Have you ever noticed that your baby or toddler tends to fall asleep relatively quickly except the naps or nights when you REALLY need them to go to sleep?
It might be that you are just exhausted from being up all night and you can’t wait until that sweet relief of nap time so you can take a nap yourself. Or you booked your baby’s doctor’s appointment between naps, which means you don’t have the time for them to go down later than normal today. Maybe you have some work or chores you need to catch up on during the time when they’re asleep because that’s the only time you’ll get to do that today. Or you have company over and you’re just a sleeping toddler away from enjoying an adult evening.
Whatever the reason, it seems the only days when they have a hard time settling down are the days where you were really counting on them settling down easily.
We used to do support calls and sleep education calls at 8:30pm, because almost without fail our kids were always down and out by 8:30, latest. Of course there was one exception, can you guess what it was? If we had booked a call for right after bedtime, that was the easiest way to guarantee that no one was going to be sleeping anytime soon.
So why is this the case? Why is it the days where you don’t have the time for them to take longer to fall asleep are the only ones that take FOREVER? We’re going to talk through the top 3 reasons this happens and what you can do to make these days a little easier on everyone.Reason #1: Your post sleep plans might be distracting from your wakeful time connection
We’ve already touched on some various reasons why you might be really eager for nap or bedtime to happen on a given day, but how does the anticipation of these things impact the time you spend playing with and connecting with your child during the day?
Let’s talk through a few of the most common ones:
You’re exhausted: We’ve all been there. Your baby or toddler was up for what felt like the entire night and you’re just waiting for naptime to hit so you can also nap. Of course these days are the ones that your child does not want to settle down for a nap, but let’s take a step back. How did you spend that wakeful time with your child before their nap? We know from personal experience, we’re definitely not as present and attentive on these days as we are when we feel more rested. We’re irritable and less engaged in connection-focused activities.
You have company: You have friends or family visiting and you just need to put your little one to bed before you can resume your visit. Again, let’s look back at the time spent before bedtime. Were you a bit more distracted from your connection with your child? Was your child spending time with more people than they usually do? Could they be a little over stimulated?
You have plans/an appointment scheduled: Date night? Plans to catch up on work post bed time? Really want to see who this year’s bachelor gives the final rose to? All of these things are such a normal part of life, but we can often spend a lot of time anticipating or preparing for these that we again miss the time to be present and connected with our children before asking them to go to sleep. Even if we don’t have anything that we’re actually doing other than spending time with our children, we might be mentally planning out everything that needs to be done at bedtime, instead of focusing on being present in the moment.
What do all of these things have in common?
Connection is one of the most undervalued needs our children have. We so often focus on physical needs like hunger, sleep, and comfort, that we discount emotional and attachment needs.
So what can you do to ensure that these days that are a bit more rushed are more successful? Focus on connection and be intentional with the time you do have with your child. Remember that it’s quality over quantity, so even if you don’t have a lot of time to connect, take even 20 minutes before nap or bedtime to just really focus on distraction free connection time with your child.Reason #2: You might rush through bedtime
Have you ever tried rushing through bedtime because you had something you needed to get to after you got the kids to bed? Or maybe it’s the end of a long day and you just can’t wait to unwind so you’re trying to hurry along to finally be able to have some “me” time. Maybe you had a busy day and you’re a little late starting bedtime, so you try to hurry it along.
Whatever the case is, more often than not, rushing through your bedtime routine usually means a more difficult time getting your babies to bed.
Why is that? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
There are a few things bedtime routines allow for. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
First, they cue our children that bedtime is coming and allow them to unwind and transition from awake and playing to ready for sleep. This is important to help them get to a place where they are calm and able to fall asleep. If you went from walking around talking straight to your bedroom, switched into pjs, and tried to go straight to bed it would probably be difficult.
The other (and more important) thing that bedtime routines do for our children is allow them for a final chance for connection before the biggest separation they face all day. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Bedtime is our final chance to really connect with our children and fill their cups with lots of love. When we think of it this way, we need to focus on the QUALITY of the connection and those moments. When we’re rushing them to bed and looking beyond the current moment, we’re usually not as present as they need us to be.
So next time you find bedtime is starting to take longer, relax, connect, and take your time. It will make all the difference!Reason #3: Your child feels the same emotions you’re feeling
Think back to a time when you know you have to be up early the next morning and you do a quick calculation of how little sleep you’re going to get as you lay down in bed before trying to fall asleep. You realize that even if you fall asleep right this second you’re still going to get way less sleep than you need to, so you resolve to fall asleep quickly so you can max your sleep for the night. Does that ever work for you?
If you’re anything like us, you probably find that the nights that you are trying to rush yourself to sleep are the nights where you just can’t fall asleep.
Why? Because we need to be in a state of calm before we can surrender to sleep.
A similar thing happens when we are in a rush while putting our children to sleep. They co-regulate with us, which means anything you’re feeling, they feel too.
Think about how you feel in the moment when you’re putting them to sleep. If you’re stressed or anxious about getting them down quickly, they’re going to feel that same stress and anxiety. Remember how hard it is for you to fall asleep when you’re stressed, anxious, or rushed? Same goes for our little ones.
So what can we do about this? Focus on self-regulation in the moment and just be with your child as long as they need you to. The more you can focus on keeping yourself calm, the easier it will be for them to fall asleep. You can focus on your breathing, you can name a few things you hear or see in the room, and you can be present with your child in the moment and let go of the things that will come after bedtime.
One great way to approach these nights is to think that you will be there for as long as your child needs to be and anticipate it taking an hour to do bedtime. If you tell yourself it’s going to take a long time, your mindset shifts and allows you to relax a little bit because your expectations are being met.
Did any of this resonate with you? Remember, the best ways to avoid the prolonged bedtimes on nights when you are in a bit of a rush are to:
- Focus on daytime connection
- Relax and take your time through bedtime
- Focus on your expectations and self regulation
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