Perfecting Your Child's Bedtime Routine

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When my son was a baby, he had a perfect little bedtime routine. A soothing bath with songs, a massage, pajamas, feeding, and 3 stories (always ending with  The Going to Bed Book )—it was a carefully crafted 30-minute sequence of events, like an example you might see in a parenting book. We protected it,  just so,  every night, and we thought it had to be this way.

And then my daughter was born. All of a sudden, I was soaping my son in the bath with a small, burping baby over my shoulder, or trying to read to him “quietly” before bed while nursing a fussy baby in the middle of the witching hour. Having a second child had shaken up all the family routines, including the ones we so cherished before bedtime. One set of needs had sprouted into two equally demanding sets—often pulling me in opposite directions.

I worried that my daughter’s bedtime routine—if you could even call it that—looked sad in comparison to the Cadillac of routines my son had. No infant massage, no books before bed—we just didn’t have time for it. I fed her, put her pajamas on, asked my son to say “goodnight” to her, put her in the crib, and walked out. 

But here was the interesting part: she slept very well. And one night I started to understand why.

I was carrying her into the bedroom, just as I’d done dozens of nights before. I’d toted her around the whole evening as I took care of my son, and she’d seemed fully awake. But as I softly turned the handle to close the door behind me—she yawned.

The next night, the same thing happened: I walked into the room, closed the door, and she yawned.

It became a point of amazement in the house. One night while my dad was visiting, I told him to come in the bedroom. She hadn’t been yawning leading up to this point in the evening. “Watch this,” I said. “She’s going to yawn.” “She doesn’t look tired,” remarked my dad. But sure enough, on cue