February 1, 2011


Back when I did my 12 Days of Giveaways in December, a few of you asked about what our bedtime routine looked like here in the SPH, so I thought I'd try to welcome you into our sleepy time world.

Let me preface this discussion by saying that "bedtime" has changed about a million times in the past 4.5 years that we've been blessed with kiddos. It is just not our area of super-rigidity, so if uber-structure or bedtime gestapo advice is what you seek, this blog entry may not be the best consultation tool. Just sayin'...

The Sweet Peas & Sassafras golden bedtime rule is... ready for it... do what works.

Hence the reason for many, many tweaks and adjustments throughout the years as the girls have waned and waxed through various sleep stages that all typically developing children experience.

OK, now I'm rambling. Let's get to it.

While I am proud of our parenting flexibility regarding sleep, I do not want to take away from the vital {essential, crucial, integral, requisite, substantial} need for routine. While I'm not sure if I could stress the importance of routine any more, I'll try.


Routines help kiddos know what to expect, thus creating trust between child and parent, all the while reducing anxiety. Pretty important stuff. I could go into much greater detail, but most kids benefit from the knowledge of what's to come and the reliability of a consistent bedtime ritual.

i.e. your kiddo should be able to express/explain/understand what bed time "looks like" for them. Which would point to the fact that it should look pretty similar from day to day evening to evening.

This is typically what bedtime looks like for us- after dinner, we have some quiet family time to spend together. We {feebly} attempt to limit the rough housing, screaming at the top of our lungs, and any and all activity that significantly raises our heart rates. We play pretend, look at books, do simple art projects, talk about our day, play board games, etc. At around 7:00, we begin the "bedtime routine". The girls take a bath together, with one of us adults supervising. The other is typically finishing up the cleaning from dinner, laying out pj's, getting backpacks ready for the morning, etc.

Once bath time is over, the girls dry off, brush their hair, and get jammies on. They trek into the kitchen, get their ice water cups for the evening, take their vitamins and other medications, and say good night to each other. Whenever possible, Tyler and I will split the rest of bedtime into one-on-one time with each girl, which is another area we strive to increase. We help the girls brush their teeth, and then it's off to individual bedrooms.

Tink (2.5 next month) is still sleeping in her crib. She's pretty content in there and has not attempted the dreaded climb-out. We have begun discussions of moving her into a big girl bed, but have not made the move just yet. So, her bedtime routine continues as follows- we go into her room and choose a few board books. Lately, she has been loving Elizabeth Verdick's new series of books- Calm Down Time, Manners Time, Sharing Time, Bedtime... Once her books are chosen, she usually grabs a "guy" {stuffed animal} and climbs up into our lap in the glider. We read to her, talk about the books, have some giggle time, and rock.

I'm not sure how Tyler does things when it's his turn, but I typically ask Tink if she's ready for bed. Usually, she will say yes and occasionally she says no, to which I suggest rocking a bit longer, and we do. When she's ready, we get her bed all ready. Make sure all her guys are in there, flatten out her blankets, plump up her pillows, and lay her down. We turn her sleep puppy on to "10 minutes of environmental sounds" and then proceed into our "I love you rituals"- I say one and she'll repeat it back to me. Sweet dreams, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite. Tink likes her fan on and lights out with the door shut. Tink is, in general, a fabulous sleeper!

Throughout the years, Sassy has been more of a sleep challenge for us. Being new parents, and considering I was a full-time SAHM during her first year, we didn't set the sleep precedent like we maybe should have. We enjoyed co-sleeping with her for the first 6 months with the use of this neat little contraption, but we missed our window of opportunity to easily transition her into her crib, so she slept with us for about 15 months. Naps included. Truth be told, she was rarely, if ever, set down to sleep in the first year of her life. I held her for nap time. Looking back, I can't believe we did it, but it worked for us at that time.

At around 15 months, maybe 14 months, I decided that something needed to change and we began transitioning her into her crib. We did light sessions of CIO, and she eventually got the hang of things. She had a comfort object (Piglet, aka Pligwet), lots of bippies, and we always played this CD in her music player. Still, when she was feeling under the weather or having a particular rough night, she would want to sleep with us, and that was OK.

Sassy had a pretty typical transition into the toddler bed. We began the transition around 22 months, in hopes of giving her a good 6-8 weeks before Tink's arrival to settle in. She was very excited about her new room, while at the same time fearful of being less contained. She had plenty of instances where she'd come out of her room, and we would just bring her back in there, read another book, rub her back- whatever it took for her to feel comfortable again. She did really well for a long stretch of time, and just recently, within the last year or so, has had issues with coming out of her room once we have put her to bed. So, we adapted a new rule, and it's been working out fabulously.

Beginning at around 3.5 years old, we began this method: Sassy has to start off in her own room. When it's bedtime, it's bedtime. We read a book or two or do flashcards, tuck her in, arrange all of her guys, turn on her ceiling fan, and do our "I love you rituals". We shut out the light and close her door. She knows that she has to stay in there (unless she is sick or hurt or something major) while her door remains closed. This gives Tyler and I guaranteed alone time for a few hours to do with what we please. Then, every night, before we go to bed, one of us goes out and cracks Sassy's door open. If she wakes in the middle of the night, and her door is cracked, she knows she can come in and crawl into bed with us. For us, there doesn't have to be "a reason". We've found this to be a lot less disruptive than waking to deal with putting her back in her room, it results in the maximum amount of sleep for all of us, and we are all OK with this. It works for us.

Notice a common theme?

So, what about the nights when Tink wakes up upset? They do occur every now and then. For the most part, she just requires acknowledgement, a few extra hugs, a bit of extra rocking. Sometimes, she wants to be with us, so one of us usually takes her downstairs to one of the spare bedrooms to finish the night of sleep. She typically sleeps best in a quiet, dark room alone, but sometimes she needs the closeness of one of us. This mostly occurs when he's not feeling the best. It's really no skin off our backs to do this little routine with her.

As for Sassy- I'd say she ends up in our bed 1/3 of the time. If she is sick, she can pretty much count on starting off in our bed. Occasionally, on a weekend, we will have a "slumber party" where she is allowed to start off in our bed, too. We usually watch movies and eat popcorn and then go to sleep. I think it helps her immensely (in regards to staying in her room most nights) to know that she's not banned from ours.

Oh, and even though Tink prefers to sleep alone, that doesn't mean she doesn't long for cuddle time. Just recently, I think she's caught on that Sassy spends quite a bit of time in our bed, so she will ask to "lay in Mommy's bed" and we will have some quality one-on-one time filled with snuggles, kisses, and stories for 30 or so minutes before she is ready to go to her crib. I am not one to deny those types of requests.

So, there you have it, in a nutshell novel. The key to quality sleep in the SPH involves a foundation of sameness and routine, clearly drawn expectations, and lots of love and flexibility when necessary.

It works for us.

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