We began amassing a library for our baby when I was pregnant, and it quickly became clear that reading stories and bedtime routines go hand in hand. I’m not really surprised as I often read myself to sleep. A common theme in these books is preparing for sleep, as though these authors hope to ensure their place in the daily routines of families.
When Finn arrived and we began reading these stories to him, I noticed there were some discrepancies between the nighttime routines depicted in these stories and the things that Joel and I were doing with Finn. For example, the nightly bath time ritual – while I’m sure is calming for babies who love water, like Finn – isn’t something we do every night. We limit bath time to one or two times weekly, especially during the dry winter nights, preferring to maintain the oils his skin naturally emits rather than stripping oils with shampoo and then applying synthetic moisturizers. It also makes nighttime routines a little easier on the parents and shortens our routine for those nights when time slips away on us. Limiting our routine to a few small practices allows us to move from sleepy cues to fast asleep much easier than a complicated sequence.
Another difference from the books we were reading and our practices is where baby sleeps. It’s most common in our society for babies to sleep in cribs or bassinets when they’re very young. Our big boy has outgrown his bassinet, not that he ever wanted to sleep there anyway. Lately Finn lasts only about 45 minutes in his crib, during those rare occurrences that I experiment with him. Finn has always been content sleeping in bed beside mama, and we’re happy to oblige his needs. It makes responding to his nighttime needs easy for us and we love the connection this closeness fosters.
Just when I had given up on seeing our practices reflected in Finn’s cardboard stories, I recently discovered a book given to us by my mother that shows a mama snuggled in bed beside her sleeping baby! Good choice Mom! It felt good to see our alternative parenting represented in this way.
Our Nighttime Routine
Either Finn will whine or rub his eyes or some other signal that he is ready for bed or we’ll begin to wind down anytime between 6 and 7.
As much as possible we try to keep the lights down low to signal to Finn that it’s time to sleep for the night.
Dad will change Finn into his nighttime diaper and sleepwear (we are usually pickiest about his sleepwear and try to put him only in organic pieces. Mini Mioche is our go to for organic basics for nighttime.)
Dad will read Finn a few stories – lately his favourite has been a collection of nursery rhymes, including “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” from Nana – and rock in the glider in the nursery.
If Finn becomes antsy, Dad will hold Finn just outside the light of the bathroom so Finn can watch Mama brush her teeth and get ready for bed. Lately, we’ve been involving Finn in this routine by giving him his own toothbrush with which to brush his six teeth. (Finn’s biodegradable, non-toxic toothbrush was purchased here).
Finn climbs into bed beside Mama and nurses to sleep.
Lately, Finn has been excited to crawl and stand, which makes it difficult to keep him laying to nurse. Sometimes he insists on standing at the head of the bed to look out the window a few times before he’ll lay down.
If he is overtired and unconvinced that it’s time for sleep, usually Angus Stone’s version of “River” on repeat helps to lull him to sleep.
Peppa bunny: from birth Finn has understandably wanted closeness with mama. He usually wouldn’t tolerate being put down (just as mama couldn’t tolerate the resultant cries) and he usually only slept upright on someone’s chest. Always ready to offer assistance or solutions, my mother-in-law did some research and came up with a Peppa doll for Finn. This bonding doll is made up entirely of natural, non-toxic material, including the wool stuffed head. Wool is incredibly absorbent and anti-bacterial, making the doll great for absorbing familiar scents of home, parents and familiar smells. Expressing milk onto the head and snuggling it with Finn and bedtime, I had hoped, would make him more comfortable sleeping alone during naps. (Finn’s Peppa doll is depicted below and was bought here).
As each of us is unique as our babes, we’ve all developed our own sequence for nighttime. What are some nighttime strategies you’ve come to rely on?
Now sleep, child of mine, while the stars shine above. I love you as much as a mother can love.