Adapting your child’s night time routine
We tend to think of routines as sets of rules about when a baby eats or sleeps, but everyone has their own. Everyday routines, such as when to get up, the school run or bedtime, evolve as children get older, and it can sometimes help to step back and take a good look. Is the routine that once worked perfectly now doing little more than creating extra work?
When you have a newborn, you start to develop the routines that work best for you. Perhaps in the evening you breastfeed in the sitting room while chatting to your partner, he has a cuddle and then you take baby upstairs to bed. The problems start to creep in as your baby grows and new elements are added, like a bath, a bottle of milk or a bedtime story. Before you know it, the routine has evolved into an hours-long process and involves many complicated steps, each to be done in exactly the right order. First you go upstairs for bath time, then downstairs to warm a bottle of milk. Playtime with Daddy involves getting all sorts of toys out. You warm more milk for story time.
And so it goes on. You have a routine which ends in bedtime but which also takes up most of the evening, leaving you exhausted with little time for yourself, or each other.
It can help to write down your routines, step by step. Imagine that you had to leave your toddler in someone else’s care and note down exactly what they would need to do. How many steps are there? Do you keep going up and down stairs, or in and out of the same room? Is milk served upstairs before going down for food, when it could be a drink with the food? When you stand back and take a good look you might be surprised at how hard you’ve been working!
First go through your routine and cut out unnecessary steps. You might decide to take milk upstairs before bath time so that you don’t have to go back down before bed. Or perhaps Daddy can read the bedtime story or enjoy splashing in the bath instead of getting all the toys out in the sitting room. Decide what you want your new routine to be, an agree it with your partner and any other adults or older children involved.
Now you have to put your new plan into practice! You will probably be surprised at how easily toddlers adapt to a change, provided you stay consistent and explain what is happening with a smile and a loving tone of voice. Expect surprise at the change, and perhaps even a protest, but within a day or two things should have settled down. The reward for your new streamlined evenings will be calmer parents – a boon to any busy toddler!
Photography: tanya_little @flickr