Seeing as we now have a toddler and a newborn, I wanted to share the bedtime routine we have done with Everly since she was about 3 months old. I want to write it here so I am also able to reference it in a few months time when Aaron wakes up from is sleepy newborn slumber and starts being more wakeful. Hopefully you find this post useful/interesting, and as always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments if there is anything else you do that you find works for you and your family.
Before having Everly, I was adamant that a baby would just slot into our lives and we wouldn’t be ‘those people’ who plan their day around their little one’s naps. But alas, I have since realised, a happy baby = a happy mommy & daddy and wherever possible, we try to keep to our routine as much for their sake as for our sanity. Everly has always slept well, and slept a lot. It even got to the point where I was googling ‘can a toddler sleep too much’ because the majority of my friends seemed to have babies and toddlers that just ‘hate sleep’. And while I am going to be a bit controversial here (because I’m sure there are little ones out there that REALLY struggle to sleep) I am going to say that the majority of babies/toddlers want & need sleep, they may just need more help to actually get to (and stay!) asleep. Even at 17 months old, Everly still naps twice a day (mostly) and these two naps range from 1.5 - 2.5 hours each. She also sleeps at night on average, for 12 - 13 hours. This post isn’t meant to be an ode to how wonderful my child is (from what I can tell with my friend’s kids, Everly may be more of the exception to the rule than the norm) but I do wish at least one person had shared with me that it is possible to have a good sleeper, and that you shouldn’t feel bad about the fact that your child genuinely needs/wants lots of sleep. I think there are lots of factors that play a role in ‘creating’ a good sleeper (things like diet, routine, patience and a WHOLE lot of strong will when it comes to ‘sleep training’…I’ll share our thoughts on this in another post) but as always, each child is different and each family is different too, you need to find what works for you.
We have done the same evening & bedtime routine since Everly was about 3 months old. Before that, she just fed & slept anywhere and everywhere. From Day 2 home from the hospital, we put her in her own room, mostly because she was so noisy when she slept, that neither me or hubby could get any sleep. I LOVE the idea of co-sleeping, I just know that it wouldn’t work for our family. I am a very deep sleeper, but Farmboy isn’t, and as he is up at 4h30 every morning to go and milk the cows, co-sleeping is just not something either of us feel would work for us. Having baby/toddler in their own room, away from you so you don’t hear every single sniff and gurgle, helps a whole lot in ensuring a better sleep for mom & dad…but again, if this isn’t for you and you prefer to have baby in your room, that’s a choice completely up to you to make. This post is not a post to bash moms and dads who co-sleep etc but more about sharing what we do and what works for us.
Everly’s evening & bedtime routine
Supper is at 5pm.
Everly has been brought up on a low carb, no sugar way of eating right from day 1 of starting solids. If you’re South African, I guess you would say she was & is a Banting Baby (although we aren’t strict with carb counting) and if you’re not sure what Banting is, it’s basically a low carb high fat way of eating. What this means is Everly doesn’t eat any form of processed carbs (no toast/crackers/cereal/pasta etc) and no form of processed sugar (no juice/sweets/chips/cake/commercial kids snack bars etc). You would be surprised at just how much hidden sugar is in most baby food products…and while I can control what she eats, this is how we have chosen to raise her. You may be wondering what on earth I feed my child, so here are all my posts on #whateverlyeats:
I strongly believe diet plays a huge role in sleep/development/overall contentedness (and the same applies to us adults!) and it would be my first suggestion to look at your little ones diet if they are struggling with sleep.
Bath & bed time starts at 6pm sharp
If she’s been cranky/hasn’t had proper naps during the day we often start earlier so she’s in bed by 6pm, but very rarely is she in bed past 6h30pm.
Farmboy has always done bath time, as it’s his special time to with her. After her bath, she has her milk (I breastfed her up until 13 months - around the 3 month mark of my second pregnancy, at which time it just became too sore for me, and she got too big to be lying on me and my growing tummy) and that’s when we started her on cows milk. She gets a 150ml non spill cup of milk (it’s raw farm milk…which she has grown up on and is the same milk I used to make her homemade yoghurt which she ate from about 7/9 months old).
