Ah bedtime. You may have a love-hate relationship with it. It can be overwhelming if you feel you are the only one who can put your child to bed. Often, the task of the bedtime routine becomes the job of one parent, either by necessity as one parent may not be consistently available due to work, or maybe your kids ask for one parent over the other. There comes a time though when sharing the sleep responsibility is needed and if you feel like you are the only one who can put your kids to bed, you may feel like that can’t happen. Making that transition can be tough when kids are used to bedtime being done by the same parent all the time, and the change may come with some extra upset. Elisa and Pam have helped many families with this transition and we wanted to share some of our best tips for sharing the sleep routine with your partner.
First Step in Sharing the Sleep Routine: Plan Ahead
If you know your child does not adjust to changes easily, it is best to plan ahead and start getting your partner involved now instead of waiting for a time when you really can’t do the sleep routine. Planning ahead requires getting your partner involved in the routine, observing and learning it until everyone is comfortable with the other partner taking over. Since consistency is key in the bedtime routine, having your partner do the same routine is important.
- If your little one adjusts to change quickly, your first steps will be to have your partner observe and then participate in the routine a few times.
- Once everyone is feeling comfortable the next step will be to have your partner do the routine solo but you still put your child into bed.
- Last step is to give them the opportunity to do it completely on their own. (aka: you get a night off!)
Step Two in Sharing the Sleep Routine: Have your partner observe the routine
Get started by having your partner get more involved in naps and/or bedtimes by having them sit in and be a part of the routine. This will give your partner a chance to see the routine, will allow your child to become familiar with someone else doing the routine and will give you the peace of mind that there will be some consistency. Depending on your child’s temperament, having someone extra in the room can be stimulating so limiting your partner’s time may be needed at the start but continue to build on it as your child’s confidence grows.
Step Three in Sharing the Sleep Routine: Partner gradually participates in parts of the routine
This process can be as flexible as you need it to be to help your little one adjust. The key will be to continue moving through each step though until your partner is able to take over the full bedtime routine.
The amount of time or how long it takes to move through the steps is up to you. Ideally, you are making changes every three days but if you need to take an extra day or two, that’s okay. Just be mindful that if you are not seeing any progress it may mean that your little one needs to move through those steps a little faster.
If your little one is more sensitive to change you will want to take smaller steps – start with having your partner sit in the bathroom during bath time and perhaps through to story time to start. Continue with you being the one to put your little one to sleep or into bed and have your partner work up to that part. Work your way through your routine, having your partner take over the steps as slowly or as quickly as you feel your child can handle.
Your progression may look like this:
- Your partner starts by taking over doing bath and pj’s
- Partner observes the bedtime routine
- Partner participates in the routine by helping or doing some parts on their own
- Partner does the full routine with you in the room
- Partner does the full routine with you out of the room
- Partner does the full routine and putting the child to sleep on their own
Important Note: Don’t rescue your partner!
It’s too easy for us to see our partner or child struggling with a change in the routine and be tempted to just go in and rescue them. It is okay to go in and help – just be mindful that you are not wanting to ‘rescue’ them. Rushing in and taking baby from your partner’s arms will teach both of them that if they hold out long enough, eventually help will come. This does not mean that you can never help or if it’s going downhill you can’t jump in. You absolutely can but save it and only use it here or there.
If your partner needs to ‘tap out’, a great way to offer help without it turning into a ‘rescuing’ situation is to have your partner place little one into the crib and walk out of the room as you are walking in. This will ensure that your child is not learning that crying means they will be rescued. They are smart cookies and will quickly remember and use it again and again.
More tips to consider to ease the transition to sharing the bedtime routine:
- If you are nursing your little one, this is a great opportunity for partner to offer a bottle but if you aren’t quite there yet, bringing the feeding earlier into the routine will be the goal. Take those steps to work your way towards being able to feed baby in the living room and partner takes little one from there for the routine and sleep.
- Being on the same page with the routine and the response will be key in helping your little one adjust with as little upset as possible. Be sure your partner knows the response your little will be expecting and encourage them to be really, really consistent.
- Adjusting to someone else putting them to bed can cause some extra upset. It will be really important to give them the space they need to figure it out on their own when they are ready. For some families, the primary person may need to leave the house while the partner attempts nap or bedtime the first couple of times as that can really help. Take advantage of the time off! Go for a walk with the dog or go for coffee with a friend. You can be confident that they are safe with your partner.
Remember that it may take them some time to adjust and there may be some extra tears but if given the chance, they will get through it:) If your little one is struggling though and you’d like a little guidance, Elisa and Pam would love to help, contact us for a free consultation or check out our services page.