The Bedtime Efficiency Ballet
At what point can you hope to integrate bedtime routines between siblings?
I hope you can help me with the bedtime logistics in our house. I have two boys, a two and a half year-old and a four month old. Both are great sleepers (unless I just ruined it by saying it out loud to the Internet) and go to bed at 7 each night.
Right now my husband and I do the tag team approach to bedtime, one does teeth brushing, pjs and books with the toddler while the other one does pjs and bottle with the baby. It is a whirlwind of activity (especially if it is a bath night), but it gets the job done.
The way we do things now is fine, BUT, I may go awhile without doing bedtime with the toddler, or it may be several nights before I get bedtime snuggles with the baby. And a few times a month my husband has to work late in which case the baby gets his bottle in the living room while the toddler watches Sprout and I end up spending a lot of time getting little boys in bed because I do it separately.
Is there an easy way to integrate the two bedtimes? When the baby was very little I tried adding him to story time and then feeding him after I tucked the toddler into bed. My older son was very aware that baby brother was getting a solo bedtime and he was not. I have also tried feeding the baby during story time but it takes more coordination than I have and then I still have the issue of who gets put in bed first.
Maybe this will work better in a few months? Or maybe I should stick with what is working since it IS working?
Lost at Bedtime
Oh, dear. This question is requiring me to think back on a VERRRRY hazy period of parenting — Ezra was not yet sleeping through the night consistently at four months, and I was pretty much in a damn daze by that point. It wasn’t until four-and-a-half months that I believe we started including him in the bedtime routine at all, which was when we began transitioning him from bed-sharing to his crib.
Before that point, Jason and I had continued our pre-Ezra tradition of taking turns each night for handling the bedtime business. One of us took care of the whole routine start to finish while the other held Ezra, who tended to go to bed for “good” a little later than Noah (and whose bedtime routine was totally my job, because I was breastfeeding). The next night, we’d swap roles.
So basically, you’re way ahead of where we were at, with two good sleepers with their own established routines. So I honestly wouldn’t worry too hard about how not completely “integrated” they are right now. It’ll happen, and nobody is going to be emotionally scarred if bedtime routines are occasionally hectic or rushed or heavily one-sided with a specific parent for a few nights in a row. Basically: go with what’s working for you. Because if it’s working for you, IT’S PROBABLY NOT WRONG.
We didn’t truly and seamlessly integrate bedtime — all the way from bath until tuck-in time — until Ezra was weaned from the boob AND the evening bottle (around a year). Before then we integrated what we could — joint bathtime when necessary, then everybody got PJs on/diaper changed, and then Noah brushed his teeth and Daddy read him a story while Ezra and I headed down the hall to the rocker for milk and a lullaby.
I missed reading stories for sure, but I was lucky enough to be home with Noah during the day and felt okay viewing that as a special thing for Jason to do, even if it was just for a few months. I would usually be able to time it so I could get Ezra down in his crib before Noah had actually fallen asleep, so on these nights I went in for one last extra goodnight hug and kiss or song request. During the brief window of time between Ezra weaning from the boob but still getting a bedtime bottle, I THINK Jason and I may have traded off kids every other night, but maybe not, because Ezra’s sudden pre-12-month weaning left me a tad overly emotional so I may have continued to keep our routine in place.
(Yes, now that I think about it, I did continue to be in charge of getting Ezra to sleep, since we figured that might be a better step-down to eliminating the bottle eventually. Mommy/rocking/boob/song became Mommy/rocking/bottle/song, and then slowly just Mommy/rocking/song. And then at some point after THAT we eliminated the rocking and brought him into Noah’s room for bedtime stories like a “big boy.” That switch was surprisingly easy thanks to his lovey/Taggies blanket. Handing that to him was like, an instant signal that it was bedtime, routine or no routine. Blanket went up to his face, fingers entwined in a tag, thumb in mouth, eyes immediately sleepy. SO AWESOME LIKE MAGIC.)
So basically, you can probably tell that bedtime is not really a regimented show of perfect efficiency around here. We’ve changed it up a lot as the boys have gotten older, depending on what seemed to work best at the time. Before Ike, we had it pretty much down, and even when doing it solo I could keep things moving along at the same time — bath together, Noah got his PJs on by himself while I helped Ezra, everyone brushed teeth and then we read a book in Ezra’s bottom bunk and then lights off.
Now we have a two-month old and it’s all pretty much gone to hit-or-miss hell all over again.
Sometimes Jason does the boys’ bedtime while I nurse the baby and sometimes it’s several nights before Ike ISN’T nursing or crying right at bedtime and I can take over or participate. Sometimes Ezra wants to indulge in a little new-baby regression and asks to sit on my lap in the rocking chair after we read a story, which I of course oblige. Sometimes we bathe Ike at the same time as the boys and get him all ready for bed along with his brothers…even if he doesn’t actually go to sleep for another hour or even two. And sometimes Jason works late and I’m bouncing a crying baby in a sling and barking orders like a drill sergeant while SOMEONE “misses” the potty and SOMEONE does laps up and down the hallway while not wearing any pants and then BOTH SOMEONES get into a fight over identical Cars toothbrushes before I can finally get everybody tucked in. Before that point, I just try to close my eyes, take a deep breath and tell myself that this is just the kind of unavoidable, messy and glorious chaos that I signed up for by having more than one child.