Our sleep journey. (How we get our kids to bed by 5pm)

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Hi friends,

Let’s talk sleep… Kids and sleep – some just seem to “get it” and some don’t… Mine are a little in the middle.
Our kids seem to be very attached to us (which we do not mind at all, actually we love) and tend to sleep better beside us… Both started sleeping in our bed around 6-9 months and that’s how most nights are for us. I have rocked/fed them to sleep from the first moment and I have found they slowly grow out of it.
Now LuLu goes to sleep in her own bed at 5pm most nights and sleeps the whole night in there, that is a recent & positive change for her this year. I feel having both her & Tommy in our bed was starting to become a problem of one of them waking the other… But Tommy still is in our bed and we won’t bother trying to encourage him out until he is ready.  (We felt LuLu was ready.)

So let’s rewind… LuLu use to sleep with us, I rocked/cuddled her to sleep until she was nearly 3, when I neared the end of my pregnancy with Tommy I would sit on her bed until she fell asleep and when Tommy arrived she slowly learnt to fall asleep on her own and now recently we slowly started her sleeping a full night in her own bed. (She is 5 in October.)
My main tip with any sleep transition thing is slow and gentle and making sure they are ready.
Our theory with our babies has always been we are going to love and hug them as much as possible because one day maybe they won’t want to do that as much anymore and if we make them feel welcome with love & also allow them to sleep where they feel safe with us, that we are setting them up to feel secure to always come to us if they don’t feel safe or they need comfort.
I’ve never been able to do cry it out and each parent’s choice is their own, I have friends and family who do it and for them it has worked well. I tried once with LuLu & just couldn’t, I don’t think I even lasted 2 minutes. She was a super emotional baby & went from zero to hysterical very easily so I felt for her that was not the way to help her to sleep. So I fed her, I rocked her and then that transitioned into her laying on my lap for cuddles of an evening and when she nodded off I would carry her to her bed. As I got further along in my pregnancy with Tommy I became weaker and couldn’t carry her as much, especially when she was sleeping. So I started sitting on her bed, we would read some stories and then sing some songs and then I sat with her while she fell asleep. When Tommy arrived we continued the same routine for awhile and then slowly changed it to me saying I had to go sit on the couch and feed baby Tommy as he was tired & hungry but when he was asleep I would come back to her room and give her another kiss goodnight… This worked really well for us. Usually when I got back to her room she was fast asleep. So she had learnt to put herself to sleep.
In the last few months we started encouraging her to sleep in her own bed for a full night. Previously she would always go to sleep in her own cot/bed but around 10pm-1am at some point she would come into our bed… We never bothered fighting that, we liked the snuggles & we valued our sleep.
Anyway, we said if she spent a whole night in her bed the “fairies” may leave her a little gift near her fairy door… Sure enough when she slept a full night they did! Then the deal was if she sleeps a whole week, she gets another little gift and that time frame just keeps getting stretched out, now she hardly remembers it. But the fairies like to leave little gifts every now and then especially when she’s been extra good.
I feel really proud of how good she is sleeping.
Both of our kids go to bed around/just after 5pm and have done so since before Tommy was born (this time can be later if Trent is home or we are out & it may become later in the summer) and they wake around 6am-7:30am (usually later if I need to be somewhere early! ha!) It doesn’t matter if they go to bed at 9pm, they wake up at the same time.
* To save your question on why so early? It works for us for multiple reasons. Trent does shift work, some days I’m solo parenting from 5am-7pm, setting myself up to have at least an hour of alone time is important to me. I get to reset and do something for myself and this early bedtime is also what is best for our kids…
LuLu doesn’t nap, she hasn’t since before she was 3 – so an early bedtime for her is needed.
Tommy has 1 day nap occasionally during the morning at around 9:45am/10am-11/11:30am’ish – but that’s rare now, normally he doesn’t nap, so he also needs to be asleep early…
I still feed/cuddle Tommy to sleep for nap and bedtime – but if Trent is home I can feed him and hand him to Trent and he will fall asleep that way as well.
Lately he has been waking during the night as he is cutting a bunch of teeth. (He is 19 months today (14th/July) and just the other day he cut 3 teeth over night which included 2 molars. This made his tooth total 8 teeth, so he is due for a few more yet!)
With our kids we believe in being gentle with sleep. Of course when we have “those” nights like everyone, we get frustrated & sleep deprivation is torture & brings out the worst in everyone! But we try to be gentle. And of course we have rough nights, but we have found 99% of the time it is for a reason. Teething, night terrors or feeling unwell and occasionally I swear the moon affects my kids sleep patterns!
But we just try to ride the rough night waves as best we can…

Edit to add:
Tommy is now  nearly 21 months and as of recently I have had to wean him (read why HERE). Now he gets a cuddle to sleep, then I place him in his cot, he sleeps in his cot (with the side off) until we go to bed and then almost like magic he wakes up, we pop him in our bed and he sleeps through the night, only waking rarely now.
Of course when he is feeling poorly or teething, he maybe in our bed earlier or need more cuddles.
He will transition to a big boy bed in December when he turns 2, same as LuLu did at 2.

