Bedtime Routines for Toddlers

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Parents disagree about bedtime ritual for 2yr old

Feb 2005

My husband and I seem to be at an impasse regarding an appropiate bedtime for our toddler. Early on in our son's life my husband expressed an interest in bathing him and reading him a story before bedtime. I have been supportive of him completely as I am a stay at home mom and felt this was good for father and son I feel a reasonable time to start the bath is 7pm or shortly after so that our son is ready to transition to bed by 8pm. My husband has really never got it together and seems to always be finished by 8:30pm or 9pm. He does not seem to understand that bedtime rituals is a time to wind down not gear up. (my husband is a night owl, our son is not). I am concerned about the wellbeing of our household. I would appreciate any suggestion, especially from fathers on how to be firm in making this happen closer to the time I see as appropiate for a 2 year old. anon

Tell your husband that a child this age needs about 12-14 hours of sleep a night. If going to bed that late deprives your child of a full night of sleep, then your child is at risk for growth, development and behavioral problems. Dr. M

I am father, who also does the nighttime ritual with my two young sons. My wife works most nights, and it's been mostly my responsibility since the boys were babies. But like at your house, my wife and I have been at constant odds about the timing of bedtime. I know now our disagreement arises from a number of different issues. First, my wife can't control the ritual when she's not there, so too easily makes the assumption that it's not done right. I sense you're suffering the same frustration, as you said that you and your husband are at an impasse. I suspect the only one in the relationship feeling that there is an impasse is you: as the bedtime ritual is the one thing you can't exclusively control, you may too easily make the assumption that it's not done right. Perhaps you also blame your husband for a late-night bedtime whenever your child is a little cranky on any day. Second, men and women think differently about time. A woman may say ''8:30 bedtime'' but more probably means a process of reducing activity that centers around an average of in-bed but not yet asleep at 8:30. A man may more typically think 8:30 applies to only a component of bed-time, like falling asleep on the dot at 8:30. It's a difficult thing to achieve. Third, there's no good time to start the process of going to bed. Depending on the activities of the day, my children ! will go to bed readily or not readily at all. One has to read their energy levels, and start the process accordingly. Often I do try to get them going, playing and wrestling with them, to get the energy out they haven't yet had a chance to release during the day. What I've done to help reduce the blame of late-night bedtimes, is to mark on a chart on the wall in the children's bedroom, timing and content of each nighttime: time-in-bed,time asleep,activities,reading,bath/no bath,problems like sickness. Of course, it's no picnic to have to try and prove parenting competencies etc to one's own spouse. But what I've found is that my in-bed average does center on the same ''bedtime'' insisted by my wife, though the actual time varies considerably, and time-asleep can be widely variable. It's been useful too for monitoring nighttime activities (always some reading, less TV than I had thought, ! different games and activities). A stay at home when not at work Dad

You might think about how it matters that baby gets to bed late. I have to start the bedtime routine by 7 or my daughter gets to bed at 830 or 900, which is too late for me, particularly since we have to get up early in the morning. On the other hand, if I were a SAHM, and my husband actually had the initiative to do it, I'd probably welcome it either way. If it works for you except for the time, maybe you can encourage your husband to start earlier in other ways, such as asking for a little time so the two of you can visit, watch a show, play a game, cuddle, etc., and ask him if he minds if you remind him to start earlier. For me, I just have to do it myself, and start when it works for me, although I'm working on having him help more. (Although he cleans up the kitchen, my husband gets to relax for! up to an hr while I do the bedtime routine, then I have to do other cleanup and prep, which tends to annoy me, but he sees it as his free time... so I would welcome the help!). jan

If the later bedtime is negatively affecting your son's behavior or health, then I am sure that pointing this out to Daddy would be enough to get him to at least make an effort toward starting the bedtime ritual earlier. But if the only reason you want your son to be asleep earlier is your own concept of what is ''appropriate'' for his age, I think the best solution to the problem is for you to adjust your expectations, rather than for Daddy to change his habits. If Daddy is in charge of bedtime, then Daddy is in charge of bedtime, and that includes the time. In my own household, by the way, both parents work and on a somewhat later schedule than most people, so a traditional early bedtime has never been practical. My son's bedtime has never been earlier than 9pm, and by ''bedtime'' I mean that's when he's in pajamas and in bed being read to -- he doesn't actually fall asleep until somewhere between 9:30 and 10:00 most of the time. He gets enough sleep and wakes happy, so I think that's perfectly appropriate. In fact, when he was 2, he tended to go to bed later rather than earlier, because there was no particular reason he had to get up at any set time in the morning until he started preschool.