We started her milk in a TommeeTippee Explora Cup, and she’s still using it today. Even though this cup is probably more suited to babies than toddlers, Everly wasn’t ever weaned from breast to bottle, we went straight onto asippy/drinking cup from the breast, and so this was her water bottle, and now this is what she gets her milk in. I don’t worry about how much milk she drinks, and didn’t ever measure out exact quantities, even after I stopped breastfeeding. Reason being, she eats a LOT of dairy (mainly cheese and homemade yoghurt) and so I knew she wasn’t ever going to be calcium deficient, even if some days she would only drink a few sips of her milk at bedtime. Whatever she doesn’t drink at night, gets put back in the fridge and she gets that in the morning when she wakes up.
While Farmboy is bathing her, I get her milk ready, close the curtains and put her nightlight on (we use a beautiful pink Quartz lamp that she’s had in her room since she was born) as it gives off the warmest, softest glow. I bought her pink quartz lamp (and the white quartz lamp in Aaron’s room from StaticEnergy in Jhb).
I then lay out her pyjamas and night nappy (we use cloth nappies and the night nappy is always a rather big and bulky situation as it needs to last +-12 hours). Then I say goodnight to her, we say some prayers (when I can remember…I really want to reinforce this with her but haven’t been so great at it up till now) and I leave the room. Farmboy dries her off, puts cream/massage oil on her (we still use and LOVE Pure Beginnings Massage Oil), and then dresses her for bed. She has a dummy (which she has nicknamed ‘Nunni’ and a special sleep time soft toy, ‘Dudu’), which she only gets to have when it’s nap or bedtime.
We’ve always had a bedtime song that we have and still sing at bed time. It’s more of a lullaby that we hum, but it’s such a nice way to reinforce that it’s bedtime. When Everly would wake up often at night, one of us would always use that lullaby to calm her down and help her get back to sleep.
Once she’s dressed, it’s story time. Sometimes she will still have her milk at this point, but we take it away once we leave the room. Story time is mostly a full blown discussion of ‘what’s da’ or ‘what’s that’ as she points to each and every picture in the book. It’s the sweetest thing listening to the Daddy & Daughter chatter before bed. Once story time is done, it’s a quick kiss good night and and ‘I love you’ and then whoever is doing bedtime walks out. 9 times out of 10 she settles quickly. But since getting a video monitor a few months ago, I’ve actually seen that she isn’t always sleeping when I think she is! I don’t mind though, as long as she’s happy and quiet in her bed, I don’t really mind what she’s getting up to. I’ve watched her for over an hour just lying there, legs in the air, playing wit her DuDu and stroking her face with it…funny thing.
We also recently took the sides down of her cot (CoziCot Stijl) and turned it into the toddler bed it’s able to convert into, as we slowly transition her to the single bed in her room. It’s been about 3 weeks of her in her ‘big girl’ bed and it’s been a relatively painless process (blog post to come on that move soon). I was REALLY nervous about the whole thing, especially as she is now able to get in AND out of her bed whenever she wants to, and has free access to everything in her room, but I have been pleasantly surprised at how it’s all gone. I was most worried that her night time sleep would be disrupted by the move, but apart from one night of her falling out the bed, and her waking up slightly earlier than normal (6am instead of 7am), it’s like nothing has changed. I think it’s been such a smooth transition because of the same routine we follow every night. Even when we go away, we follow the same ‘bath, milk, pj’s, story, bed’ routine and 9 times out of 10 she goes down without a fuss. We also, as much as possible, stick to the 6pm bath & bed time routine no matter where she goes to sleep.
I weaned Everly off her last night time/early morning (it was at about 3am) feed at about 7 months. We had a couple of rough nights, but she adjusted quickly. We then went on an overseas trip to the UK, and she went back to demanding that early morning feed, which I went back to giving her during the trip as we were staying in relatively small homes with family and I didn’t want to keep everyone up. But once we got home I weaned her off that feed again and within a few days she went back to sleeping +-12 hours at night.
If you’d like me to share our sleep training ‘methods’ I’d be happy to write about them in a separate post. Hubby and I are very strict when it comes to bed and nap times, and do leave Everly to cry if it’s time to sleep and she’s up and about. This has worked extremely well for us, and I’d be happy to share what we’ve done, right from the beginning…let me know in the comments below!
I hope you’ve found this post interesting. I’d love to hear about your families routine, and what you’ve found works for you. Leave me a comment below, I always enjoy hearing from my readers.