‘I’m Not That Great Of A Mom After 8 P.M.’ – So Let’s Discuss Our Kid’s Bedtime Rituals

sleepy kittenYesterday when I posted about the study that suggests irregular sleep times are disrupting our children’s brain functions, I was surprised at the number of you who are having issues. And it’s not even that you are having issues getting your kids to sleep, but dealing with people who have OPINIONS about how you get your kids to sleep. I’ll say it again, and most of you know this is my parenting mantra, it’s nobody’s fucking business how you parent. Unless you are giving your kids Pop Rocks and Mountain Dew right before bedtime, then I may sit here and quietly judge you. I’ve pretty much raised four babies (I’m not quite done yet, considering they still live in my house and eat all of my delicious food) but I can remember each of them having their own sleep issues at one time or another, and especially when they were toddlers having to establish all these rituals for getting them to go to sleep and stay asleep. Because I co-slept with all of them, by the time I was ready to boot them from my bed – on occasion they still felt like coming back, like ghostly little boomerangs who decided that our bedding was more comfy or mom and dad were cozier to sleep with than their stuffed animals and night lights.

I do know a few tricks that worked for me.

Fresh air does wonders in wearing both babies and kids out. I can remember taking all of my kids in their strollers for an hour or so before bedtime and they would conk out like magic. Same with bigger kids, run them around the yard a few hours before bedtime and they will sleep much better in the evening. Even when it’s frigid out, bundle that baby up and take them outside. Our resident babysitter Emmali knows this!

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Repetition. It doesn’t matter what you do before bedtime, unless you are like introducing some brand spankin’ new awesome toy or letting them watch some exciting new movie, as long as you keep the bedtime routine pretty much the same from night to night. Kids and babies love repetition, and it gets their little brains ready to accept that sleep is inevitable. Reading a book, cuddling, quiet playtime, a song and then lights out. Whatever you do, you will have better luck getting them to pass out if you do the same things in the same order every time. I’m not a personal fan of TV or computer time before bed, because studies have shown that exposure to these things can disrupt sleep patterns. I need to take this advice myself, because I’m always reading on my Kindle or playing that horrible, awful, stupidly addicting Candy Crush game before bed.


(Image: Tumblr)

And my totally no-fail always-assume trick to pretty much everything: BATHTIME
Water is magic. It wears everyone out. To this day if my teenager is in a sour mood or acting like a teenager I suggest he have a warm bath or shower and I swear he is like a new person. For babies and kids it’s pretty much fail-proof. When my kids were little I think I would bathe them about twice a day on some days just because they would always be sleepy after a bath. You of course have to keep their delicate skin in consideration, and water can be drying, but you all knew that already.

What are some of your tricks and tips you use at bedtime? Yesterday Blue said one of my all-time favorite things ever and I stole it because it’s pretty much perfect and fits my personal parenting philosophy totally:


The other morning after my own alarm went off I exclaimed in my zombie-esque state to my husband that “The best sleep is the sleep that you do not get.” He found this amazingly profound, and all I meant is that the coziest, most delicious, most dreamiest, yummiest sleep is the sleep you aren’t getting at that exact moment because you have to haul ass out of bed and deal with getting ready for the day and feeding the damn cat who is howling outside the bedroom door. I could totally lecture all of your adult humans about how terribly important it is that YOU are getting enough sleep, but I think you all know that. One of the best parenting tips I ever got was to nap when the baby naps.

I fully believe that after am long day of parenting that YOU deserve downtime, and not just to fold laundry or pick up toys, but to do the things that remind you that you are more than just a parent. Whether that is doing a hobby or reading or watching The Real Housewives or applying fake eyelashes and teasing your hair while you dance around your bedroom to Robyn – we all need that adult time alone. It can be hard to do when you have a little voice asking for one more story or a glass of water. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t give in on occasion and give your little monsters what they want, it’s your decision on how you handle this because as I said above it’s no one’s damn business, but I guess my most important point is that when you are looking after these little humans that we all love, that you take sometime to love yourself too. Alone. With the kids in bed.

