Easier Bedtimes with Bedtime Rhythms
Little children have the most eventful days, don’t they? Filled with wonder, excitement and astonishment at all the new things they see and experience through the day is definitely one of the highlights of being little. But, as the day drags on, there come the tantrums and meltdowns that can make even the best of parents dread bedtime.
It is simple. Little children get overwhelmed by all the things they experience through the day. As the evening nears, they are not able to process much of any instructions that you give, and understandably so. And the solution is simple too.
Instead of looking at the clock, let us look at the child!
What exactly is a bedtime rhythm?
A bedtime rhythm or routine is a strong set of evening rituals that help the child to get ready for bed in a peaceful manner. Studies have shown that instituting a bedtime rhythm improved the quality of infant and toddler sleep and maternal mood too! Bedtime rhythms also let our children know what comes after each step, drastically minimizing tantrums and meltdowns. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics, in their "Guide to Your Child's Sleep" book states that "it is almost impossible to over-stress the importance of a calm, orderly bedtime routine."
How can you institute a bed time rhythm?
Sit down with your parenting partner, and work out a schedule. You know your child the best! Depending on their likes, a broad bedtime rhythm could involve dinner, downtime with music, putting away toys, a wash or a bath, storytime and then bed. A sample bedtime routine is given below.
- Decide on a bed time that is convenient for you as a family. It could be different for other families, and that’s fine too. But, whatever works seamlessly for you is what will be sustainable in the long run. Your child could have an earlier bedtime if they wake up early and don’t nap or a later bedtime if they either wake up late or have a nap. Plan according to the child’s needs.
- Start putting away toys along with child. We sing a song in our house during wind up time - “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, time to wind up where you are. Keep your toys in its place, and keep a smile upon your face”. J
- Play some calming music in the background. Some studies have shown that music has a calming effect and is a stress reliever.
- Offer a bedtime snack if dinner was early, and as always, children have right of refusal too.
- Wash hands, legs and face if your children bathe in the morning. A bath closer to bedtime may have a therapeutic and calming effect on some children, but whatever works for you as a family.
- Brushing their teeth is a vital non-negotiable part of any bedtime rhythm. Older children can brush their own teeth while toddlers and babies will need their teeth to be brushed by their caregivers. Brushing teeth before sleeping will ensure dental health.
- Ensure that your child empties their bladder once, just before bed to prevent any bed wetting incidents. For younger babies, this would be the time for a last diaper change.
- Change the child’s clothes and put on their pajamas for a comfortable sleep.
- Read a bedtime story. Allow your child to choose a couple of small books from among a selection. Curate the selection so that it does not include very exciting books. Bed time stories are meant to be calming!
Lights off and time to sleep! We, at The Nestery, believe in child-led parenting. If you breastfeed your child to sleep, great! For older children, or children who have weaned, you know your child the best. Some like to be held as they fall asleep, while some hold on to a doll or a favorite blankie. Do whatever works for your child. Remember, they will not need you forever, so be there for them in these little ways until they stop needing you around!
There is absolutely no one right way to set a bedtime rhythm, but there are some dos and don'ts that you must take care of.
- Institute a bedtime rhythm when your baby is young. Younger babies don’t protest as much as older toddlers and preschoolers.
- Keep bedtime rhythms short and crisp. A good bedtime rhythm must last about 15-20 minutes if you include a bath.
- Be fairly consistent with the routine.
- Make dental hygiene a non-negotiable part of bedtime from a young age.
- Don’t drag out the routine. It is okay to refuse gently and firmly a request for another book or story when it is closer to bedtime.
- Avoid over stimulating activities like videos or TV at least an hour before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine(it is present in soda too!) or high sugar snacks before bedtime. They are stimulants and are terrible for dental heath and sleep.
Over a period of time, your child will come to recognize the rhythm, and will know it is time to sleep. More than the time on the clock, the rhythm is the more important guideline to set up for a peaceful and struggle free bedtime.
A good bedtime rhythm ensures your child has a good sleep after his eventful day, while also helping you, as a parent to struggle lesser with bedtimes. We hope these tips help you have a more peaceful and less eventful bedtime with your kids!