What if I told you there were 3 easy steps to get your child to sleep by 8pm? A big claim I know, but after six months I’ve finally cracked what it takes to get two children to bed by 8pm and wanted to share what I’ve learnt with you!
Before I start this post, I want to start by saying that by no means am I a sleep expert when it comes to children. Goodness knows we’ve had our fair share of awful bed time experiences with our little ones. Mostly with our eldest who has always been a notoriously bad sleeper.
Some would argue that it’s up to the parents to help little ones establish a good sleep routine and teach them how to sleep, and to an extent I would agree. But I would also argue that sleep habits are hugely dependent on the individual child. Because even though they may be little, just like any other human being, they will have characteristics and traits that are individual to them no matter how old they are.
I personally think that whether you are a morning person or a night owl is the kind of thing that is intrinsic and some of what we experience, for example having a baby that doesn’t like to sleep until very late in the evening, is part of that playing out. I say this because when our second child came along we experienced completely different sleep habits despite not doing anything differently at bedtime to how we did it with our daughter when she was the same age.
What we can do as parents however, is create good sleep habits that will gently coax little ones to sleep with as little fuss or stress as possible. I believe that following these three these steps, consistently is what helps us get our two children to sleep by 8pm each night.
Create a good bedtime routine
I used to be really embarrassed to tell people what time Ella went to bed, and when I found myself often telling people a made up time rather than the real time I realised that we needed to seriously look at our bed time routine. Having a three year old still up at 11pm at night was not cool, and when you throw in nightfeeds with a newborn it is just ridiculous.
I always used to read that babies thrived on routine, but having tried routine with Ella when she was little and finding that it made no difference always left me frustrated. After trying every sleep solution in the book I gave up when she was around 6 – 8 months and figured that at some point she’d settle into some type of routine of her own which she never really did.
But when our second baby came along he was the opposite and actually seemed to really thrive on routine (go figure), and so for the first time in three years I found a bedtime routine that actually worked for both of our children.
It always follows one of two possible routines. They are always the same and they go something like this; dinner, playtime, bathtime, bedtime, milk OR dinner, playtime, bedtime milk.
With plenty of sleep cues
Sleep cues are things that you do each and every bedtime that subconsciously signal to little ones that it is bedtime. It can be something as simple as putting your baby in their sleeping bag. I tried to introduce both our little ones to sleep cues when they were very young, but had much more success with our second baby than our first. Again I think that comes down to the types of sleepers that they are.
Our sleep cues for the baby are putting him into his sleepsuit, then his Ergopouch sleeping bag. Putting his Ewan Dream Sheep on, dimming our lights and giving him a feed. All of these things help signal to him that it is bed time and not nap time. At nap time none of these things happen. For the three year old we put her pyjamas on, put her night lights on and give her a cup of milk to drink in bed.
A good amount of wind down time
I believe our terrible routine, or lack of routine stemmed from the husband and I both working in jobs that meant we often didn’t get home until 6.30pm – 7.00pm. This of course meant that Ella didn’t get home till 7pm either. We’d then end up eating dinner around 7.30pm and by the time we did the whole bedtime routine, she wasnt actually in bed until 8.30pm. But because it was all so rushed and she didn’t really get the amount of time she needed to properly wind down and we would often find her still awake come 9pm – 10pm. Not cool.
It took us having our second child to figure out that little ones actually need a few hours to properly wind down, kind of like us. With me being on maternity leave we were able to bring the children’s routines forwards by a few hours. Now we start our whole routine around 5.00pm – 5.30pm when I start making dinner and by 8.00pm – 8.30pm both children are asleep. That’s effectively three hours for the children to wind down for bedtime.
After three years of trying every sleep solution known to man, I can honestly say that following these three steps consistently actually works. Its simple, its easy and most importantly its gentle. There are no tears on the children’s parts or the parents, no pulling out your hair trying to figure out why your little ones wont sleep, no sitting outside bedrooms for hours, or picking babies up and putting them back down whilst silently willing them to fall asleep (I’ve been there).
My disclaimer of course would be that this all goes out the window the moment they are unwell or teething and that this may not work for everyone. But having managed to get two children with very different sleep temperaments in bed at the same time every night I think you would be able to successfully get your child to sleep by 8pm too!
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