(Image: Tumblr)

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    • LiteBrite

      As I said yesterday in that thread, my son used to nap for hours in the afternoon. We’d lay him down around 1, and he’d sleep until 4ish, sometimes later if we let him. It was awesome; I could get a ton of things done: clean, nap, torture the cats with love and affection. Then, at 3 1/2, he just stopped. Went cold turkey. That was the worst summer with him actually because he still needed that nap but would.not.go.down. He was irritable and uncooperative, and we were adjusting to not getting that afternoon downtime.

      But eventually we adjusted to the change. C usually goes to bed between 7:30-8:00 p.m. By 7 p.m. he gets his pjs on, and I try to calm him down with some family time on the couch. Sometimes we watch a movie of his choice, and sometimes we read.. I’m a lot more strict with the 7:30 bedtime during school days, less strict on holidays, weekends, and special events. Since it’s summer now – no school – we’ve been a little more lax, so if he doesn’t get to bed until 8 p.m. it’s no big deal. But since he naps only rarely now, it’s more important than ever for us to have that “boy-free time” at night.

      The one thing we always do before bed, no matter what, is read stories. It’s nice to just have that quiet time just the two of us right before lights out. (We take turns putting him to bed, and storytime is one of DH’s favorite times with him too.)

      • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

        this all gets +37383282882 cozy points

    • TngldBlue

      My toddler is the f’ing energizer bunny. She was a great sleeper until around 2.5 then it went to hell. We’ve tried everything under the sun, she’s been tested, poked, and prodded and all to no avail. Finally after a year of her only sleeping for 4-5 hours a night and no naps, our doctor suggested melatonin as a last resort but we haven’t tried it yet (and am afraid to ask what comes after this last resort). I think during the newborn stage I sold my soul to the devil in exchange for a full nights sleep and now the devil is collecting.

      • Andrea

        I am a big fan of melatonin. If your doctor told you it’s ok, I would most definitely try it.

        I, personally, wouldn’t use it for forever, but it is a great way of getting them on schedule.

      • TngldBlue

        You may have just convinced me. I’m not really one of those anti-medicine for children people but her natural melatonin levels are normal so that made me hesitate. But not sleeping isn’t doing her any favors nor is being completely off schedule so I think it is time for me to cry mercy. And I’m quite certain it will work wonderfully and I’ll be kicking myself for waiting so long!

      • Andrea

        I hear ya because I was reluctant at 1st. I didn’t relish the thought of medicating my children to sleep. But it is not so much medication as a nutrition supplement. And if your doctor said it was ok, I would totally go for it. It is not addictive. At worst, you’ll get a couple of nights of respite if nothing else. At best, your daughter might get ‘tricked” into a better sleep schedule!

    • LET

      My trick is having my husband put the kid to bed! I suck at it. He’s 4 & I still drive around after errands hoping he’ll take a nap.
      When hubby’s out of town or too tired, I just do a story, sing “You Are My Sunshine”, have kisses & go to bed. Then, I pour myself some red wine & stay up too late watching tv.

      • SDA

        “You Are My Sunshine” does the trick for mine too. Of course to be able to sing it the required 10 times, I have already started on the wine. ;)

      • VicMcSeven

        I can’t do “You Are My Sunshine”. It makes me burst into tears. D:

        “Twinkle, Twinkle”, though….

    • Bethany Ramos

      7 PM is my favorite time because it’s bedtime!! No matter what. Now my 17 month old claps his hands and gets really excited when it’s time for bed. We also just leave him in bed no matter what until 7 AM, although he’s usually sleeping. We can see him on the video monitor, and sometimes he’ll be playing or singing to himself. He needs private time too! :-)

    • Justme

      My grandmother always said that she was happy to put the kids to bed at night but equally happy to get them out of bed in the morning.

      • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

        awww, that is so true

      • Blueathena623

        There is a quote in a Jennifer Werner book (good night nobody) that I love. To paraphrase, being a parent means you can’t wait for your kids to go to sleep, but as soon as they do you miss them.

    • Blueathena623

      Awe, now I feel loved.

