Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Toddler Sleep and the Blessings of Routine

I know I've talked a bit about the girls' sleep before but it seems that the sleepy subject keeps popping and I just can't resist joining the fray. A few caveats first:

1. The girls have almost always co-bedded since they were allowed out of their isolettes in the NICU. The only times they've slept apart has been when they have chosen to. That usually lasted a week or two.

2. The girls have been in our bedroom since coming home from the hospital.

3. We have always welcomed the girls into the family bed, though they have also had cribs and beds of their own. They go to sleep in their bed(s) and if they wake up they usually come to the family bed.

4. We have never left our children to cry. We have never sleep-trained them. The only time we have refused them a night bottle was after returning from Israel. Before travelling they had not been night-waking and after getting them back to the correct time we cuddled and rocked the few times they woke for a bottle.

On to the fun stuff. When dinner time rolls around we start including, "...then we'll put on pjs, brush our teeth, pick out books and go lishon," to just about every sentence. At first this was very important because they all need help transitioning (Batya especially!) but now as soon as it gets dusk they will help close the curtains, fix Zeus for bed, pick out books and talk about bed. They will even correct you if you forget to mention a step in their routine. At 6:00 pm we formally start our routine.

First the girls pick up their toys. This can take a while. The best strategy I've come up with for this is giving them a set time for book reading to end. If they dawdle through the routine then they can only fit in one or two books. If they do it quickly then they can pick three books each for reading. Most of the time we can fit in four to six books.

After we've picked up and picked out books we head upstairs. The girls brush their teeth and wash their faces. If anyone has knots, I'll run a brush through their hair, to. Then we get into jammies and pull-ups and climb into bed. Usually I have to run downstairs once or twice to get something we forgot. (Red blanket for Chaya, green for Batya and Shira needs Towely.) It seems something always gets forgotten. The girls curl in bed with their sippy of milk and I read and then they go to sleep. They are usually asleep around 6:45 pm.

Yes, I know the milk should be before the teeth brushing, but the girls have such a strong sleep association with the milk that they meltdown and then bedtime gets stressful and messed up. I keep experimenting with solutions, but nothing is working. Anyone have ideas?