up until pre-Christmas, Jane's bedtime used to be 6:30pm. She'd go to sleep at 6:30pm and sleep until 6:30am. Including a 1.5-2 hour nap during the day. This was great but also hard. It was great to have so much time to ourselves at the end of the day but also hard to only get an hour or so with Jane after work/daycare before bedtime.
When the time changed in November, we went through a transition stage... that. was. hell. Jane started waking up at 4am. Every. Morning. I was in my first trimester. It wasn't pretty. I was literally, waking up with her, putting on the tv, and falling asleep while she snuggled in my arms. Falling asleep while my child was awake next to me watching tv. Mom of the year.
We stuck with everything for a while, unchanged, waiting to see if it was a phase that would pass. But, at Christmas, we ended up moving her bedtime to 7:30pm and, after a week or so of adjustment, she started sleeping until 6:30 am again. THANK. GOD. Dan said we needed to do it for me more than Jane. Apparently I'm not nice when I'm tired.
Here's the thing. 6:30 or 7:30, the number one response I get from a lot of other moms when they find out how early Jane goes to bed is "oh my God, how do you get her to sleep so early?" Not in a bad way, in an envious way. It's usually followed by "______ won't go to bed until ____".
Here's how I do it.
I put Jane to bed at 7:30 pm. Every night. No questions asked.
I don't wait for her to look tired. I don't ask her if she's ready for bed. I don't let time slip away from me. She is in her bed at 7:30 pm. The end. If she doesn't fall asleep right away (which happens extremely, extremely rarely), she does not come back downstairs. She stays in her bed. That's it.
Part of our success in this (I say our, cause Dan's truly a parent in my house too) is routine. Ever since the DAY - literally - Jane came home from the hospital, we started a routine with her. We did bathtime, boobtime and bedtime. We did it at the same time every night. Like I said. We didn't wait for her to look tired. I never did. Even when she napped during the day. We had a schedule. Now, at that point, she set the schedule. I'm not one of those crazy people who tries to put their newborn on a schedule. I'm not that anal or control-freaky - not that there's anything wrong with those of you who are. I let her set the schedule and then I stuck to her schedule. Every four weeks or so the schedule changed, it would take me a week to figure that out, and then we'd get back on it.
But bedtime never changed, no matter how screwed up naptimes might have been during the day.
So, what's our routine now? You'll be happy to know boobtime no longer occurs. :p
As time went on, the routine changed as our little baby turned into an infant and then a toddler. Bathtime, boobtime, bedtime was replaced by bathtime, bottletime, bedtime then bottletime, booktime, bedtime to what it is now quiettime, booktime and bedtime. We only do bath every other night in our house.
Usually at 6:45pm or so we start setting the stage. Whatever Jane is doing - playing, watching tv, whatever - I start telling her that it's almost time for bedtime and that she only has a few more minutes to play.
At 7pm, "it's bedtime"... we're upstairs. If it's bath night, we're in the bath - I still get in the bath with Jane because it's hilariously fun. If not, Jane has some quiet time (which is really just tv-free time) playing with my iPAD on my bed - doing puzzles, reading stories, etc. I don't like to let her watch tv right up until bedtime, I feel like it's too much stimulation. I'm not sure the iPAD is much better but Jane likes to do puzzles and listen to her nursery rhymes and such so it's just quieter and less "BLAH" in your face. At quarter after, we move to the bedroom. No lights on. Just a lamp. I've ALWAYS implemented this rule. It may seem obvious, but not to all. When it's bedtime (or nighttime wakings for those with newbies), lights are kept low. We read two stories - when I say this, I smile, because Jane tells me "I read two stories, like this" and she holds up her two fingers like a peace sign. Too cute.
Jane is SO invested in this routine that she will tell it to you. After you read the stories, she lies down. We tuck her in with her blankie, "turn on my music, big kisses, turn off my light" (that's Jane telling you her routine).
Sometimes I reinforce that when she wakes up she just needs to say "oh mommy, where are you?" and that she doesn't have to cry because "big girls don't cry when they wake up because mommy is always right outside the door"... I think it's important to teach your babes this or something similar. When our kids are babies, what do they do when they wake up to get your attention? They cry. They cry and we come. As they get older, if you don't teach them, somehow, that they don't need to cry and that they can get your attention another way, then what else are they gonna do but cry? We've taught Jane the "oh mommy" thing and it's hilarious. I wake up every morning laughing when she literally repeats, word for word, "oh mommy, where ARE YOU?" over and over in a happy girl voice.
Here's my second tip and it relates to big-girl (or boy) beds. We've never, ever, ever, ever, told Jane that she can get out of her bed when she wakes up. We've never said "if you wake up, you can get out of your bed and come get mommy" or "go play with your books until mommy comes in". I know that some parents like to do things this way and that's fine - oftentimes it's in an effort to get a bit more sleep which I can appreciate. For us, I feel like it's been a blessing. My concern, with teaching Jane it's ok to get out of bed, is that if she woke up throughout the night, she'd be getting out of bed and coming to our room... which, of course, could result in another challenging habit. Also, oftentimes, she'll make a few peeps early in the AM and then go back to sleep for another hour or so. Again, I'd be concerned she'd end up in our bed at that point. SO, for us, it worked best to implement the above "oh mommy" strategy and I get into her room as quickly as I can so that she doesn't get impatient and try to get out of bed by herself. I literally (maybe I'm crazy) don't even want her to know she has that option. :p
This has resulted in a good outcome for us in that, even in those rare times where she doesn't go to sleep right away (sometimes she sings for a little bit :p) or during those days where she has no interest in having a nap - she will stay in her bed and have some quiet time. She'll chat to herself or sing, and every one still gets some quiet time.
As always, I'm not saying my way is the highway. We do what works for us. These are the little things that we do that work for us. Maybe there's something there that can work for you - maybe you have something to share that works for you. Bring it on! :)