What does bedtime look like in the house of people with an older infant? For about 7 and a half weeks now, we have been in a routine at bedtime. It’s a fairly strict routine, and it doesn’t always make sleep perfect, but it’s one that has generally worked for us. Before that, things were different, so let’s back up.
We used the Snoo for a long time. Side note: we didn’t pay more than $1000 for it because it was on a massive sale after Christmas, but would have, because it worked so well for our baby girl. Up until the moment it didn’t, which was around the time she turned 6 months. Sleep tricks and techniques which had guided us through to that point no longer worked, and we were back to waking every few hours at night. It was HARD. I think we went through about 2 weeks like this when I was trying EVERYTHING – getting into a routine, introducing solids (she was ready, but I did it in an effort to keep her belly full), and I was at my wits end.
And then one day at work after a sleepless night, I had had enough. I decided that night, we would be crying it out. Don’t tell me I’m cruel here, because spoiler alert: it worked. Our baby girl slept better than she had in a long time. It involved doing a specific routine, and making sure we did that every night, every time. It made sure that feeding her wasn’t what put her to sleep, and it also meant her sleeping in her own room.
So, bedtime for baby now looks like this: an hour-ish before bedtime, I breastfeed. I feel so lucky that we’re still going strong here, and we’re over the hump as it were in terms of doing it. The end of the tunnel is coming. It won’t last forever. When I’m breastfeeding her, she usually falls asleep a little, but when she’s done, I wake her up, and we do solids. I had such grand hopes of doing my own pureed baby foods, but lol, I gave up on that so fast. When there are great, organic options available at the grocery store, that give her options that are more plentiful than what I would buy for the family…it’s a good thing. Also – baby food is surprisingly cheap. One jar is usually a dollar or so, and she still gets two feedings out of it. We may need to bump that up soon, though, as her little belly gets bigger and she becomes a hungrier little beast.
When all the foodening is done, the countdown starts – everything I’ve read says you want to have a buffer zone of at least 20 minutes between the end of all feeding and when they get put to bed, because that disassociates the feeding from the sleeping in their brains. A chunk of that time gets used up by us giving her a bath each evening. Most of the time, it’s just a water bath – no soap. It’s calming, we can wipe off the grime of the day, and she really likes it. Though perhaps splashing with her favorite bath toy isn’t the most calming of activities. At some point we’ll move her bathtub out of the kitchen and into a bathroom, but we’re having issues right now, and it’s just easier this way.
After about 10 minutes in the bath, she gets scooped up in a hooded towel, and says goodnight to everyone – to her dad, big sisters, and whoever else might be in the house. We then put on an overnight diaper, do a gentle baby massage with lotion, and then into jammies and sleep sack. We then read a book – the same one every night. I think I can recite Goodnight Moon without looking anymore, and that’s ok, because it’s a sweet book. Anyone who is not charmed by the pages which read “Goodnight nobody. Goodnight mush.” is a monster. And then we sing a gentle song, and I put her down to sleep with reassurances that we’ll see her in the morning when the day is new. White noise machine goes on, lights go off, and I’m out of there.
If she cries, it’s for no longer than 10 minutes, and then we’re in dreamland for quite a while.
The big girls get to brush their teeth and hair, and change into pajamas before reading their books for a while, and if there’s time, their dad likes to read with them too. Sadly, baby has prevented my reading to them for a while now. Someday we’ll get back to the Anne books!
The boy has a much more abbreviated routine – tooth-brushing and bed for reading, or just straight to sleep. Ah, the life of a boy. My routine is longer both by necessity and because of who I am. I take my vitamins (something I can’t do in the morning due to a conflict with other medication), remove my makeup (wipes feel wasteful, but damn if they aren’t 100x easier and less messy than a washcloth every night!), take out my contacts, brush my teeth, apply night lotion to my face, and vaseline to my lips (because my skin gets so dry at night!), put in my night-guard. Then I have to feed the baby one time for a dream-feed. If I’m extra zippy, the toiletry portion of my routine takes 5-10 minutes. If I’m dawdling, it can take 20. Feeding the baby is another 15-ish minutes, so even if I’m prompt about going upstairs to bed on time, I have another 20 minutes minimum before I can even get in bed.
But once I’m in bed, I take a very short amount of time to journal, perhaps read a couple pages of my book, try not to look at my phone, and then put on my eye mask and zonk out until the baby wakes me.
Someday this sleep deprivation will be over, and at that time, B won’t be a teeny baby any more. Perhaps I’ll miss the sweet routine, and the feeling of holding her helpless little body. But maybe I’ll be well rested. Maybe I’ll be able to sleep in on weekends, and go an entire night without waking. Heck – sleeping through from 11 pm-6 am every day would be a good start. But for now, I do what I can, and we sleep the best way possible for us.