Our Bedtime Routine and The Unsolicited Parenting Advice

Taking advice as a mother is one of the trickiest areas I’ve had to navigate. I’m not one to shy away from asking for advice, but when the inevitable words of wisdom come your way that you didn’t ask for they can be tough to swallow. The truth is that we’re all just doing our best. So much so that when someone interjects their opinion it can be off putting. But why is this? Couldn’t we all gather that if someone shares a bit of knowledge that they’re only doing so because they have the best intentions?

While I don’t believe at the core of any advice that there’s harsh intent, it’s easy to get sensitive. It’s easy to take someone’s advice out of context and to turn your back on their suggested tip. Sometimes this is necessary, because while someone might think they know what’s best for you – every mother is different and has their own way of doing things. I know, at least for myself, it’s easier in most instances to just listen, nod, and keep doing things your way. That being said, I think we’ve all received at least one helpful parenting tip we didn’t ask for. Initially it might have thrown you off, maybe even upset you, but after the dust settled, you were open enough listen.

For those of you who have read along here for awhile you know that sleep has been one of our largest challenges. Our floor plan is tricky – we have a one bedroom apartment with both kitchen and bathroom access off the bedroom. When Owen was first born it worked great as we co-slept most nights and didn’t encounter too many issues. But, when his wake ups became more frequent and as he became larger and more mobile it made our nights less and less restful. After reaching what felt like a breaking point we decided it was time to transfer him to his crib, but of course, Owen had other plans. He didn’t enjoy being in the bedroom alone where his crib was located, so my thought was to move our bed into his room, remove the side of his crib and place it next to our bed – he could still have the closeness of co-sleeping, but we could have our space in bed back.

I mentioned this idea to a friend, not looking for advice, more just a conversation piece and the unsolicited advice began to poor. Her advice was of quality no doubt – she had read about a few different children who were injured with this setup, which I appreciated hearing, but ultimately what stung was something along these lines, “I hate to say it, but if you’re not wanting to co-sleep you should just bite the bullet and make the transition.” It was hard to hear, especially when I thought I had found a solution that could potentially work, but she was right. It was time for us to find a long term solution rather than a stepping stone that we would have to later transition out of regardless.

Her advice ultimately lead to us to making the transfer into his crib and establishing a solid bedtime routine. Because I worked out of the house and later at night with Owen, I was hesitant to develop anything too concrete early on. But in all honesty, it has really helped. Insuring a good night’s sleep usually means a smoother day that follows and a happier baby. After establishing our routine, bedtime went from the day’s dreaded task to something Zack and I both look forward to. Here’s a glimpse into our routine.

1. Milk with dinner. After Owen was weaned we started giving him almond and cow milk in his bottle, and now we’re transitioning him to cups like this one from Philips Avent. We always keep water in his cup to offer him before bed and throughout the night.

2. Stick to a bedtime. After dinner we let him crawl/walk around and get out some energy. We try to start step 3 between 7 and 7:30pm – he’s always good about letting us know when he’s tired, but if we don’t listen to his cues and he’s overtired, the whole process can be much more difficult.

3. Quick and calming bath. Since we don’t have a bathtub we give Owen baths in a small plastic tub in our kitchen sink. There’s not a ton of space to move around so we make sure to keep bath time quick and always use calming soap and bubbles to help relax him.

4. Practice good hygiene. We get Owen dressed, comb his hair, and he brushes teeth. After we’re done we recite this affirmation Zack came up with, “I am handsome, I am smart, I am funny, I am brave. I’m not better than anybody and nobody’s better than me.” It’s the cutest thing.

5. Let him choose a bedtime story. We bring Owen into his playroom and let him select one book. We always read “Goodnight Moon” right before bed, but we love letting him pick out the other. This has made bedtime something he looks forward to as well.

6. Get comfy! Since we share a room we bring Owen into our bed, turn down the lights, give him his Philips Avent pacifier, turn on lullabies, and read his stories.

7. Peaceful crib transfer.
 Once we’re done with the stories we cuddle with him for a couple minutes and then put him in his crib. When we lay him down we always say “It’s bedtime Owen – we love you so much. Goodnight.” We stay there with him for a few minutes as he settles in, sing to him and then leave quietly as he begins to shut his eyes.

8. Handle wakings with patience. When and if he wakes up, we go back in, give him his Philips Avent pacifier, and calm him back to sleep. We believe it’s important to keep bedtime a positive experience for him.

9. Keep quiet! Because of our unique floor plan we really try to keep the noise down and limit kitchen use and showers until the morning.

10. Be forgiving.
 Some nights Owen just wants to be close – whether it’s teething related, sickness or some other growth spurt. Ultimately we all have to sleep and pushing the routine can sometimes cause more stress than necessary.

Do you guys have a bedtime routine? What has worked for you?