I’d like to say that bedtime in my home with six kids resembles the scene from The Sound of Music. You know, when all the kids lovingly and obediently sang their goodbyes as they walked up the stairs to their rooms and perfectly put themselves to bed. But, this is not often the scene.
Most evenings, it looks more like a chaotic scene out of the movie Cheaper by the Dozen. Some kids chasing each other through the house, two wrestling, one washing dishes. One playing the piano, one crying because of the one who is chasing her…And the baby giggling and running through the house naked since no one realized she took her diaper off and it’s now lying on the living room floor.
Meanwhile, Mommy and Daddy are sitting at the dining table finally eating their dinner, gazing on the splendor of having a large family. And simultaneously wondering whose idea it was to have all these children in the first place.
Sounds exhausting, and honestly it is. But anything worthwhile in life (like having kids) always brings some degree of exhaustion, wouldn’t you say?
Amidst the sometimes chaotic scene, there is a level of consistency and routine. And it has worked for us for many years.
After our first baby was born, we deemed ourselves experts on all things baby. We read almost every baby book chock full of expert advice on creating a fool-proof sleep routine.
Our first child, our son, was an easy baby who always complied. So, we decided to do it again. Enter baby number two and then number three quickly behind her—just shy of 20 months?
Yet, my second and third children didn’t exactly ease on into their sleep schedule the way I had envisioned. There were many nights when one or two of them ended up sleeping between my husband and myself.
We made excuses for our lack of sleep routine, when the truth was we were just tired. And it was easy to give in to the whines and whims of two demanding babies when we were both functioning on very little sleep.
Yet, we learned quickly with our second and third children that we couldn’t let the ball continue to drop on implementing an effective sleep routine.
Once we implemented sleep training, bedtime was much less chaotic and much more predictable.
Rachel Dawkins, MD from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital says that regular, adequate amounts of sleep allow children to have “improved attention, improved behavior, better memory, and overall positive mental and physical health.”
There’s a consistency that is established when a routine is set in place. Just like your child knows there’s dance class every Wednesday or Tacos on Tuesdays, they also know that the routine for bedtime every night is consistent, and they are safe in trusting in it every day.
Even if there are deviations from the routine—when dance class takes longer or dinner is an hour late—the consistency of an established routine provides safety.
Our Bedtime Routine
We’ve added three more children to our family, but the bedtime routine hasn’t changed. Once all the wrestling, chasing, playing, and noise subsides, there’s a method to the madness.
It’s a routine so ingrained that it creates normalcy and peace in our home when it’s time for bed. It’s a staggered schedule of sorts when putting everyone to bed.
As babies, we set a mood for them at bedtime from baths to their last milk feeding. And once they are put to bed, they self-soothe for a few minutes until they drift off to sleep.
My youngest ones are always the first to go to sleep.
Although there are no more milk feedings from Mommy now, (my 2-year-old was just weaned from breastfeeding), we still have baths after dinner and cleanup; pajamas on, a light bedtime snack, a short book, soft music, and dim lighting.
As the kids have gotten older, the same routine has applied—everyone gets their baths and pajamas on.
My older kids are often commissioned to assist the younger ones with bath time if they need it.
After, everyone is allowed a light bedtime snack. Then we read something or watch a movie together as a family.
We sometimes add some essential oils in the diffuser to blow throughout the house during reading or movie time to set the mood for sleep.
Once we’re done and their teeth are brushed, my middle kids, who are my 10- and 7-year-old, head to bed while my older three kids, who are teenagers, usually stay up to read or chat with each other before everyone falls asleep.
(We aren’t as strict with our older kids for bedtime. Because we trust that they can be responsible for themselves and not stay up too late.)
In our home, there is no visual stimulation before bed. So we don’t allow cell phones or televisions in their bedrooms.
Our family has grown to absolutely depend on and love our bedtime routine. Now, there are times when our bedtime routine is not predictable.
Our schedule changes, family comes to visit from out of town, or we stay out too late at a friend’s home. This alters the normal sleep routine. When this happens we are not out of sorts; we simply adjust to the change and continue with our routine as such.
This means that our little ones will fall right asleep when they are put to bed, even if it’s three hours later, because they have learned to trust and value the sleep routine we’ve set in place. And you can do this, too!
What are you favorite tips for setting a bedtime routine for multiple children? Do you have a great sleep routine in place for one or more kids? Let us know in the comments below!
About the Author
Georgina is an island girl turned Floridian who loves books, classic movies, and all things chocolate. Above all, the things she treasures most are her Christian faith and her husband and children.