Obviously your own household is different and it may be more convenient for you to have your son in bed earlier -- but if it's more convenient for his father to put him in bed later, and it's not causing your son to sleep poorly or behave badly, I think you should leave well enough alone. Night Owl Mom

Our son is two also and we do the same thing you do- bathe him and read a story. We also want him to bed at 8 but it always seems to be later. I used to think the later the better- more time for 2 working parents to spend with him, but I've realized that's selfish, and he needs his sleep more. What helped to actually get him down right at 8 or even 7:45 was to have dinner early, like around 6. (and as all working families know, that's no easy task when you get home at 4:30 or 5) So if we have dinner at 6, then by 6:30 one of us can give him a bath while the other clean! s up. He's in his p.j.'s by 7 and you've got an entire hour to read books, have a bottle, nurse, or whatever. He's very relaxed when he's in his jammies and spending time with us. He's not worried about going to bed or anything. It seems like the key was the early dinner (or if you already eat at that time, put him right in the bath after dinner) so everything else can take a little more time. lee

2.5 year old's ever lengthening bedtime ritual

Sept 2003

We have always been oriented toward the attachment parenting side of nightime parenting but the ever-lengthening bedtime ritual with our 2 1/2 year old son is now eating up every second of my personal time I have after working all day. Since he's been in his big boy bed, (about 4 months now) he won't go to sleep unless I actually lie down with him. (This is after reading or telling him stories for a good hour!) I love the snuggling and closeness but half the time I fall asleep with him and wake up at 10:30 pm. I've tried leaving him to let him fall asleep alone but he just keeps yelling and crying for me and it doesn't feel right to have him fall asleep in anger and misery. He won't let my husband put him to bed at night if I'm around as he's into a very serious ''Mommy-only'' phase right now so it's not even like we can take turns. He wakes up once at night usually and will come into bed with us to finish sleeping or will go back to sleep if we hang out with him by his bed. I can handle this but I'm really starting to get a little nuts from feeling like the only way to get him to fall asleep is to end my evening at 8:30 and just lie down and fall asleep with him. I'm sure I'not the only one out there. Has anybody successfully helped make this transition? Exhausted Mommy

I hear you on the long bedtime rituals. Ours were also very long in the beginning of the Big Boy bed. At about 2 1/2 though, my son also gave up naps for good, and so his bedtime is now earlier (like between 7 and 7:30 if no nap) and he also falls asleep more quickly it seems. I still read him stories, but tell him to pick only 2 (short) books (from the ones we keep in his room for just this occasion. You can edit!!!) Sometimes I tell him that I need to do something else (use the potty, clean up upstairs etc) and that I will come right back, and by the time I come back he is asleep. Sometimes I lie in the bed or sit on a stool by the bed until he falls asleep, mainly now because we have another new baby and this is some of the only really ''alone'' time we have with each other. I think with time as they get used to sleeping alone that they require less routine. BUT you really need to set the limits of time (maybe start earlier) and also of #'s of books/stories etc. in the routine instead of just doing whatever they ask, and then they will probably follow. As an interesting note to this, when I go out for the evening to a class and my husband puts my son to bed, he gives him a drink, tucks him in, kisses him goodnight and my son goes to sleep without a big fight at all. This abbreviated bedtime comes as a result of us now having two kids when only one parent is available at bedtime and so not being able to devote so much time to just one at a time.

