What is a "normal" night time routine for a 3 year old? and or 2 month old?

MarceK - posted on 12/31/2010 ( 6 moms have responded )




I am struggling to get my daughter to follow directions and need advice on what a good routine would be... I know everyone is different, but what works for you?
My son is 2 months old... I don't want to struggle with him like I do my daughter... how do babies learn to go to bed on their own?


Renae - posted on 01/01/2011




Most babies learn to go to bed on their own because they are taught to. Some babies are just independant from the start and very easy to teach to fall asleep on their own from day 1. Some babies are the exact opposite and need comfort to go to sleep until they are old enough to understand what sleep is and what is going on. Most babies who develop strong sleep dependancies such as being rocked or fed to sleep will not learn it by themselves until they are around 2 years old.

If what you are saying is that you want your 2 month old to go to sleep on his own, then you can certainly do that. You have not said how you feel about leaving him to cry, however, I am going to say straight up that leaving a baby to cry is never necessary in order to teach them to go to sleep on their own or to sleep through the night.

I recommend that parents stop sleep problems and the creation of sleep dependancies before they start, or before the baby is 12 weeks old. You do this by getting your baby used to being put to sleep while lying in his own bed now. You stay with him and pat his bottom, stroke his head, whatever calms him, but the important part is that he is going to sleep while lying on his mattress and not in your arms. If he is ever upset or starts to cry, pick him up and calm him down completely before putting him back in bed and starting again with putting him to sleep. Many babies, more than three quarters, who are put to sleep this way, will automatically fall asleep on their own as they get older and will sleep through the night within the usual timeframes. If your baby is one of the minority who do have night waking problems despite being put to sleep while lying in their own bed, then it is very easy to use a gradual withdrawal method (no-cry behavioural modification method) to remove the parental dependance as you have already are already halfway there.

In regards to bedtime routines, most babies benefit from a routine, some it does nothing for. A routine should be made up of normal things that need to be done before bed and can include one non-essential thing like a story or nursery rhyme song. This way, you can add, subtract and replace things in and out of the routine as they get older (such as brushing teeth and going to the toilet). Most humans have a bedtime routine, even adults, we just dont label it as such. A routine for any aged child needs to be at least 10 minutes and no more than 30 minutes.


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Bonnie - posted on 01/02/2011




I find that routine helps and so does having a consistent bedtime where you can. With my boys (they are 2 and 4), I try to have dinner ready around the same time each day, then I clean up. Sometimes I read to them right after dinner in case one of them fall asleep early. If it is a day they have a bath (they don't have one everyday) they have it after dinner, then it's a snack (usually fruit), then bed.
The only way I have known a baby to go to sleep on their own if they aren't already tired is to let them cry it out. I know many are not comfortable with doing that. If you want to try that, leave the room for 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes. See if that helps. I would say that if by 15-20 minutes it hasn't even helped calm him, you may want to try something else. You can't spoil a baby, so there is nothing wrong with cuddling or rocking until he falls asleep.

Renae - posted on 01/02/2011




Hi Marcek, it will get better. I just re-read my first response, and I'm sorry I neglected to explain something properly - not only will most baby's put to sleep while lying in their bed be good sleepers - 75% of ALL babies put to bed in ANY way will be within the normal range as far as sleeping through the night. For most babies it doesn't make any difference how they go to bed, but for those where it does make a difference it makes a huge difference. Laura's story is the common one, the majority of babies sleep through when they are biologically and developmentally ready and that's that.

So if you want to rock, go ahead, and if he does end up with a sleeping problem, you can still fix it later without any crying.

And talking about your daughter, many kids of her age go through a phase of wanting to sleep in the parental bed. Something that usually works a treat is to put a mattress for her on the floor of your room and tell her that she is only allowed to come in and sleep there if she is as quiet as a mouse and does not wake you up, if she wakes you up she has to go back to bed. This usually works, you will get an undisturbed nights sleep and find her on the mattress in the morning. Most kids stop using the mattress within 4 weeks as just knowing it is there and they can go if they need to is enough. Although, you may be stepping over a mattress that isn't getting used for up to a year. When she has completely forgotten about it you can take it away.

