Hi friends, happy Friday! You’ve made to the end of the week and that glorious sense of relief, particularly if you’re a semi-permanently sleep deprived mama like me. It seems like no matter the age of your child, sleep is always a major issue. Which is why we’re marking the fourth anniversary of our Real Talk, Real Moms series by discussing all things sleep related! I’m confident that across all the mamas, you’re going to find a nugget of genius that relates directly to any sleep struggles your family might be experiencing.

Real Moms, Real Talk on Sleep and Bedtime Routines on apartment 34Real Moms, Real Talk on Sleep and Bedtime Routines on apartment 34Real Moms, Real Talk on Sleep and Bedtime Routines on apartment 34Real Moms, Real Talk on Sleep and Bedtime Routines on apartment 34

With a four-year-old in the house now, I’ve managed to get past the majority of the sleep regression stage. Most nights we have a solid sleeper that’ll give us 11-12 hours of peace (save a night terror on the occasion. Those are never particularly fun).

A few thoughts on those early years of sleep that I think have given me a pretty good sleeper (and I will not front – I read all the sleep books – so many that they they all blend together now. I’m pretty sure this one was my favorite though). It’s amazing what you can forget in a few sleep deprived years. But here are the key points:

> Set a sleep schedule and stick to it. Same nap and bedtimes daily. Kids love and thrive with routine. Do not fear it.

> Sleep begets sleep. It can seem counterintuitive, but the more sleep a baby gets, the more they’ll sleep. So don’t fret those naps and maybe even move the bedtime up earlier.

> Create a super soothing sleep environment. Some people say this is “spoiling” your kids, but any sleep book for adults talks about creating the most sleep inducing environment possible. A blacked out room, cool but not too cold temperatures, a sound machine. Give them the best chance of falling and staying asleep.

> Sleep training is not evil. Just sayin’. (I used this book to do it at six months).

But these days, I have a whole new struggle on my hands. I’ve got a vocal, opinionated, willful preschooler. Swaddling is long gone my friends. While we can get a full night’s rest, it’s the getting to bed part that is proving extremely tough. Our bedtime routine regularly hits 90 minutes. And I swear it’s only your typical stuff – bath, brushing teeth, going potty, getting on pajamas, reading a story (or four), singing a song, a drink of water. Ok it’s a lot. And the rituals are mission critical, at least to the four-year-old. An attempt to drop one element is always met with massive resistance. Or better yet, the need to start the entire process over from the beginning. But things cannot continue this way. Such a long bedtime routine exhausts everyone, devolving into all the behaviors that’ll break us parents down – whining, stalling, hitting, tantrums. And I’m trying to not drink wine during the week anymore!

We try to do all the things the podcasts say. Boundless patience. Make things playful. When they get upset, get calmer. But I just can’t stomach a 8pm bedtime anymore. So while I like to try to come to these posts with something helpful, or a least share a personal perspective with you, this go round I’m in the thick of the struggle friends.

I’ve considered all the obvious solutions but we can’t really start the bedtime process earlier in the evening. There’s the getting home from school and the cooking and eating of the dinner that has to happen first. We’ve resorted to making baths an every other day thing in attempt to take out one element. We’re trying hard to stick to the one book per parent rule.

So this post is bit more of a cry for help than anything else. How do you manage your nighttime routine? Maybe 90 minutes isn’t abnormally long but it certainly feels that way to me. I would love any and all advice you may have.

I’ll certainly be scouring the posts of all our other mamas for every creative idea I can find. You should too!

FreutcakeThe Effortless ChicThe Sweetest Occasion | Studio DIY Lovely Indeed

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  1. Hi!
    It’s hard, really hard, but YOU need to be in charge. YOU are the parents.
    There are way too many steps involved in the bedtime routine you have. It’s a never enfing feast of activity prior to sleeping. No wonder the child wants more!

    The child gets to choose two. Yes, TWO activities for the bedtime routine from: book/drink/song, etc. Note…activities = active. NOT what you want prior to sleepiness.

    The parents work together to ensure the two choices are the only activities prior to lights off and sleeping.

    A child of this age CAN count, recognise, recall and work with what TWO is and means and can, therefore, work WITH the CHOICE OF ONLY TWO. Don’t be tricked into believing they don’t understand.

    Lights off can mean a very dim night light and a half closed door. This also builds independence and courage if/when a nightmare occurs. That is, you’re both still there and the child is safe in tbat knowledge.

    Try it. Be a team and stick to it.

    IF you do due diligence for a full week and you truly fail (this means yoyr child is actuallyin charge), then, seek intervention from a child psychologist to break the habit pattern and clear the wool from your eyes.

    P.S. There’s a book called something like “Shalom in the Home” that is about the parents being the fundamental relationship, with the child/children being the addition, the icing on the cake, including the parents setting the boundaries as a team and the children working within those boundaries set by the parents. Shalom. Peace. Happy days (and nights).

  2. I had the same situation with my strong willed 4 year old son. We put together a bed time routine chart with pictures for each step and set a time limit for each. Using a timer for each step of the routine worked wonders and got it down to 35 minutes. He happily accepted it on night one. I think he felt in control with telling us what came next in the routine by looking at the chart. The timer is a good no negotiation end time.

    1. I LOVE this idea and he’s been super into the idea of a jobs chart

  3. Erin, I really appreciate your honesty as a mom. You are one of the most relatable mothers to me. We have a 4 and 1 y.o. We were at 90 min as well and wittled away time with different things til we got to 30-45 min pending shower vs. bath. We did a chart with just 3 things- potty, teeth and clothes. It was helpful. We put up an analog wall clock to help tell time. Less helpful. We used a song- “can you brush your teeth and get jammies on before the song ends”. Helpful. Taking a shower was a good novelty that really cut down time. Just small strategies. Hope it gets better soon. You’re not alone in the trenches.

    1. Thanks so much Eileen for your kind words. It’s so nice to feel like we’re all in this together. I love your suggestions. We’re going to keep trying different tactics but the chart is definitely on the top of my list

  4. We do a quick bath, PJs/teeth brushing then bed. Dad is responsible for reading but it’s a set time and then it’s lights out regardless of whether she likes it or not. At 6:30 it’s mom and dad time!

    1. When dod you do dinner? We have the hardest time starting the bedtime routine before 6:30pm

  5. I have a 3 year old (almost 4) over here, so I feel ya. First, I love Megan’s suggestion for the routine chart. I’ve also seen others have success with those in the morning and this is motivating me to employ. Second, timers have saved us. They are awesome. We get in the bath and I announce that I’m setting the two minute timer until washing hair/bottoms. After that’s done I then announce I’m setting a 5 min timer till it’s time to get out of the bath. Works like a charm. Side note, I also give limited options along the way (I think this makes her feel in control) , like what color should we make the bath tonight? Pink or blue? Etc.
    Also, I am definitely quicker than my husband in getting through everything. I take a bit more militaristic approach to it all. I keep the train moving constantly and I think that helps with my daughter’s delay tactics. He would probably have something to say about this but he’s not here to defend himself 😉 I will admit that my approach does take a bit of the “fun” out of it, but I used to so cherish those couple hours to myself before bed! Now we have a baby though so it’s more of a survival thing.
    Hang in there!