Interestingly enough, my son was also at a ''Mommy Only!!'' phase at this age and has pretty much gotten over it by now (3 years and 3 months) though he still prefers me when he has a choice. He would not let my husband go to him in the night, get him dressed, or even serve him breakfast if I were around six months ago. I gather from friends and other posts in this newsletter this is very common at your son's age, and be comforted he will outgrow it, especially as you can reason and discuss more with him with his expanding verbal and reasoning capabilities. cab

I am in the exact same place as you... with my 3.5-year-old. So I don't have the sort of advice you're looking for, but if you can't bite the bullet (like me) here are some things we have done to make the process easier:

1) My husband does all the getting ready for bed stuff (teeth, washing up, etc.) and reads the bedtime stories. She accepts this, knowing that I will put her to sleep. This gives me some free time. I tell her that if she doesn't cooperate for her dad, I won't come up at all. It's also good for my daughter and her dad to have that time together. (If this proves impossible, i'd also suggest cutting the storytime back. We've imposed some limits, such as 2-3 very short books, 1 long book, etc.)

2) I put an armchair next to her bed. Often I can just sit in the chair while she goes to sleep (again, one can threaten that it's either Mom-in-the-chair or No-mom-at-all). Or sometimes I sit on the bed with her head on a pillow in my lap. Sitting up keeps me more awake.

3) Shortly after the lights go out I enforce quiet rules. If she can't be quiet, I leave the room for a minute.

4) I try (and this isn't easy) to focus on positive things while i sit or lie there with her -- like nice things we did that day. I try to avoid thinking about the long list of other things i need to be doing. Also, sometimes when I sit or lie there in the dark, I try to use the time constructively -- practice a yoga stretch, if she won't notice, do some of the deep breathing and relaxation exercises that i'm supposed to do (of course, that can lead to sleep...)

5) Sometimes, especially when she's having a late bedtime and maybe I'm extra tired, I just accept the fact that I am going to fall asleep. I get ready for bed and climb in with her. If I wake up extra early as a result then I can have some free time in the morning.

6) For a period, when she was really obsessed with being a big girl, I told her that big girls go to sleep on there own. This actually worked a couple nights! But now she's in a regressive, baby stage, and that argument won't get us anywhere. But if yours goes through an eager-to-be-older stage, try it. Good luck

It's sounds like you are really trying hard. You must be so tired. My husband and I did not go the attachment parenting route. We developed a routine with our son early on that involved reading 3 books, then cuddle time while listening to a toy that plays music and shows ceiling lights (the up side is that when the music ends, we have a clearly designated time to get up, and leave the room), and good night kisses. Although our son had been used to this routine since he was about 5 months, at 2 and a half, he suddenly seemed to have difficulty with us leaving the room. It was startling for us, because it hadn't been an issue until then. For several months, we began staying with him until he fell asleep. But, this didn't work for us for two reason. First, he seemed to stay awake longer trying to be sure that we did not leave him. And, second, since we both work and rise very early, if our son is not asleep on his own by 8:45 (we start bedtime around 8 or 8:15) we have no time at all with each other and no time either to prepare for the next day or just wind down as adults. Even though I love my son and cherish our time together, I began to feel resentful and a bit desperate that there was no time during the day for me or for me to have time with my husband. It didn't seem like the best way to have time with my son, and it also didn't seem like it was making him feel more secure. So, we went back to using the music as our cut off time. Also, we do the bedtime routine together. My husband does the toothbrush routine. I usually read the stories - but sometimes my husband reads one or two and I read the last one - and sometimes we just all three lie together in our son's bed while we read. Then, I cuddle for one song. When it ends, my husband comes in and cuddles for one song. (This way we each get a little trade off time too - a few moments to ourselves which feels nice as well.) When the song ends for the second time, my husband goes out. Our son took a while to get used to us going out again, and that was hard. But, it felt important to me that my husband and I also get a little time together as adults. If our son became very upset after my husband left, I would go back in, kiss and sit with him a moment, explain that we would leave the door open, we would be in the living room, if he needed anything we would be right there - but, that mommy and daddy need a little special adult time together, and it was time for him to go to sleep. If necessary, I would repeat this a couple of times - the explanation, kiss and exit - each time explaining that mommy and daddy needed a little time as adult time. Eventually, he seemed to accept this and stopped calling out. You really do deserve some time at the end of the day to yourself. It's important. I find that it makes me much happier and much better able to be the kind of patient and loving parent and person that I strive to be the rest of the day. Good luck. debora

My daughter needed for us to cuddle her or lay down with her in order for her to fall asleep or fall back asleep until age 2. At age 2, we moved her to a bed and gradually eased her into falling asleep on her own. At about 2 and 3 months, she was able to fall asleep on her own and sleep through the night (hooray!!!) Here's what we did:

1. Made several tapes of me reading stories. Play tape while falling asleep (I think in addition to getting to hear me, she had to lay still to hear the tape which helped her fall asleep.)