      As for bedtimes, I don’t judge parents about what time their kids go down as long as they aren’t complaining and refusing to try anything different (but that is pretty much my life philosophy — if you repeatedly complain about something without at least trying to remedy the situation, I will stick my fingers in my ears and say “la la la I can’t hear you”)

      For us, routine helps a lot. We essentially have the same routine starting at 5:15 pm when daddy gets home. I feel comforted with knowing what is next, so I’m assuming a kid would too.

      One thing we have about bedtime is once we enter the bedroom, the kidlet does not come out. For naps, if he’s reallllly not sleepy, we will play and try again, but for bed time, we ain’t leaving.

      And yes, I’m not that great a mom past 8. I can rise to the situation if need be, but I need me time so I can chill before I go to bed.

      • Blueathena623

        Oh, and I totally agree on the ban of electronic devices before bed, although I am guilty of it myself (watching old seasons of Game of Thrones on my iPad right before bed in the hopes that I dream of Ned Stark or John Snow — it worked last night!)

      • DMH

        I’m DMH, and I’m a Pinaholic. I’m always on the Pinterest app on my iPad before I go to bed. Helps me unwind. Also helps me lose 2 hours of sleep because I’m up pinning. But those crafts that I’ll never do need to be saved somewhere…just in case!!

      • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

        Just in case never riiiight?

      • DMH

        Pretty much.

        In the event hell freezes over and I actually do manage to complete a craft, I have a feeling it will turn into one of those “nailed it” memes and look nothing like what it was intended it to be.

      • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

        You are so loved!

    • Ana

      Thank you for writing about this. The article yesterday was the kick in the butt I needed to finally commit to booting my 1 year old out of our bed. I am absorbing all the advice in the hopes that something sticks. She hates her crib and we joke that putting her in it is the sure-fire way to wake her up from a nap. We both work at 10am so we go to bed pretty late, and she ends up staying up with us. Lately she wakes up crying and thrashing around a couple of times a night until she is cuddled back to sleep, and it is wearing on us. We’re going to start trying to sleep train on Friday. I think at first we’ll go in after a few minutes of crying and pat her on the back, then wait a little longer the next time she cries and spend less time with her. Eventually we’ll just talk to her from the door and then watch her on the monitor. Should we read to her and cuddle in our bed first, or do everything in her room? She is so clingy, I am afraid she is going to feel abandoned.

      • Véronique Houde

        Dude trust me if you read my post I totally feel your pain. What works for me is cuddling with a book and a bottle before bedtime (because getting her to sleep isn’t an issue) after the bath time. it’s important that she learn to fall asleep on her own and in her bed because apparently one reason she wakes up at night and wants to get back to your bed is that no one likes to wake up in a different spot than where they fell asleep. If you became a sleep prop to her (meaning that she needs you next to her to fall asleep), she will have a hard time falling asleep without you.

        Struggling between sleep training and adapting it to the child’s personality is the worst. You’ve gotta do what fits best with your baby. For me, it will probably to rub her back for a bit while she settles down in her bed and then walk away before she’s fully asleep.

        Also, when she wakes up in her bed, wait a few minutes before going to get her, you’d be surprised at how she can fall back asleep on her own… The first night we tried this, it took 10 minutes, but then with more and more time, it became easier. If then she can’t fall back asleep, go comfort her again.

      • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter


      • Véronique Houde

        it’s my bedroom too that’s the problem!! ;)

      • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

        OH see, shit. well, I would still suggest not going in until you totally have to go to sleep

      • Véronique Houde

        lol good point!

      • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

        letting them cry it out is so hard but so worth it. depending on age etc

      • Véronique Houde

        Yeah… we’ll see… For now it’s not working that great and we’ve been at this for about a month. I am consistent with it, but then it gets hard because she popped three teeth out just this week alone. So when she wakes up it’s always the questions: is she in pain? Is this just a crying fit? There are always doubts to the crying it out… Sometimes it’ll work, sometimes there’s something really wrong :S

      • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

        when cutting teeth you can pretty much throw everything out the damn window.

