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Real Parents On: Bedtime

Is there a magic equation to get your kids to go to sleep? Judging from the responses on our Facebook page and from our fantastic panel of parents, there's not a perfect recipe, but there is a magic ingredient. Can you guess what it is?

Elizabeth says:

Sage Advice That You Probably Will Ignore "Okay, so here is my sage advice. Never, EVER let your children sleep in your bed. Cute little babies—NO! Sick toddler—NO! Nightmares—NO! Your bed has to be the last sacred frontier that your children do not have access to. You and your husband need a place that is yours and yours alone so NO KIDS!. It’s hard to do. I know. I failed. Now almost every night I have at least one child out of four children in my bed. For many years, my husband was relegated to sleeping on the couch because he didn’t want his sleep interrupted, nor did we all fit in a queen-sized bed. Cuddle with your cute, sick, and terrified children in their rooms, and then sneak back to your own bed and your loving spouse. I know you won’t listen. I didn’t listen either when I received this advice. God blessed me with four wonderful cute kids. That God . . . He sure knows a sucker when He sees one! "

Elizabeth says:

Staggering Challenges "I write this as only 1 year old is fast asleep in his crib and the rest of the boys are still up past bedtime. How we do it here is stagger. I've found it to be more complicated staggering when one is supposed to go to bed before the other in the same room and I find it almost impossible at this time of year to stick to bedtimes because of how long it stays light out. (we're still in school until next week.) However, if it's to work the way its supposed to on bath/shower nights we get started around 7:30 and then everyone should be in bed by 10:00. On non-bath/shower nights then it's getting ready around 8:00 and everyone in bed by 10:00. Our bedtimes here are supposed to be 8:00, 8:30, 9:00, 9:30 and 10:00. In the summer I extend everyone except for 10:00 by a half hour because I need to get to bed at a decent hour. My ultimate goal is to have reading time before each kid goes to bed but I haven't found out a system that I can keep up with. But I'm still hoping."

Jennifer T. says:

Bedtime = Book Time "We put small books in our kids cribs when they were young. Today, both kids enjoy quiet reading time before bed and we keep a stash close at hand. They also like to fall asleep listening to audio books. The Narnia Chronicles are a fav as well as the Boxcar Children. My husband tucks them in when their quiet time is done and says prayers with them."

Note from imanimama: I really, really loved this advice and so immediately started including small board books in my munchkin's bed for bedtime and naps. She took to it immediately and now it's not at all uncommon for me to not realize she's been awake for a while, and when I peek into her nursery, she's sitting in the crib, flipping through a book.

Kelly W. says:

Consistency is Key "Let me just preface this by saying that I love my kids dearly and truly! But sometimes the sweetest sound, after a long and loud day, is the sound of three boys fast asleep. My husband and I have chosen to be fairly strict about bedtime. Kids need sleep to grow and boundaries to feel secure, and parents need a couple of hours "off the clock" to foster a healthy marriage and personal sanity. For those reasons, we have allowed little compromise at bedtime. We have found that consistency is everything. Early on, even as babies, we established a predictable routine at night. When they were very small, it was baths, books, blankies, songs and prayers. Now that they're older it's more like showers, ipods, conversations, and please-can-I-read-Harry Potter-for-15-more-minutes. Through the years bedtime has become an integral opportunity to meet our kids where they are in life, whether it be with ridiculous tickle fights, the same board book for the 400th time, off-key tunes, faithful prayers for a friend, a loose tooth, excitement for tomorrow's field trip, reassurance for a fresh start tomorrow after a bad day today, or for sensitive questions like "Why did God make my brother with autism?". And most importantly, no matter what choices my boys have made that day, bedtime is a chance for them to hear "I love you" one more time."

Kelly H. says:

Settle Down Cuddle Time "When it comes to bedtime, we always have at least 30 minutes of “settle down” time before the actual task of putting the girls to bed. After baths are done, all the toys in the living room get picked up and put away. Then potty break and diaper change if needed, then story time. The youngest usually cuddles with daddy (she won’t sit still for a book yet), while the oldest picks out a story for mommy to read. Once stories have been read, and the “glassy eyes” have arrived, I take them both upstairs to their room. Big sis has her own big girl bed, so I cuddle with both girls on the bed for a few more minutes before making the youngest go to her crib. They really seem to look forward to the cuddle time in her bed and both girls cuddle with each other more than with me. It’s really cute!

During the summer, we usually let them stay up a little later because it’s really hard to get them to sleep when it’s still light outside. So schedules are adjusted in the late spring/summer."

Jen M. (that's me!), mom of a deliciously cute munchkin baby, and wife of 4 1/2 years. Read my bio below.

Success By Accident "When our little one was first born, I was convinced that co-sleeping was the way to go (sorry, Elizabeth). Somewhere along the line I learned that usually cosleeping lasts for a few years, and so it didn't take long for Sean and I to have a "awww, HECK no" moment. We slept with her in our bed for the first month, and then moved her into a bassinet. She slept in the bassinet next to me for the next five months and at six months old, we moved her into her crib with no fanfare, no fuss.

We were also incredibly blessed that iBaby went to bed with little to no drama, always mostly slept through the night and would nurse while sound asleep. So I'd pick her up when she stirred just a tad, nurse her till she fell off the breast, and then lay her back down. Easy peasy. Once she was in her own room, that stopped. I didn't hear her stir as easily through the monitor, so she'd have to full-out wake up for me to know it was time to munch.

The whole time she was in our room, and for the first couple of weeks in her own room, we had her swaddled in a Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe (which is, as far as I'm concerned, a newborn necessity). When she started to roll over using just the brute force of her head, and it became time to "wean" her, I stressed and stressed and frantically researched methods and read horror stories. One day, I swaddled her with only one arm in, the next I did just the opposite. Then I wrapped her body but not her arms. Finally, after four days, she was out and we were home free. She never laid on her back again. I only worried about suffocation for two more months.

I should also say that we have a bit of a different circumstance that can cause quite an uproar for some folks. I do not encourage little miss to sleep through the night because I work full-time away from the house and am still nursing a lot (and on-demand). It hasn't caused any issues for our family to allow iBaby to continue to eat through the night, but lots of people are shocked that we actually want her to wake up. If she didn't, chances are my milk would quickly dry up and we'd wean sooner than we'd like.

So our whole sleep experience with the munchkin has been crazy successful and 100% by accident. We had no idea what we were doing, but iBaby just always seemed to be ready for the next step when we were ready to introduce it."

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