2. Transition from cuddling/laying next to to sitting in a chair beside the bed and holding her hand or rubbing her back. This involved some crying/begging at first, but I stuck to ''Mommy can't lay next to you, but I would love to hold your hand/rub your back.'' After about a week, no more crying.

3. Then sit next to the bed without touch (again, initial crying, but passed within a week) 4. Then, gradually move chair out the door (several week process)

5. Then, I would sit outside the door for a few minutes and then say ''Mommy needs to . . .(some chore) I'll come back in a few minutes.

6. That was it. We still play the tape for night and nap, but other than that, our daughter falls asleep on her own and it wasn't too painful. Again, it was about a 2 month process, but it seemed like a loving transition. Hope that helps. h

We have a CD of lullabies that we have played while my son nursed to sleep since he was born. It is now the last step of his bedtime routine; I push ''play'' as soon as we finish reading the last of three (and only three!) books/stories. When, shortly after he moved to a 'big boy bed', he developed a habit of a lot of wriggling around, refusing to nurse, refusing to settle, etc. we made a rule that Mommy only stays with him while the music is playing, and leaves when it stops whether he's asleep or not. If he is still awake and messing around by the time the second- or third-to-last song begins, I start warning him that Mommy is going to leave soon, when the music ends, and usually that's enough to get him to settle down. When it's not, I get up and leave anyway; sometimes Daddy goes in to soothe him and take a turn lying down with him, and sometimes my son asks to go to sleep in Mommy and Daddy's bed (even without us there) instead of his own, but he got used to the new rule pretty quickly and most of the time he's asleep well before we're anywhere near the end of the lullabies.

The other thing that has really helped is to adjust his naptime a bit earlier, and we've made an effort to have dinner a little earlier as well. That way, he's more ready to sleep at bedtime!

I do still fall asleep in his bed sometimes, usually when I'm low on sleep myself. But usually I keep myself awake by reading; a small directional lamp on his headboard helped a lot. And if my husband notices that the music has stopped and I haven't appeared, he'll come and nudge me. :-) I figure if I'm that tired, I should spend my ''personal time'' sleeping anyway. So it works out. Holly

Hi, Here is what you can do, it worked for us. At 2 1/2, they understand what is going on. You can say that, in order for you to be a good mother, you need him to sleep on his own so you can get some time to yourself. Then put him to bed. Put a gate at his door if you think he is going to get out of his bed and say: ''You can cry if you want to but I am not coming back. You need to go to sleep now. I love you.'' Then when he cries, send your partner. When he sleeps, take the gate off. It took about a week for our first two kids. It's hard though but I needed some time too and I was a better mom the next day... good luck

2.5-yr-old's bedtime routine too ornate?

June 2003

I'm tired of arguing with my husband about our 2 1/2 year old daughter's bedtime ritual. He thinks it's too ornate. It takes about half an hour to 40 minutes (including pajama-ing and teeth- brushing). I read her a book or 2, we read a couple of pages of Goodnight Moon (she flips thru the book really fast), I turn off all of the lights and nurse her while playing 2 mellow songs and then I sit w/ her for a few minutes in a chair in her room. Does that seem excessive to you? What is your bedtime routine and how old is your kid? I'm curious to know, too, how it has changed as your child gets older. Thanks! Molly

Your bedtime ritual sounds pretty normal to me. You have to get them in their jammies and brush their teeth. My only suggestion to you would be that whatever you do, you'll end up having to do the same thing every night because kids don't like change. Eventually you may want to eliminate the bedtime nurse and sitting til she falls asleep. It is really a matter of when you get tired of it. I eliminated the bed time nurse by having my husband take over the actual putting to bed, including the reading of the books. He reads two books and no more - (because otherwise there is negotiations to read more, also the books get longer as they get older). My son has a ritual of how he says goodnight to me too, same words everynight. It will get a bit shorter as they get older, but 1/2 hr to 40 min. sounds standard to me. Susan

