What does your bed time routine look like? Did you know last year new parents were estimated to have lost 650 hours of sleep in one single year? We all know that heart wrenching sound. They jump out of bed… those little footsteps make their way into your room and you hear “Daddy…”.
It’s cute, but then you check the time and it's 4am...
When I first became a dad sleep was probably the one thing I was incredibly anal about! Even when it came to nap time. I was so obsessed with making sure he napped every day. In the early days, and actually until he was three, he LOVED his sleep. He would have a two hour nap in the middle of the day without fail. Even if we were out and about he’d find a way to sleep either on us, in the pushchair or in the car.
I don’t know if it’s because he was adopted and we knew we’d uprooted him from his lovely foster home. That was all he was used to and I was so adamant to make the routine in his new home work. He needed to feel safe, secure and to know what was coming in his day. Plus sleep is massively important for them to grow and rest. It’s so important for adopted children too, and non-adopted children really, to have that sense of routine and safety.
The bedtime routine was and still is my domain. As the working dad i get in just as he's having his dinner. 'The Witching Hour' as it's called by many. If you’re reading this you probably know that lack of sleep is one of the hardest parts of being a parent and getting them to sleep can be one of the biggest challenges. I found a regular, simple routine when I get in from work is the best way of getting him happy and settled for a night’s sleep. Bath, Book, Bed is all you need to remember.
I still to this day follow the same routine every night involving a story after a bath. Shared reading won’t just help him fall asleep – it also helps feed his imagination, creativity and confidence. Some books he really gets into (there usually has to be a disaster where someone needs saving from a fire or something!) and others he can sit happily whilst i read it. Then there are some books he just isn't into.
I get in from work and have that time with him. Well, it's usually preceded by an hour of running around like lunatics, playing hide and seek or just generally chilling together. But bath time is my time, every night. For him it’s a great way to get water play in, because he tries it in the living room at his toy kitchen all the bloody time, so at least he can play with empty bottles and make ‘coffee’ for daddy to his heart’s content in the bath! And I love it too. I get to chat to him and he’s contained to a degree so we can just catch up or splash around like crazy.
After a bath we get dry and we brush his teeth (sometimes after a fight over who is actually going to do it so I usually end up getting a minute and then he finishes off just chewing the brush…), dry his hair, have a little cup of milk and then we head to his bed for the bedtime story.
This can be such a lovely time of day. Depending on how his day has been, we can really just snuggle in and have a read together. And he has his favourites, we probably read the same five books over and over to be honest… when I introduce new ones they are usually met with him grabbing the back page and shutting the book saying “Theeeee end”. But I know this familiar nightly routine helps him. He knows bed is bed. There’s no messing about and that routine, be it repetitive at times, is ingrained in him now. BUT what I will also say is it's good to feel confident to mix it up too. It won’t (usually) wreck all the hard work you have put in. Family events, weddings, parties, holidays… it’s hard to keep that routine going but don’t worry, it’s one night. We still have a musical elephant we play each night and that is the one constant that will come with us to any hotel we go to. In the dark with that playing he could be at home for all he knows.
We’re so happy to be working with Books Trust this year on their Bath, Book, Bed campaign. The campaign encourages parents and carers to make stories part of every child’s bedtime routine, helping their kids sleep well. We were sent a little box of goodies to help K get ready for bed and the books went down a treat! Following on from the success of the last two years, Books Trust will be providing 600,000 free advice booklets for parents and will be hosting a week of activity so give them a follow on Twitter.
If you have issues at bedtime or are trying to find a routine that works for you all as a family then you can get involved in the campaign too!
- Download the booklet ‘Bath, Book, Bed: Simple steps to a better night’s sleep’ for helpful tips from parenting expert Jo frost, featuring Daddy Pig
- The BookTrust website has advice to parents about how best to introduce the routine and how to maintain it and a Best Bedtime Books list
You can visit www.booktrust.org.uk/bathbookbed to find out more and be sure to share your tips and ideas using @BookTrust and #BathBookBed across social media.
This post was written in collaboration with Books Trust.