      • Véronique Houde

        hahaha RIGHT? I have no idea what I’m doing! ;) lol No really, how insane is it that THREE teeth decided to pop out at the same time? My 8 month old has 5 teeth now. That’s strange to me…

      • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

        Yeah, you cannot expect any normal sleep patterns right now. You gotta wait :( But I bet she looks ridic adorable , awww, baby toothies

      • Ana

        Tell me about it. My daughter has almost all of her teeth already, including canines. At her 1 year check-up the doctor said she has more than most 18 m.o. It seems like she is always popping one out, and I never know if it is her teeth that are bothering her. Thanks for the advice above. I will think about the Sleep Sense.

      • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

        If you really really do want her out, and I’m not judging if you don’t (I still let my kids sleep with us on occasion and they are way old) you need to do it. As in she is one so as long as she is fed, doesn’t need a change, and is warm she is fine. You need to have one hellish hell week and let her cry. I’m sorry, and I know it can be so damn hard, but ya need to do it. It probably won’t even take a week. it will be MUCH harder on you guys than it is on her. :(

      • Ana

        That’s what I hear, about the week of hell. So not looking forward to it. We don’t really really want her out, but we need some time away from her to relax. And I am afraid it is only going to get harder to kick her out as she gets older.

      • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

        Hey if you are on twitter we can all support you while you are doing it!

      • Véronique Houde


      • Ana

        Thanks, that is very sweet. I am not, but I appreciate the offer.

      • Véronique Houde

        if you feel lost and want to read the sleep sense prgram here’s the link: http://www.sleepsense.net/share.html?p=veroniquethinks&w=buynow

    • Véronique Houde

      Bed time has always been a bit of a struggle for us, in that Adeléa, like a lot of people’s babies here, would only sleep in our arms. We started co-sleeping, just to be able to get some shut-eye. At about 6 weeks, she started sleeping 8 hours straight so that was AWESOME! But then at 7 months, she regressed and would wake up shrieking at 2am without fail. Ugh…

      We had no idea what to do. Our doctor told us that there was no need to feed her at that time and that we should try the CIO method. I personally had a bit of an issue with it because of Lea’s personality – she’s very physical and needs a cuddle to go to sleep.

      I tried the Sleep Sense method and there are a lot of things that worked from it. First of all, instating a routine and pushing her bedtime to 8pm worked awesome. Making sure that she got two 1 hour 15 minute naps in the day also did wonders. Making sure she fell asleep on her own and in her bed was the biggest challenge…

      It started out great when she couldn’t pull herself up in her bed to a standing position. She would cry and eventually fall asleep. The sleep sense program is a bit like the CIO method so it’s basically the same idea.

      It all went to hell once she figured out how to get up because then she didn’t know how to get down again… So I started rubbing her back while she relaxed and tried to stop before she would fall asleep so she could do the rest on her own. Works great most nights, but last night we had a nightmare night…

      At 10pm she woke up. I started rubbing her back after setting her back down. She would relax, be comfy, almost fall asleep and the minute I would walk away, she would get back up. Now, she can set herself down on her own, and i was so tired of it, I decided to stay next to her bed and shhhh her without looking at her all the time, hoping she would understand it was time for her to settle herself down.

      After litterally an hour of her crying, it broke my heart when she gave up, sat down, grabbed her teddy bear and just sat there sobbing… Not a good sob. A heartbroken sob. She lay down and started crying really sadly… I tried to stay strong and stay until she fell asleep. 5 minutes later, she woke up again, and stood up again. I couldn’t do it anymore. I felt as though that technique probably worked great for other babies… but not Lea. I picked her up and set her on me and her diaphragm was jumping up and down for about 30 minutes after she stopped crying she was so upset.

      Now I’m a bit at whit’s end. I think I’ll just stick to rubbing her back and singing her lullabies. It’s not that bad, just bad for my back most of all. I feel like she doesn’t respond well to crying it out. At all. Any suggestions?

      • Andrea

        Babies grow and change. it is very possible that this will be a temporary stage. Some things may not work at 7 months, then they will work at 8, and stop working at 12 months. It’s all trial and error.

        I am sorry about your hellish nights.

      • Véronique Houde

        thanks… At least it’s not a common thing. Most nights now she can sleep through completely. You always want to be the “good mom” who does everything right… But then your child cries and you start doubting!