You could also try a rewards system for going to bed and sleep without a fuss, something like a trip out somewhere on the weekend if she goes to bed every night during the week. Keep reminding her of the reward. Above all, be consistent with bedtime, she must go to sleep and start out the night in her own bed, no exceptions.

It will get better, if she is like most kids, the fights will be over in a couple of weeks.

MarceK - posted on 01/01/2011




What great advice! This is very helpful! I like to rock my baby to sleep because I love that. I won't see him much when I go back to work in two days, so I may continue. However, that is what I did with my three year old and we are going through hell getting her to bed. Actually, she wants to sleep in our bed. My husband and I let her for too long and don't want that anymore. She slept in her crib until she was about a two, then because she was sick, I let her sleep with us. It went down hill from there. But, I have been sleeping on the couch (love seat) because she has been on my side of the bed. That is ending. We had a huge fight the night before last. Tonight was a smaller fight...hopefully it will get better...

Amy - posted on 01/01/2011




bath, brush, book,bed. We start an hour before "bedtime"and bedtime is pretty consistent. between 7-8pm.

As for babies. I always rocked mine until they were about 8 months old. then at bedtime, i would nurse them in a dark room and when still awake, but sleepy, i'd lay them down in their crib and kiss them goodnight. So they learned to go to sleep alone in a crib. Although, when teething, I deviated and rocked until eyes were BARELY open and they were basically asleep.

As long as you know it's bedtime, kids know it's bedtime and you just keep taking them back calmly to rooms and saying, it's night time, time to sleep. I don't know, I guess we never made that big a deal. We got a bedtime, stuck to it and they just kinda go to bed. my kids are 4 and 21 months. when we say time to brush teeth, they hurry on in, brush teeth, run up to get a book and then..bedtime.

Laura - posted on 01/01/2011




Renae gives some excellent advice! The method she proposes is very common and is what a lot of pediatricians will recommend. I did not use this method, however.

The reasons I never used this method of establishing a sleep routine is that I found it to be cold and impersonal. It leaves very little room for bonding experiences with the child. Stories and songs are relegated to "non-essential" status as part of the bedtime routine. Sleeping is when all animals are at their most vulnerable and this calculated approach leaves little room for providing an infant with a sense of safety and security from a parent (which other mammals do for their young); the safety and security is left up to the environment alone. With that said, this method DOES work for many people. I personally admit to not liking this approach, that's all.

Instead I did everything your NOT supposed to do and I never had sleeping problems with my daughter. I didn't have problems because the routine that we established was consistent. One big point that hasn't been mentioned is "stress" about bedtime. Our routine was not stressful for anyone! At our house bedtime was enjoyable because the routine we established contained enjoyable, bonding activities: Warm baths and bedtime bottles/snacks came first. Then rocking together in a comfy chair reading stories until the baby fell asleep. When my daughter got older, we adjusted the routine to include snuggling together for a few minutes after the stories before going to her bed, eliminating the "falling asleep while rocking" part. We had no problems with that transition either.

Why is it that our family had no bedtime problems when using methods that you aren't supposed to use? Our attitude was part of it. Bedtime is just something that you do and should not be stressful but enjoyable. Our routine contained elements that were enjoyable to everyone, namely the rocking! My daughter loved to be rocked and I loved rocking her so it was a win-win situation! Some of our best bonding (and later, talks) took place while rocking. It created a sense of safety and security for her by a parent (a very mammalian response, actually). What worked for us might not work for someone else--my nephew hated rocking and being held so Renae's suggested method actually worked best for him. What it does show, however, is that the parental tool box has other options to what Renae suggested, that's all. You will need to find what methods and routine elements work for you and your kids. And stories or songs are not "non-essential", they are a vital part of the bedtime routine, IMO, by the way.

You have been presented with two opposing views of bedtime/sleep methods and I'm sure the answer for you lies somewhere in between! Know what you are comfortable with and know what it is your kids will respond positively to and you should be able to craft a workable routine that lowers everyone's stress and makes bedtime more enjoyable. Hope this helps and best of luck to you!

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