When Owen was only a few weeks old and I was desperate for even one solid hour of sleep I remember scouring every piece of new parenting literature I could find for some sure fire way to get him on a sleep schedule. I laugh at that now because I know you can't get a newborn on a schedule. You survive on shots of 5-Hour Energy and chocolate chip granola bars, but I was new to parenting and I was naive and would not learn this until much later.
I did eventually find a routine after roughly 3 months of cohabiting with my munchkin. I learned it was easiest when I started the evening with him in a warm bath, followed by changing into warm and fuzzy footy pajamas (he was a winter baby after all), and a bedtime story, usually a book called Love You Forever. I would then give him his last bottle of the evening and sing him three songs: Hush Little Baby, You are my Sunshine, and Rock-a-bye Baby while I slowly rocked him to sleep. The whole process took nearly two hours, most of which was spent on rocking him to sleep because God forbid if I were to lay him down while still even the teeny tiniest bit awake. If Mama made that mistake she was looking at another 30 or so minutes of rocking, easy.
Anyway, the routine was very time consuming but it worked and at 3 months we were ALL sleeping like a baby through the night, so I tried not to complain too much.
But then...THEN my dumb ass kept searching for parenting tips on the internet and came across this snippet of advice: Whatever bedtime routine you choose for your baby now, be prepared to follow for the next 2 years.
I freaked out. Two years? I was going to lose 2 hours of my life EVERY NIGHT for the the next TWO YEARS?! I wanted to punch myself in the face. This was just one more thing on a very long list of things that I had totally done wrong as a parent. And Owen was only 3 months old. My parenting skills = EPIC FAIL.
Or so I thought then...
Fast forward 15 months. Owen is now 1.5 years old and we still have a very solid bedtime routine to follow. We have bath time only it's not so much about getting clean as it is wearing him out with toy fishes and boats that float around him, lots of stacking cups that he uses to pour water from one to the other, and a crazy bubble machine that sings and lights up.
Bath time is followed by changing into our pajamas and giving Daddy a hug and kiss good night. I love this part because Owen doesn't hug with his arms so much as by laying his head on you and in this case, he's usually burying his face in Jon's thigh (because we're all usually standing at hug time) and then Owen very gingerly reaches out for my hand and we walk to his bedroom.
Sometimes we read a story, but I've quickly learned that life as an 18 month old must be very tiring and there can be mere minutes between sweet, tired little boy and his evil screaming twin so we read a bedtime story when we can but try not to push it.
The nighttime bottle has graduated to a sippy cup of water that he only sips occasionally while sitting in my lap all snuggled in his favorite polka dotted blanket. Owen is too big to cradle anymore. Instead, he sits in my lap with his little legs dangling over the side of the chair, lays his head against my chest and hums along with me as I sing our three favorite bedtime songs. Sometimes we talk afterward -- I tell him how much I love him, and he points to my eyes, nose, and mouth and waits for me to name them all -- but he quickly grows tired and starts pushing against me as if to say, "Yo, Mom, I'm done with this whole bedtime prep thing. Just put me in my crib already!" That's when I finally put him down for the evening. He snuggles deeper into his blanket and rolls over to his side. His eyes aren't even closed by the time I walk out, closing the door behind me, but we don't usually hear from him again until morning.
Our nighttime routine now takes less than 30 minutes and I still want to punch myself in the face....but only for ever thinking that time spent with this precious little boy is time lost. 1.5 years of mothering under my belt and I'm finally realizing just how fast he's growing up.