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positive bedtime is like money in the bank

by Under the Pines on December 26, 2009 · 2 comments

At this time of year, it’s easy to become so involved with the extra activities of holiday celebrations with family and friends that we don’t realize that we have overloaded our schedules. One of the ways I tried to minimize the effect when I had babies and young children was to ensure that I took extra time at bedtime to connect with my children.

Our bedtime routine started with stories read on the couch while my children ate a snack of some kind, usually apples cut into very thin slices and cheese or some other fruit and protein snack.  Our December bedtime stories were from our collection of Christmas books ranging from picture books to chapter books.   We continued to read these stories throughout the 12 days of Christmas until the end of December.  My husband I also began to read the new books the children had received as gifts.

Then after a bathroom stop we moved to the bedroom where I re-brushed their teeth as they laid down with their heads in my lap.  With the lights off and a candle burning, they would tell me something they liked about their day.  They would tell me about things that made them sad or mad, too, but the main focus was on what they had enjoyed about the day.  It was also a time for questions about things they wondered about or sharing the observations they had made. The coziness of a dark room and lying in bed beside mom created a safe place for my children to share their feelings and helped me to reconnect with my love for them.

I loved listening to them.  It gave me a chance to know what they thought about, how they processed the things that happened to them, the conclusions they drew.  As they shared their observations, I saw our family events from a new perspective.  It refreshed my spirit.  As they shared their ideas and thoughts, they knew I was listening, knew I cared and valued their perceptions.  After a 10-20 minute discussion, I began to sing a lullaby – a peaceful transition from conversation to sleep.   I, too, would often fall asleep and wake up refreshed after about 15 minutes to start the routine again with the next child.

I know that there is lots of advice out there about training your baby to sleep, to self-soothe, or that you should not start something you don’t want to keep doing.  I don’t offer my bedtime routine as a prescription or advice, but I do encourage you to take a moment to think about what basis the preceding advice regarding sleep is coming from.   It is only in Western culture that babies and children sleep alone.  In other cultures and throughout time, babies sleep and slept with other people.

One of the things that I found helpful when trying to sort out how to deal with a mothering issue such as sleep was to see the problem/issue from my baby/child’s point of view.  Babies are too young to be manipulative.  They don’t have the brain development to be able to choose their behavior.  They are responding to their internal needs.  Young children, too.  Remembering that and looking into my baby’s or child’s eyes helped me to reconnect both with my baby and myself and that’s how our bedtime routine became established.

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For more on this subject see Assessing The Value of Parenting Advice

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

babylovesbooks December 27, 2009 at 6:57 am

Hi! I chanced upon this blog and find your bedtime routine to be so similar to the one in our household. We come from a country and culture where it is quite common for babies and older kids to sleep with their parents. But since we live in the US, we were influenced initially by all these “sleep techniques” that encourage us to allow our baby to fall asleep on her own. I wouldn’t say it didn’t work at all – it did. But there was too much crying and heartache involved. Why would I want to turn off the lights, shut the door, say Good night and leave my baby to cry herself to sleep? It felt horrible. But the books kept telling me it was the right thing to do…that I was helping her become independent. I’m not so sure…anyway, at one stage, I just couldn’t do this anymore and like generations of parents before me had done – we brought our baby into our bed. We do something very similar – say our prayers with her, help her get dressed, talk ro her, tell or read stories with her and then I sing a soft lullaby while stroking her hair or patting her back…sometimes I make up a lullaby with her name…and then…just like that, she drifts into sleep..peacefully. I can’t imagine a healthier sleep ritual recommended by any sleep expert! Thank you for sharing this experience on your blog.

Jessica December 30, 2009 at 7:49 pm

We had a similar experience with crying it out. I did it because everyone around me said it was the only way and that it would work, well guess what- it didn’t! I much prefer our routine now that involves no crying. Once I read Elizabeth Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution I was sold! Her book is wonderful and there should be more out there as alternatives to parents like us who can not bear to hear our little ones cry!!

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