We also have a 2 1/2 year old and her bedtime routine probably takes about 10 - 15 minutes. We change her p.j.s, brush her teeth and have her use the potty, then read 2 books to her and sing her a short song. It sounds similar to your routine, except without the breastfeeding...does that take a lot of time for you? We also have a 7 1/2 year old and her routine takes about the same amount of time...she puts her p.j.s on, brushes her teeth, we read a little from a chapter book and it's lights out. On days that she does not have to wake up early for school, she is allowed to stay up a little later and read a book by herself. I have to say that I have tried to streamline the bedtime routines because, by that point, I just want them in bed and I I need a break! I'm not sure that I would have the patience to go through a 40 minute routine! However, if we change the routine or try to cut out a book or song, the 2 1/2 year old has a hard time settling down and it ends up taking longer to get her to sleep. Good luck

Your bedtime ritual is ornate because you have the freedom to make it so. Lucky for you, and for your daughter! With my first child, I read her three books every night, rocked her, sang to her, and both she and I loved it. With my third baby, I simply throw him in his crib and say goodnight. I would not say that one way or the other is better--just different. I simply do not have the time anymore, and there is always something that needs to be done (dishes, things picked up, mail to sort, laundry to fold...). These early years pass so quickly that I say do whatever feels good for you and your daughter. It is a wonderful bonding time, and one that will be gone all too soon. As long as she is not ''making'' you stay in her room, and as long as you do not feel resentful or forced into the time you spend each night, what is the harm? Enjoy it while it lasts. Mary

Sounds about right to me. We have a 4.5 yo and a 2.5 yo and we read about 3 books, turn off the light, lay down with our kids, and we are usually able to leave about 10 minutes after that. So about 45 minutes seems right. Laurel

Your bedtime routine seems entirely typical to me. Pajamas, brushing teeth, reading, lights out and nursing is exactly what we do with our 2-year-old as well, and it takes about the same amount of time. When he's with a babysitter, of course, he doesn't nurse, and she's generally able to tuck him in and leave. When we're home, we have to stay with him until he falls asleep (otherwise, he gets back up and comes looking for us, and it's easier for us to lie down with him than it is to keep putting him back to bed) so it takes a bit longer. I do have a rule that Mommy leaves the room when the music stops -- we have a lullaby CD that we always play when we're finished reading -- and if he's not asleep yet at that point usually Daddy relieves me.

A recent informal poll of another online mom's group I'm involved in revealed that most people take about a half hour for the kids' bedtime routine, often longer if they include a bath as part of it.

In short, what you're doing is reasonable and normal, and it's your husband who's out of line with his complaints. Holly

I just wanted to mention that we just recently modified our 2 year old daughters bedtime routine without much of a problem whatsoever. We were scared to tamper with what seemed like such a critical pattern, but in the end, it was actually no big deal to her. She sort of asked about a few of the things that disappeared for a few nights, but that was it ... and then, she began to request/make new changes herself. Now I think she actually likes it that things (within reason!)don't have to be exactly the same every night. camille

My husband has the same complaint with my bedtime routine for our 2 children, 2yo and 3.5yo. While still nursing our youngest, bedtime could take up to an hour, as both our children did not want me to leave the room.

I got into the habit of laying down with them for 10+ min. each, and then often fell asleep with them. This did not go over well with my husband, who wanted to spend time together or get stuff done with me. He would sometimes come in and read to the kids too, and would often crash on their bed. This was not the kind of routine that we wanted to continue, as it didn't lend to getting things done at night, nor much intimacy. We also noticed that the kids seemed too dependent on us to go to sleep. So we finally agreed to change things.

