That’s the question I was asked following a baby shower this weekend. I first thought about how hard it is to filter all of the advice, both solicited and unsolicited, that comes to a rookie mom via loving family members and friends, and sometimes strangers, too! It’s difficult to take it all in, process it, and then remember it when it really matters. You must also determine how it applies to your life as a new mother and, most importantly, assess your feelings about it. I mulled over some of the things that have worked (and many that have not) for my husband and me as together we’ve embarked on this parenthood journey. I landed on this:
Establish a bedtime routine early on, and always put your sweet baby to bed awake.
I can’t be certain when this advice was first shared with me, though I do know it was suggested to me by my own mother. While she first helped me see that I needed to find what worked best for my little one, she also helped me to practice and to quickly understand the importance of a bedtime routine. She mentioned how she cherished her bedtime routine with me and then my two younger brothers … bath, read, pray, sing, go to bed (awake). Whether it was to swaddle an infant, lay a toddler in his or her crib, or tuck in a school-aged child, she always followed the same routine. It mattered not the time on the clock, as sometimes it’s just not possible to put a child to bed at 8:00 p.m. “on the dot.” It mattered not the place, as sometimes children are not in their own beds or even their own homes. It mattered not the person, as we want all of the people in our lives to be able to put our children to bed when necessary. However, the routine should stay the same … bath, read, pray, sing, go to bed.
I know that this “system” has worked well with both of my children. Whether I was nursing them or feeding them baby food, finger foods, or full-on people food, every night after their evening meal we play, and then it’s time for bath, read, pray, sing, go to bed. This does not mean that there is not protest sometimes – nor does it mean that my children have slept through the night, every night, even with this routine. (My son slept; my daughter, on the other hand, still has things she likes to discuss in the middle of the night!) However, it does mean that we have been able to put our children to bed awake for years and that they fall asleep on their own. Like my mother, I cherish the baths, reading the books, saying the prayers (can you beat hearing a 3-year-old thank God for our doors and windows?), and singing the songs (even if that means singing “Baby Jesus” a.k.a. “Jesus Loves Me” on a nightly basis). I love peeking in on them as they lay quietly gazing around their rooms. I love listening to their baby-babble as they fall asleep.
In the end, all moms have to decide what works best for their babes and for their specific family situations – and I am not suggesting that this method or routine should be practiced by everyone OR that it will work for everyone. I just know how invaluable it has been for my family! So, as I sifted through all of the advice I could have passed on to a new mommy (though I still need much guidance myself!), this would be it … bath, read, pray, sing, go to bed.
If asked the same question, what advice would you have shared?