        I have to admit that what might not have helped last night was the fact that she was put to bed over tired. I had to step out to go pick up my sister at the airport and asked my boyfriend to put her to bed an hour earlier because she had an active day and was exhausted already at 6.30. But obviously he didn’t listen and kept her awake until 8pm despite her constant crying… I’m thinking that she was so overtired that when she woke up at 10pm she had no idea how to get back to sleep…

        Getting the boyfriend on board with sleep techniques has been a bit of a rollercoaster – he mostly agrees on principle but in practice doesn’t enact it so much making it harder for her…

      • Andrea

        Ooooohh, overtiredness is THE WORST! And yeah, a unified front is almost a must.

        But it WILL get better, I promise. Maybe not as soon as you want it to, but it WILL.

      • Blueathena623

        One thing I will forever be bitter about is that none of the pregnancy/baby books I read really, REALLY discussed sleep. Nursing, food, illnesses, milestones, what have you — all covered. Sleep? Some hints, some guidelines, some recommendations, but no hint that it can take actual effing effort to “teach” a kid how to sleep. You can have 17 pages of various positions to nurse in, but not even one sentence along the lines of “hey, go to your library and start reading books on sleep.”?

        And its like a dirty little secret parents rarely talk about. I have mommy friends who clued me in to all manner of things when I was pregnant, told me what were lies and what was the truth, but none of them ever told me “hey, my 20 month old still hasn’t ever slept through the night.” So you read the stupid books and think “ok, 3 months maybe, 4 hopefully, 5 months tops, and my kid will sleep through the night.” True for some kids I’m sure, but none of the ones I know.

      • Véronique Houde

        I’d never thought about it that way, but you’re absolutely right. It’s as if the people who write the books just assume that you’ll know what to do ;)

    • http://www.facebook.com/RetiredSceneQueen Emmali Lucia

      Oh My Goodness I’m on Mommyish!

      I totally agree with the bath. After a rough day I get out my 32 oz tea pot, brew myself some good herbal tea, draw a HUGE bath, plop in one of those huge super fizzy bath-bombs (I don’t like the sulfates in bubble baths) then I don’t leave until I finish off my kettle.

    • Emily

      My kids are pretty good sleepers because, I believe, we are really consistent about bedtime routines and how we deal with them on the odd occasion they’re up during the night. There might be two or three nights a year when they are in bed after 7:30.

      A good friend’s kids are absolutely awful about bedtime. They (5-and-under) are in bed around 10pm. Dude, that’s when *I* go to bed. Every once in a while she asks for tips about getting them to bed earlier (and knows what I am going to say) but otherwise, I keep my lips zipped about it. None of my beeswax.

    • Mom_of_2_2012

      This is more for the preschool-and-up age group, but with my daughter, who’s 9, we are big on the nightly routine and getting to bed on time, but not making her go to sleep right away. Basically, the rule is “Do whatever you want as long as you stay in your bed.” She has a light next to her, and she can turn it off when she’s ready (when she was younger, if she fell asleep with it on, we’d turn it off after she fell asleep). Now she likes to read at night, but when she was littler she would play with her stuffed animals, draw, etc. until she felt tired. This might not work for every kid, but for her it makes her feel like she has some control over bedtime, and she’s happy to go into bed and have her own “downtime.”

      I also subscribe to the 8:00 cutoff for mommy-duty. I tell my daughter that all bets are off after 8 p.m.- if she comes downstairs looking for me, she might not like who she finds ;)

      • Justme

        This is the rule I plan to institute as my daughter gets older…hell…even with her as a two-year-old I really don’t care if she lays in bed and sings show tunes for an hour before passing out, just as long as she stays IN BED.

      • Aldonza

        This was my parents policy growing up. It worked wonders because, you’re right, I felt like I had some control over things, and usually had no problem falling asleep after I’d read my books for awhile. It also taught me that, if I stayed up for far too long reading a book I was really into, I would not get as much sleep and might get tired the next day, which was actually a really good thing to learn.

    • http://wtfimalmostthirty.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

      As soon as my three-month-old son is in bed, I go on Facebook and look at the pictures I’ve posted of him. And then I play video games.