We recently made a big change to our bedtime routine and it was the best thing we could have done! Our routine was bath, pjs, curtains pulled, lights off, breastfeed and bed. Now don’t get me wrong, it worked in a way. Heidi knew it was bedtime, she didn’t fight her sleep but….it took bloody ages!!! And bedtime was up to me every single night.
While she would take her bedtime milk, she would fall asleep, then rouse again after 5 minutes and take more milk, fall asleep, rouse again and so on so on. And towards the end she was really just using me as a dummy. But, I couldn’t put her into bed until she was completely out for the count or she would instantly cry and want back out again.
Heidi had very bad reflux until solid foods were well established so from the day she was born practically, we couldn’t put her into bed to just fall asleep after she had her milk. She would always fall asleep while breastfeeding and then I would have to hold her upright for 15/20 minutes to let her tummy settle before putting her down. So the problem was that she was always sound asleep when being put down. So she didn’t know any other way. Not how I had PLANNED bedtime when I was pregnant, but lets face it….things don’t always go to plan do they? The whole thing would take a minimum of 90 minutes every single night.
She was always ready for bed around 7.30pm so by the time I got her into bed, it was 9pm at the earliest, sometimes even later! So for 9 solid months I had no evenings to myself, my husband and I couldn’t get any time to spend alone and although WE were fine, I eventually started to feel very isolated and frustrated. I didn’t want to go out partying, I just wanted to sit down with a cup of tea. I didn’t want to be so exhausted myself by the time I got her into bed that all I wanted to do was go to bed myself! Gerard tried a few times to put her to bed with a bottle but she just cried and cried and I couldn’t bare to hear her like that so I always caved and took over. Back to the same old routine.
I think we only got out to socialise maybe 3 times in those 9 months, always well after 9pm by which point, as nice as it was to get out and see friends etc, I just wanted to go back home and curl up in bed. I would be turning down invitations for simple things like a cinema date with a friend, coffee, dinner. I always had to say, “Oh, I can’t, that’s Heidi’s bedtime.” Something had to change. So my sisters birthday came around and she wanted me to go for dinner with her and Mum but as usual my first reaction was just to think of Heidi’s bedtime and say no. Gerard then suggested I go, he would get her settled no matter how hard it might be and I wouldn’t be there so I wouldn’t be tempted to intervene. I reluctantly agreed. I needed a night out, something had to change, so yeah, lets give it a go.
I really enjoyed getting out, it was so nice to wear clothes that weren’t breastfeeding friendly. It was so nice to eat a hot meal without having to share or get my hair pulled. I missed her of course, and I kept checking my phone to see if Gerard had sent an SOS telling me to get the heck home right now! But, I came home at 10pm to find Heidi in bed fast asleep! I couldn’t believe it. Yes she had cried for a little while and wasn’t impressed at the bottle on offer, but she eventually got tired enough that she just gave up, drank her milk and went to sleep. I know if I had been in the house I would have intervened and gave up all hope so the best thing really was me going out and leaving Daddy to it.
After that, Gerard did bedtime for the whole week to get her used to it. On the second night, I had my car keys at the ready incase the crying was awful and I wanted to jump in but surprisingly, she cried no worse than if she was just over tired or fussy and it didn’t even last that long! It was amazing the difference one night had made. That whole week, I barely knew myself!
That was at 9.5 months old and now at 11 months, Heidi goes to bed every night with a bottle and myself and her Daddy alternate nights. Bedtime has been reduced from a minimum of 90 minutes, to roughly 45. Shes still fast asleep when we put her into bed but, we are so happy with the progress we have made for now. I have only gone out once or twice since we made the change but its just so nice to have that freedom. To know that I have the option. I’m a driving instructor and thought on my return to work that evenings would be a no go, but now I can nip out for a lesson if someone requests it and I know she is perfectly happy going to bed for Daddy. There is still the odd night where she would be clingy with me and doesn’t want me to go which breaks my heart a little but we agreed we would stand firm and as soon as she sees her bottle she is quite happy and forgets all about me.
I had tried for weeks to get her used to a bottle by trying it with one feed a day and she just was not interested. Now when she sees her bottle she gets excited because she knows its milk time! Habits can be hard to break, but this has taught me that maybe its harder on us Mums than on the babies. All it took was one night to change a 9 month habit. And my husband feels a lot more useful and involved. He has always been hands on in every other aspect but it made him a little sad that she would only ever want me at night. I feel so blessed that I have a husband who wants to be so involved. Just how it should be.
The biggest test was a few weeks ago. Gerard and I had tickets to an Iron Maiden concert and my sister was coming over to babysit. So for the first time, she was going to bed for someone other than us! I was a bit worried but she loves my sister so much so I was hopeful it would go ok. During the support act I received a photo of her on Whatsapp, all tucked up in bed fast asleep. So hubby and I are hopeful that some day very soon, we can both go out again at the same time and enjoy a meal or the cinema together!
If you feel like you are never going to break a bad habit, don’t give up! Where there’s a will there’s a way and it may not be as difficult as you think. Have you ever had to make a drastic change to baby’s routine?