First we determined that each of us had separate ideas of what bedtime should be -- I wanted to stick to a routine of bath, teeth brushing, pj's, books, and prayers. He wanted to stick to a bed TIME. What was happening was even if I got a late start with the routine, I would keep the routine which spread bedtime past the time my husband wanted them in bed. So, we compromised by agreeing to start the ritual earlier, and if it got too late, we'd default to the kids' bedtime and skip some of the other stuff. Both kids try to stay up, so keeping to a time instead is better, because they always seem to stay up past bedtime anyways. Good luck! am

Hi! My first reaction was, does your routine work well for your child. The second was, your routine sounds just about as normal as can be to me. Adults have the capacity to read in bed or listen to music, or something that turns them over from hectic day/lots in your head to white noise. Children don't. Starting with pajamas and toothbrushing, etc is the way to calm them down and know that bed is coming. 30 minutes is about how long it takes us with our 1 1/2 yr old to go from 'ok, lets go upstairs and get ready for bed (750) to lights out and in the crib(820 or so). Sometimes more, if i think he's too alert to just slip into sleep, sometimes less (oops, i think he's about to fall asleep on the changing table ) One of our male friends who takes care of his child fulltime noted that men have a harder time calming their children down, they like to be 'up' with them, be animated, wrestle, etc. Maybe your husband just isn't that keen on the quiet time, and maybe it can be your special time with your child.

All in all, with all the advice you might receive, if it works for you and your child, and it isn't harmful, then its right! FL

I don't know if there is a right answer -- *anything* with a 2 1/2 year old involves mediating between your needs and theirs. But your ritual is not excessive at all. Forty minutes sounds about right. In our house, especially when our boy was that age (he is 5 now), we let him ''drive'' to some extent. It rarely stretched out too long, and when it did, there was often a reason for it -- something on his mind that he needed extra assurance about, and he needed some ''space'' to work it out. I think small children can feel especially vulnerable during that pre-sleep time. It is part of our job as parents to help them to feel safe and loved. They also process things differently than we do, especially those small separations (bedtime, etc). They need our support.

I have to ask -- where is your husband during this time? What's his hurry? If I were him I would cherish every minute and leap at the opportunity to make his little girl feel cared for. He can't nurse, but he can participate in all the other activities. With all due respect, your problem is not with your girl's bedtime ritual, but with your husband's attitude. -- Dan

My son is six, and it takes 30-45 minutes easily w/ dressing, washing, brushing, and reading, and story telling. Then I scratch his back for a few seconds, and he is out. I can't really see any real way to cut that back, nor would I want to. I find it to often be the best part of my day, and we both enjoy the ''ritual'' aspects of it, I think. Kean

Bedtime is a special bonding time that I think my son will be willing to give up before I am. He's almost 11, and he still gets read to for 1/2 hour every night just before bed. I usually lie down next to him for a minute, but it's only for a good night hug and kiss. Used to be, he wanted me to stay a while. It's really the only time of day he tells me things, so I was often willing to comply. So my answer is that I don't think spending 30 to 45 minutes with her is too much! Perhaps you just need to make sure you're not too tired after it to have ''alone time'' with your husband. Or make bedtime a bit earlier so you have more time with him. Or even get him involved in bedtime. My son's dad and I used to alternate reading to him. So every other night I got to take long walks! anon

Thirty to 45 minutes seems to be the average in our house too, and personally I don't think that's an excessive amount of time. We have a 3 1/2 yr. old and have been doing the same routine since she was about 2. It usually goes like this bath, teeth, pajamas, read 2 books and sing 2 songs (Two seems to be the magic number for her). I let her pick the books. If she picks a longer one (like Dr. Suess) I tell her we can only read one. This all takes about 40 minutes. I guess some parents might see this as excessive, but since I work all day, I actually look forward to this time I get to spend alone with my daughter.

Your husband might think your routine is too ornate, but if you enjoy doing it and it works for your child, does it really matter? I have never heard of a toddler who could just be put to bed without some kind of routine. They need the wind-down time. If your husband is annoyed at how long it takes, maybe you can trade off with him - one parent does the bath routine and the other does the reading, etc. anon

Your routine sounds pretty streamlined to me. My 4 year old's routine is more extensive bath, brush teeth, jammies, watch a ''couple three minutes'' of TV if he is good about teethbrushing, read three books (one long, two short), pray, sing (four short songs), daddy comes in to tell a story (an ongoing saga he's worked up), mommy returns for hugs and kisses. It takes a while, but once we're done, we're done. My husband feels our routine is too elaborate too (it probably is - a word of caution - never ADD anything to your routine bcs you can't take it away again) - so dad's role in it has become rather minimal (he cleans the kitchen while I start the drill, then he gets to lie in bed reading Sports Illustrated until called on stage to deliver the story). I say if she goes to sleep without a struggle then whatever you are doing, by all means, don't mess with it. Fran

