We are not perfect parents. Our kids have more screen time than suggested, they hardly eat a vegetable, none of them potty trained before age 3, and they constantly fight with each other.
There is one thing, though, that we have totally nailed. BEDTIME! Yes, our kids — ages 10, 7, and 4 — go to sleep when we want, and they stay in their beds through the night. Bedtime is bliss.
Here is what has worked for our family.
Our babies sleep in their own beds
As newborns, our babies stayed in our bedroom in a small crib. The crib they slept in was not attached to or anywhere near our bed. When baby woke up, I would get out of the bed and sit in a chair to nurse him, then swaddle and place him right back in the little crib. Our first child was very colicky, and my husband and I would trade off rocking and cuddling him back to sleep for hours. It was brutal. I know many people who co-sleep to try to avoid some of this. I have trouble sleeping myself, and I knew a baby in my bed would mean little to no sleep for me. This was a conscious and personal decision not to co-sleep with our babies. (For the record, we are not against it, if that is your choice.)
All three of our babies were out of our room and in their own bedrooms by 4 months old. We have never had to break the habit of a kid falling asleep in our bed or sneaking into our bed at night, because they have literally never experienced sleeping in our bed.
The bedtime routine is strict
We have a severe bedtime routine at home — and I mean it when I say severe. Our kids start the bedtime routine no later than 7:30 p.m. Everyone goes to the bathroom, takes a quick shower or bath (we only wash hair about twice a week), gets dressed, brushes teeth, enjoys one book, and gets into bed. This routine is almost always done together with my husband.
The great thing about having a very concrete bedtime routine is that our kids know exactly what to expect. This routine is enjoyable for everyone. We talk about our day and what’s up for tomorrow, and we snuggle and connect with our kids. We started this bedtime routine with our kids when they were very little babies. Of course, it has changed as they’ve grown, and there have been difficult transition periods, but it is always worth it to stick to the routine.
We prioritize our alone time
The newborn and baby years are the most difficult when it comes to sleep, but after three kids and a decade of parenting, this is a big win for us! Every night my husband and I are on the couch for our alone time by 8:15 p.m. Of course there is an occasional kid creeping downstairs due to procrastination or a bad dream, but it’s always resolved by a quick cuddle and an extra tuck back in to bed. The expectation is that they are not hanging out with us after their bedtime.
We’re OK with early risers
You may be wondering, “What time do your kids wake up?” Early — 6 a.m. every day. That works for our family, though. My husband and I get our own time at night to connect with each other and relax after a busy day. The benefits of a peaceful, enjoyable, and stress-free bedtime with our kids are worth the early wakeups.