“It’s shluffy time,” you herald as the day finally comes to a close.
You toss the kids in the bath, brush everyone’s teeth, put the bigger ones on the toilet.
You head to the bedroom, strapping on diapers and shoving kids into pjs as you go, grab the baby for his bedtime feed, say shema, sing a song, read a book turn out the light, and say gitte nacht (which, as an aside, my autocorrect thinks should be “yacht.” Is there some kind of message there…?).
And, hopefully, they’re making their journey to dreamland from the moment you leave their room.
Everyone knows you give your kid a bath and jammies and a feed (if they’re still nursing or getting a bottle) before bed.
Does it even really matter if you have a routine? Why not just keep ‘em up and toss them in bed when they’re good and tired? Is this whole routine business really important?
(I know you know what I’m going to say - but I like asking the questions anyway, kay? So hang in here with me).
None of us just shut our eyes and turn the switch from “awake” to “asleep” (Even if you’re so tired it sometimes feels like you do - trust me on this one.)
When we fall asleep, we’re actually making a complex transition from the “interacting with the world” state of consciousness to the “clean up and dreamland” state of consciousness. And in order to make that transition, our brains and bodies have a lot of work to do - they have to rev up (well, rev down, really), relax and make the journey.
And bedtime routines guide us through doing just that. They, along with the key phrase are what cue our kids’ brains and bodies (and ours, too!) that it’s time to wind down and go to sleep. Your nightly bedtime ritual - teeth brushing and all - is actually going to tell your child’s brain to start making sleepy hormones (like melatonin) so that your child can fall asleep more easily and smoothly.
And once they get that cue - they move into... autopilot.
This is the cool part!
Have you ever found yourself pulling up to your house… and having zero recollection of driving home? Or - worse - getting in the car on a Sunday and finding yourself driving to work? Or making a recipe you’ve made so many times that your hands seem to make it on their own?
That’s the power of a routine.
You don’t even have to think about what you’re doing - you just do the first step, and your brain takes over for you.
And that’s exactly what we want our children to do. We want them to naturally go from step a, to step b to step c and then, when they’re put in bed, intuitively and easily make that journey from awake to asleep.
Building your child’s routine, with the same steps in the same order every single day, will put them into autopilot so they can smoothly fall asleep when they’re in bed.
We all like having control - and your child is no different. I don’t care if he’s 3 days, 3 months or 3 years - he wants to have a finger in the pie, too.
But, of course, our babies and little kids just aren’t able to make major decisions. (Think super underdeveloped frontal cortex, and all that.)
Being buffeted by the unpredictable winds of whim is super scary for them, they can’t quite make decisions - what’s to keep a baby/toddler happy?
They’re that perfect in-between that allow your child to feel in control and revel in the predictability - while you’re calling the shots. (Because it is, after all, your job to call the shots.)
Did this just take putting on jammies up to a whole new level for you? What questions do you have about your child’s bedtime routine?