so i started writing this post all about little ones and sleep over a month ago, after receiving many questions focused around the topic when i shared how we make our small 2 bedroom apartment work for us in new york city (where our 3 kids share a room).
the truth is, i’ve been hesitant to write a whole post on it because i don’t feel like an expert whatsoever on this topic, and i don’t want to come off that way. a bedtime routine is not a perfect process. i strongly feel like each family and even each child is so different when it comes to sleep, that there is not just one way to approach it correctly.
i can’t even tell you how many baby sleeping books i read while i was pregnant with eleanor, just to feel frustrated or disappointed a few months later when my growing baby still wasn’t sleeping 12 hours straight after i’d followed all the steps a certain method or way suggested. we have since figured out a way that works best for our children and our family (for now), which involves a lot of structure around bedtime routines, some co-sleeping, and a whole lotta flexibility when it comes to it all (because one thing is for sure, sleep is not necessarily a forward process with kids!), but our way works for us, and that’s what matters in our home.
so while i’m about to share a few things that we’ve found work for us, i don’t at all want to say this is what works for everyone. i actually think this is a great opportunity to use this post to perhaps encourage others to share their tips and tricks with the rest of us, too! because sometimes gleaning just a few ideas or thoughts from other mamas around the world is the way to go, and i’m always down for learning more and trying different approaches and ways.
so, i’d love to share the 3 things i know about sleep (besides the fact that i loooooove it) and sleep with kids, and how it works for us. i’d also love love love to hear how you’ve made it work in your home or apartment, particularly if you’re in a smaller space like us and have multiple little ones!
a few things:
1. CONSISTENT ROUTINES ARE HELPFUL
we don’t have a super strict bedtime that we enforce, but we do strive for a consistent bedtime routine that starts around the same time as often as we can. around 5 or 6 each night we begin a routine of getting ready for bed with a meal, baths, brushing teeth, pajamas, dimming the lights and closing the black out curtains (ps! black out curtains are where it’s at!), reading a few bedtime stories together…the structure helps the little ones know what is going on and helps wind down the chaos from the day. by the time we’ve said prayers and are all tucked in, they are much more ready for bed. with samson and eleanor, either josh or i will stay in the nursery with them after we turn off the lights until they fall asleep (i sometimes sing a couple of songs quietly, but usually we just sit on the floor right beside their beds or cuddle with them.)
sometimes it takes just a few minutes and they are asleep, other times it takes a really long time before we sneak back out of their room. but we’ve done it this way ever since we transferred them into their tiny beds, and i know it sounds crazy and like a lot of work, but we seriously don’t mind it, and it’s kind of a nice break from life for a minute to sit quietly beside them as they doze off.
2. FOR A SHARED ROOM, SPACING OUT BEDTIMES WORKS WELL
while our three kids share a room, for a long while we spaced out all their bedtimes. eleanor or samson would trade off going to bed first (while the other had some quiet time looking through a few more books on our sofa), then we’d put the other one down maybe 20 minutes later, and then about an hour later i’d nurse conrad to sleep and transfer him to his crib in their room. now, both E and S have been going down at the same time, with conrad following about an hour later. we mostly spaced each bedtime out because sometimes someone would get the giggles or keep talking and keep their brother or sister up. but lately, and perhaps it’s because neither nap anymore, both E and S are ready for bed by the time they lay down, and fall asleep rather quickly.
as far as sharing a room goes when it comes to sleep, my kids are pretty sound sleepers. so they don’t tend to wake each other up. i credit a lot of this to living on a loud busy street in new york city, where they have grown accustomed to noise like sirens or horns since they were tiny. they’ve also napped really well on the go in their strollers here in the city (although E and S no longer nap), and i was always surprised how long they could stay down when so much was going on around them while we were out. conrad also naps while we’re out pretty well, but he’s still so little, it’ll be interesting to see if he does stroller naps as a toddler as well as his brother and sister did. i found it to be a huge blessing. haha! miss those napping days terribly. ;)
while our kids currently share a room, i pull C back into our bed when he wakes for his nighttime feeding. our room is next to his, and i’m not a deep sleeper like my kids (unfortunately), and can usually hear him tossing and restless during the night. i have co-slept on and off with all three of my children during their first few years and it’s made breastfeeding a million times easier. it’s not for everyone, but if C sleeps beside me after his night feeding, he usually (teething or a random growth spurts aside) doesn’t wake or wrestle whatsoever, and just cuddles with me until morning in the deepest soundest sleep.
3. IT’S A PROCESS THAT EBBS AND FLOWS
for our kids, nothing sleep related is ever a forward process. when we seem to make progress and everyone is sleeping through the night in their own beds for a week or two, the routine and progress gets all out of line again up with a sick little one or a growth spurt or a time change with travel. i think remaining patient and flexible is key and understanding that some weeks you move back a few steps regarding your progress, but it’s not the end of the world and you’ll get back on track soon enough.
the two first days and nights we’re home after traveling are always tricky. i find black out curtains to be super helpful, as we try to trick the time a bit if needed to get back onto our proper schedule. i think patience is also key, and finding what works best for you and your kids even if it’s not the norm.
if you have any tricks that work well for your family, i’d love to hear them in the comments below!