I know bedtime is a big parenting struggle, and so I thought I would write a few words from my own personal experience. These are some things I discovered along the way. Some may seem pretty obvious, some may not. My intention is to put this out there in the hope that it may be of some help.
The following three things worked for us:
- Ensure your child is well-fed:
It is hard determining how much sleep your child needs on a given day, especially if they are going through a growth spurt. My daughter can have a huge appetite on some days, and barely touches the food on her plate on others. There have been nights where I have exhausted myself in trying to get her to sleep, and then realised that perhaps she is hungry. Eating late at night is not ideal, especially after she has brushed her teeth and completed her bed-time routine, BUT it gets both of us out of what could be a stressful situation. And, well, who doesn’t fancy a midnight toast or some yummy dates dipped in cashew butter?!
2. Use up all that energy!
I picture winter as a cosy time of hibernation indoors in which we all snuggle up with hot chocolate on the sofa. The heating is on, our toes are warm, and my daughter is snuggled up in bed. Except sleep does not come so easily. Again, another ‘aha’ moment is that we didn’t even set a foot outdoors today (home-schooling con’s!). As a result, I try and ensure (whatever the weather/season/country) that we get ourselves out the door, breathe in some fresh air and get playing, walking/hiking, running or anything active. On the days that we aren’t afforded the luxury of the world outdoors for whatever reason, we resort to indoor activities like yoga (here’s a link to our favourite Cosmic Kids Yoga youtube channel), or just turn up the music and get grooving (or in my case, tripping over and knocking things over). Sometimes, we chase each other and jump on beds, tickle-fight or pillow-fight. Kids need to be moving and active, and tired enough to sleep soundly.
3. Establish a bed-time routine
I cannot stress how important routine is for my child. It is hard, I admit, between the moving and travelling, but we do my best. I found that my daughter thrives when the day is more predictable; when her body knows when to start winding down. Find what works for you. Maybe a bath, brushing teeth, pj’s and then a bedtime story. A song, a du’a (prayer) or a warm drink (chamomile tea is a good choice) that signals bedtime is here (although I can’t promise that the kid/s will be happy about it!) . Give yourself at least an hour to wind down and get the routine started, and try to begin the ritual at the same time every night if possible. Some kids need a comfort item like a blanket to help fall asleep, but our daughter never got attached to anything (well, not counting me, that is). Take turns with your partner, if needed, to give yourself some space and time too, as a mother.
As mamas and babas, no day is easy but the rewards are tremendous.
And the best part of sleeping is waking up to each other in the morning with messy hair and funky breath, and hearts and eyes full of love and gratitude.