Sleep for every family is unique. No one style will fit everyone, but that is how we handle sleep in our household. We have been through every high & low of this sleep ride with our kids… We’ve had moments where they won’t sleep anywhere but on us (still occasionally – Tommy!), we’ve had amazing night sleeps where we wake up in fright in the morning because they slept the whole night in their own bed – so that must mean something is wrong of course! We have walked countless laps of the house trying to help them fall asleep and we’ve had moments where we felt like we didn’t have a clue about what to do next & get frustrated… But we survived and right now I feel like we are in a pretty good sleep space – having already ridden this sleep wave with LuLu who was a very clingy baby and not the best sleeper, I can be optimistic about the future with Tommy. For now we co-sleep with him, I love it but I know one day, when he is ready he too will go to sleep on his own in his own room for a full night… But for now I am enjoying this season, my all night snuggles and being there to help him feel safe & comforted when he needs me.

If you are having some troubles with sleep, a few things I’ve found that may help are…

  • Establish a set bedtime routine with your kids that is predictable. My kids know at 5pm or shortly after it is bedtime… By that time they are normally yawning and tired. We do bath time around 4pm, then a quick tidy of the playroom, read a book and then off to bed. Trent works shift work so our daily routine is flexible, on the days he does night shift the kids know after we say goodnight and goodbye to Daddy it is bedtime. (He leaves at 5pm) I truly believe children thrive on routine, they like knowing what to expect.
  • Rewards. If your child is old enough to understand some sort of reason, try to make sleeping in their own bed part of a reward system. Similar to our fairy deal, maybe a sticker each night and 7 stickers in a row means something special… The options are endless.
  • No electronics in the room. That’s a given, but young kids don’t need something stimulating their little minds. Bedtime should be for winding down… Books, prayers, talking about their day – but not electronics.
  • Have a good snack. Some children wake due to hunger, could be a growth spurt or maybe they didn’t eat enough dinner. A banana before bed is a terrific sleepy snack. The potassium is said to be great for promoting good sleep.
  • Fairy lights. LuLu isn’t a huge fan of the dark, nor am I really. We leave our hallway light on every night – it’s always dimmed very low but is bright enough that if she needed to, she could comfortably walk to our room. She also has a string of battery operated fairy lights in her bedroom. She thinks they are very special and it’s a highlight for her to switch them on each night before bed.
  • A well stocked night stand. LuLu is now at the age where she can help herself at night. She has a water bottle & a box of tissues beside her bed. This minimises the need for her to call out to us at night. She knows if she is feeling unwell or does need us though, that she can always come to us or call out.
  • Sleepy oils. This may or may not help, but I’ve found oils are a great addition to our bedtime routine. They can be applied to the feet, wrists and behind the neck or/and diffused during the night. I find them very calming & use my diffuser almost every night. If you would like to learn more click HERE.
  • The 4th trimester. If you are reading this and have a newborn, please just ride the wave. I found my babies just needed cuddles & patience when they were new. Tommy slept a lot better than LuLu but I feel that was also due to me being more confident in my abilities. Remember you are all they know and you are their comfort & safe space… Have a read about the 4th trimester & also leaps.
  • Co-sleeping. This is not for everyone, but for us it worked beautifully. We valued our sleep and found when our babies would wake upset they would quickly settle tucked in beside us. Please do your own research and use your own caution when co-sleeping.
  • Team work. Having a husband/partner that can wake up and help out with waking babies/children is a Godsend. Trent has always helped out during the nights and I’m very thankful for that. Working as a team is important and if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Patience & understanding. It is easy to get frustrated with children who wake constantly, you are already tired and then you are dealing with a difficult situation with usually an unreasonable little person. But it is important to try and have patience, try and understand why they are upset and won’t sleep. This will help you fix the issue. Are they upset for a particular reason? Are they not tired? Are they cold, hot, in pain, sick, has a big life change happened, hungry, need to use the toilet, scared, stressed? There are so many reasons that can effect kids and their sleep. I encourage you to have patience before losing your temper. As I said above, more often than not when my kids are having a rough night it is for a reason.
  • Consistency. But on the other hand sometimes children test boundaries as they get older and they need to know you’ll remain firm and bedtime means bedtime. If your child is being cheeky and constantly getting out of bed to see what you are watching on TV (I remember doing this) or asking for sips of water, take them back to bed making sure there is no actual reason for them to be out (have they used the toilet/had a drink/are full, no temperature etc) say “no, it’s now bed time, you need rest for tomorrow!” give them a kiss, say good night and walk out or if they are terribly upset, I would sit by their bed for a little while until they are calmed down.  (I only recommend this with children that actually understand reason and for each child that age will vary, but I would say not for very young children, I would do this with LuLu but not Tommy.)

I hope you found this post helpful, I would love to know your top piece of sleep advice, what has worked best for you?
Connect with me on my social media and let me know!

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