A few weeks after my eldest was born I started a routine for him for bedtime. This consisted of a bath or wash, a change of sleepsuit and vest if needed, milk and then sleep. The milk was given in a dark and quiet room. In the early days I went to bed too. As he got older I introduced a story in to this routine and that was it for the next four years until my youngest was born.
Adding another child to the routine should be simple? Er no. My youngest would not go to sleep unless the room was dark and quiet, so I could not read a story to my eldest and get the youngest to sleep. I tried various ways of achieving our routine. The best was for my husband to read stories and settle the eldest whilst I nursed the youngest to sleep. That worked fine until my husband started to work away again, which he did after about nine months, and I was settling two children to sleep on my own. I never really achieved this and a some point my eldest stopped wanting a story at bedtime. He wanted to play. As my youngest got older it became clear that she needed less sleep each night than my eldest.
Every now and again I would find a routine that worked and we would follow it for a while, then we go and stay somewhere else for a few nights, come home and the routine was forgotten. More recently we started to watch a DVD before bed. Always a documentary of some sort, as a family. We watched lots of interesting programmes and I learnt loads. We borrowed most of these from the library and friends, once we had exhausted the collection that routine fell apart and so too had any semblance of a routine.
Throughout all of this we have never been rigid about the timings we have had in place. We would start 'bedtime' any time after 7pm and most nights the children were asleep by 9pmish. Recently however with a complete lack of routine bedtime had started to become later and later, my evening had all but disappeared. My me time had gone, I only really had about an hour or less, and it was impossible to do any tidying when my husband was away which is often. The children would play together until late and then be either too tired or too hyped up to settle to sleep.
I needed to come up with a routine that would give both children some time with me, a story and feeling settled and asleep or nearly so by the end of it. My eldest still needs more sleep so I had always felt that it would be better if the children went to sleep at the same time, particularly as my youngest was very noisy in the mornings and would wake the eldest up when he had not had enough sleep. Now that my youngest is a bit older, she understands about needing to be quiet in the morning to allow my eldest to be left to sleep. I had noticed over the last few weeks that although bedtimes were in chaos the mornings were calmer. My youngest woke first, and quietly we would go downstairs and have some time together before the eldest woke up. I also felt that the the bedtime was in chaos as we had all lost our time to connect with each other before settling the day to bed.
So I am now trying a new routine. Bath/wash if necessary/wanted, change into pajamas, story for youngest, nurse to sleep, once asleep, join eldest who has been quietly playing in his room during story and nursing and story for eldest. So far it is working. At the moment I am on my own, this may go awry when husband comes home. That is tommorrow now, so we shall see!