Yes, this post contains parenting advice. Yes, I have some really strong, strong opinions about this - some that span beyond a simplistic bedtime. Consider yourself warned.
Bet you didn't think about it like that before, did you?
Here's the thing: Yes, when a baby is brand new, they cry when they need you, and as much as it stinks, you gotta get your butt out of bed and see what they need. But as I mentioned, starting around the three to four month mark, they've learned (because I'm telling you, babies are SMART) that you come when they make noise. So by this point, if you're STILL going to them every. single. time. he or she cries, you're teaching that baby that s/he runs the show - that you'll drop what you're doing and tend to him or her, even when that baby needs NOTHING.
If that doesn't sound like a big deal to you, allow me to explain. A baby that thinks the world revolves around them turns into a toddler that thinks the world revolves around them. Toddlers throw tantrums. So whenever that toddler doesn't get EXACTLY what s/he wants, it will turn into a scream fest because hey! It's worked his entire life. Then that toddler will turn into a child who still thinks the world revolves around her. You'll be extremely frustrated wondering why your daughter is "that child" who can't be brought anywhere because if she's not content, NOBODY is content. Fast forward a few years, and there is no alcohol strong enough to save you from that a-hole teenager! And as an adult? There is simply nothing worse than an adult who still thinks the world revolves around him! Trust me, I've dated a few. Past tense intentional there.
The world does, in fact, revolve around the sun. So when and how do you gently and slowly teach your baby/toddler/child this? You start with bedtime!
Remember this: YOU are the parent. You make the rules. You decide when bedtime is. And once you've made those decisions, you're the one responsible for sticking with it and being consistent.
How I get Henry to sleep every night by 7pm is extremely easy. In fact, it's the easiest thing yet about parenting! It's also (sometimes) the biggest pain in the a$$.
Here's how I did it: Starting when Henry was four months old (he was a month premature, so that's an age-adjusted three month old) I started putting him in his bassinet AWAKE at 7pm. The room would be cool, dark and a noise machine would be gently going in the background. Every night, without fail, I did this. I'd look at the clock, and give him 20 minutes of crying time. If he hadn't fallen asleep in those 20 minutes, I'd go back and check on him.
Important! I would NOT rock, sing, bounce, or feed him. I would simply peek in on him, make sure he wasn't stuck in an awkward position, make sure he was the right temperature, and make sure that he hadn't spit up on himself. Then I'd leave and shut the door behind me. I'd "set the clock" again for another 20 minutes and repeat if necessary. I can't for the life of me remember any time it took him longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep - not because he is a good sleeper (he's terrible, in fact) but because he had zero stimulus and quickly learned that even if he fussed, I would not go back and provide him any. I'd simply check to make sure he was ok and his situation was good, and leave. That's it.
|Babies need over 16 hours of sleep a day. What is YOUR child's bedtime, and is he getting enough sleep?|
As a final note, I mentioned consistency. This is the MOST important part! You have to keep the time consistent, every single night, and you have to keep what you do consistent, every single night. Where this method becomes a pain in the a$$ is on the weekends, when you want to go out and do things! We approach it one of two ways: either we go out early and get home in time for that 7pm bedtime, or we have the sitter come at 7pm and push back our own dinner/plans. Either way, Henry's routine is the same, every night. I would also note that when my husband travels, or comes home from work late, I don't keep Henry up for him. Even if his flight will get him home at 7:15pm and he hasn't seen Henry for a few days, Lil' H is out by 7pm. Period. It's tough to put our own wants as parents aside for our little ones, but if you want a well behaved, well rested child, that's exactly what you do: You create a consistent routine for them.
As you can see, getting my toddler to bed by 7pm every night is both the most simple thing in the world and can also be the biggest pain. It's not about me or my plans. It's about delivering consistency for Henry. When there's no bedtime surprises FOR him, there's no bedtime surprises FROM him.