Today I’m introducing a new “Bedtime Stories” series, which is a lighthearted questionnaire for parents about family sleep routines.
There are a myriad of methods to soothe your child to sleep, and each of us tries to find what works best for our family. For some that might mean separate beds, for others, co-sleeping. It could mean calling a professional to help your child sleep better, or reading a book about it. At the end of the day, if everyone is happy and well rested, it all works. This questionnaire will explore the different ways families sleep.
For the first in the series, I will kick it off by interviewing myself! Here is “Bedtime Stories,” with Katrina Nelson, by MotherUs:
MU: What ages are your children?
KN: My son, Sebastian, is 5 and and my daughter, Leonie, is 2 going on 5.
MU: How do you help them slow down towards evening?
Some days a walk after dinner; dim lights, bedtime stories and most days a warm bubble bath.
MU: Do you have a set bedtime?
Absolutely. Since daylight savings time we moved to 7pm give or take a ½ hour either way depending how the day has flowed. Last fall/winter it was 6pm sharp and they both slept until 6/6:30am.
MU: Have you always been pretty consistent with nights?
The first 2 years with my son Bastian, he would go to bed at night when I did. When he turned two years old, I introduced a consistent bedtime and nursed him to sleep. When he turned 3, I weaned him and I would lie there until he fell asleep. Sometimes for up to two hours!
With my daughter, our family needed more structure around bedtime with two children and myself often working evenings. I coslept and breastfed for the first few months, and then introduced a crib and a consistent bedtime routine to help her gently learn to sleep through the night on her own.
MU: Do you cosleep, or have kids in their own bed?
I usually have one child in my room, but sleeping in their own bed. Sometimes I wake up and have two kids in my bed and don’t quite remember when they each climbed in there!
MU: Are there any rituals you incorporate into your bedtime routine?
A little happy baby massage with oils, I usually use Badger Calming Baby Oil or Uriel Rose Lavender Rose Oil that I pick up at my local Waldorf School. My son is older now, so he giggles half the time and acts like a backseat driver the other half. My daughter is wiggly, so it depends how tired she is whether I do my entire shebang of massage tricks.
MU: Can you walk us through your routine on an average night?
Bath, massage, reading and looking at books, put water on Bastian’s nightstand, spritz them both with Happy Kid Spray from Star Essence, tuck them both in and lights out.
MU: How long does the entire routine take you?
45min to an hour and a half, depending on everyone’s cooperation levels.
MU: After you have them in bed, are they falling asleep on their own yet or do they need you nearby?
Bastian is finally falling asleep almost entirely on his own, although some nights I feel like a hotel porter because he calls me in for so many requests. Leonie goes to sleep 70% of the time in her crib, drowsy but still awake after cuddles. The other 30% of the time requires more snuggles, talking and back patting to sleep.
MU: Are your children sleeping through the night? If so, how long? If not, how many times do they wake every night and how do you get them back to sleep?
Bastian is, although he might wake once to go to the potty by himself, and get back in his bed… or unbeknownst to me at the time, into mine. Leonie, who is almost 2, sleeps all the way through for 6 out of 7 nights. On the rare nights she wakes, 50% of the time she will go back to sleep within 15min, no crying, and the other half turns into full blown freaking out, and I will nurse her back to sleep.
MU: Did you sleep train or did everything fall into place eventually?
I’ve found there are misconceptions over what sleep training is. Sleep training has become synonymous with “Cry It Out” or CIO method. In my experience, most sleep training does not involve cry it out. To me, sleep training is about establishing good routines; healthy habits and unwinding unhelpful sleep associations.
With my son, everything eventually fell into place, with some coaxing on my part. We went from one sleep association, nursing, to another, me patting his back and laying there until he fell asleep, to him going to sleep on his own eventually and I can’t remember any protesting.
With my daughter, I’ve used a more consistent approach toward the goal of us all having good nights of sleep. This includes making sure she has one good nap a day in her bed and consistently putting her down drowsy but awake. Introducing a lovey has also helped soothe her to sleep.
MU: What do you do most nights after your children are tucked away in bed?
Ha! Most nights I work as a “visual display artist,” putting all the books and toys up in a way that will entice them to reach for them the next morning. Setting my son’s train up so he can play with it when he wakes up. Putting all my daughters’ books and tiny toys in a basket where she can reach them. I find they don’t play in a constructive way unless the toys are organized. Then I usually send text messages back and forth with my best friend to commiserate about our day, and follow up on emails and phone calls.
MU: Do your kids wake up laughing, crying or screaming?
Most mornings are eeny, meeny, miny, moe! It can be any of the above on any given morning!
MU: Do you have a “go-to” technique that works for your family at the end of the day that you’d like to share with others?
KN: My go-to technique is consistency, even if we’re off schedule due to a holiday or visiting family away from home, everything falls into place because we have a very strong rhythm around bedtime and when the moon is out my children know they’re going to sleep. Wherever we are, whoever is with them, they’re getting their stories, their one-on-one time before the lights go out, they know that they’re cared for, they feel secure and they drift off to sleep.