There are about one hundred ways to get your toddler ready for bed. And I bet you know them all: from baths to massage to lullabies and stories, everyone has the routine which works for their little one.
But when you breastfeed (which means that you probably nurse to sleep, and also possibly bedshare), your ritual can look quite different. So I thought I’d give some perspective to the parenting posts of the world, and show you what bedtime looks like at our house. Read on for a bedtime routine for a bedsharing toddler.
Just a reminder: if you don’t parent like I do, that’s ok. This is a glimpse into our lives as attachment parents who have chosen to have our breastfeeding daughter in our bed. I’m no better than you are, and I support all parents who are doing what’s best for their babies. But as always, please leave a comment or contact me if you have questions or think that I could help you further! I’m here for you, my friend.
And a little background info as we go forward: we live in a tiny home which doesn’t really lend itself well to having our littles in different bedrooms. Our 3.5 year old son has his own bed in our room, and our 1.5 year old daughter, who breastfeeds on demand, sleeps in our bed. Bedsharing with each of our kids has greatly helped everyone in our family to get more rest, extend our breastfeeding relationship, and given us peace of mind. This is what works for us!
First of all, I’ll tell you that time is relative to your household. Some families have their kids asleep at 7:30; we tend to be a bit on the later side, but we have good reason. My son has never slept more than 10 hours, so an earlier bedtime would mean an earlier wake time in the morning. So we start our ritual around 8:25pm, ensuring that he will sleep until 7am or so. So don’t worry about the times themselves; instead, look at what we do and in what order. I’ll explain what we do and then write up a mock schedule at the end of this post.
Typically, we wind down after dinner and watch a movie or play a board game. I have an alarm on my phone for when it’s time to change Tiny the toddler into her overnight cloth diaper; on a sidenote, we don’t really bother changing into pajamas unless it’s going to be really cold overnight. Just more clothes and more laundry! But I digress.
Once Tiny is changed, I also go get ready for bed. It’s just easier for me to be comfy and do my own nighttime skin care routine before I hunker down for the bedtime nursing session.
Lastly, we prepare our kids for bed by turning down all of the lights and speaking more quietly. It helps their bodies feel that “sleep is imminent!”, and assists in cranking up that melatonin production which will help them rest.
A second alarm goes off about 25 minutes later, which is my son’s cue that it’s time for bed. Since we weaned him (while I was pregnant), Daddy does his bedtime. I won’t go into that, at least not in this post, since my son is no longer breastfeeding. But we can watch the kids sleep since we have a video monitor, and probably will until they go to college!
While Daddy and son are doing bedtime in our master bathroom and bedroom, Tiny and I snuggle up on the couch. I use my Boppy – my favorite nursing pillow – and recline back a bit.
This is what I was talking about: a lot of the normal things like a bath and just patting Baby to sleep don’t really work in our house. My daughter knows when it’s time to sleep, sure; but she just needs the boob and she’s out in less than five minutes.
While she’s sleeping (and I wait for my husband to be done with our other kid), I usually do my nighttime meditation with the Calm app and my wireless headphones.
Once my son is asleep, my husband comes back out and we go lay Tiny down in our bed. Technically she’ll be laying in our bed alone for a while, so we lay pillows on either side (you can also use a pool noodle under the mattress pad like a barrier) and continue to watch her on the monitor.
If Tiny wakes between 9pm and when we go to bed, I just go in and quietly nurse her back to sleep. It’s not quite dream feeding, but I’m able to keep her from waking up completely, so it’s pretty quick to get her back asleep. Most nights I only have to do this once in that two hour window, if at all; however, when she’s sick or at the peak of teething, it’s more frequent. (And honestly, if she’s waking frequently, I just keep her with me until my husband and I go to bed.)
Again, if she wakes once we are all asleep, bedsharing really becomes a blessing. Neither she nor I really wake up fully; we just reposition ourselves so that she can nurse, and that’s it!
- 7:55pm Tiny gets changed into nighttime diaper
- 8:00pm Mama gets ready for bed
- Lights dimmed, quiet voices
- 8:25pm Kiddo and Daddy to back to our room for bedtime
- Mama nurses Tiny to sleep on the couch
- 9:00pm Daddy emerges; Tiny laid down in our bed
- 11:00pm Daddy and Mama go to bed!
- 3:00am Tiny usually dream feeds
- 7:00am Kiddo and Tiny wake up
So this is our reality! I know that it probably looks way different than that of a formula-fed baby, or a toddler who’s not breastfeeding anymore. But I think it’s important for me to show you what we do at our house. And I’ll clarify: there’s no crying, no child having to wait for attention, and us grownups still do get our alone time! Usually by 9:30pm, my husband and I get to be in the living room to eat all the junk food and watch all the bad TV. Then we just watch our kids on the monitor.
If you’re curious about bedsharing and want the truth about what it’s like, I have a whole section of articles you can find here. Click on that link to see my Cosleeping and Bedsharing category here on RSM. Slowly but surely, I’m working to make bedsharing into a topic which all parents can discuss without fear of judgment.
And let me know what tips or funny stories you have from breastfeeding your little one in bed!