Too ornate? I am puzzled why your husband would care. But, anyway, reassure your husband that this is *exactly* the right thing to do. First of all, children have difficulty with change, particularly abrupt change (e.g. changing from being up and about to being in bed). By making ''going-to-bed'' a process, your child has a nice transition period for going to bed that makes it less upsetting. It seems odd to us as adults, but this is often why children become fussy about going to bed, even when they're tired. Ditto taking baths (it can be a struggle to get them in and then a struggle to get them out! ) Making going to bed a lovely experience has the added benefit that, when your child is a little older and you want him to go to bed (so that you and your spouse can have some alone time), you will be a lot less likely to have to struggle with your child about it, because going to bed has become something that he associates with being loved (that's why it's a good idea NEVER to use sending them to bed as a punishment). What you're doing isn't ornate and is a perfect way to help your child adjust to having to go to bed. Good for you! anon

That's a pretty sound critique coming from someone who doesn't participate in the bedtime ritual. It sounds like your husband needs to take some responsibility for putting your child to bed. I would suggest that he do the jammies and the teeth and the reading and then you nurse and sit, that way you break down the actual time and he might get a better idea of what your daughters needs may be. For my own daughter it has mostly been a drink and a nurse and she falls off fairly quickly (5-15 minutes). We read a book or three before hand and have been getting the routine shortened as her days get longer and she gets more active. She's three now and i believe she's doing fine with the bedtime routine, although i have similar arguements with my own husband and and still feel that if he wants to critique he needs to actively participate in the ritual. My Two Cents

yikes! my 2 and 1/2 year old and i have pretty much the exact same bedtime ritual as you do (minus the mellow music), but it takes us at least an hour. what is your secret to doing it so quickly? i don't understand how your husband could think this was too ornate. what should you cut out? the reading? confused

Your bedtime routine sounds a lot like ours, and I think we're pretty efficient. My daughter is almost 2 1/2 years old and I'll spend anywhere from 30-60 minutes on bedtime. Has your husband ever put your daughter down? If not, maybe he doesn't realize how suitable the routine is for your daughter. Have you asked him how long he thinks it should take and what he would get done in the allotted amount of time? (i.e. brushing teeth takes 10 minutes, reading books is 10-15 minutes, changing clothes can take 5-10 minutes depending on whether I do it or my daughter does it ''all by herself.'') I love the time I get to spend with my daughter at bedtime, winding down and lying with her to the exclusion of almost everything else (tv, phone, reading, cleaning, etc.) The down side is it leaves little time for hanging out with my husband or our hang-out time goes into the wee hours. Maybe your husband misses you? Mom with two kids

For that age, that sounds like pretty good timing! If anyone can do it faster, I'd love to hear how they do it. But then again, a half hour is what some adults take, and that ain't a lot of time out of the evening to spend some (hopefully) nice time with your child! Considering half of our nightly struggle with our 3 year old is the teeth/pajamas routine, we all need nice quiet time with a book/chat/music for at least 15-20 minutes. I would like to wonder politely what your husband's expectations are, and why isn't he doing any of the routine? The quiet bonding time goes a long way in creating happy times for you and your child. Ellen

Molly, I think your bedtime routine is great. We decided to move nursing a little earlier hopefully in preparation for weaning someday, but it is otherwise similar for our 27 month old. We do bath, jammies, nurse, toothbrushing, 1 story cuddling in bed with the lights on, lights out, still cuddling in bed together talk about ''Zeke's big day'' very soothingly naming the things he did that day, then sing 3 songs (the same ones every night), kiss him good night, sing half of his prayers sitting on the bed, the other half standing by the bed, then good night and door closed. I'd say that not including bath it takes 30 minutes or so. I do have occasional concerns that it won't be reproducible for a babysitter, but it works for us. Katya

I wanted to say that I wish our daughter's bedtime routine were only 30 minutes long! She is just about 5, so it may not be relevant, but this is her routine: potty, bath, brush teeth, pajamas, stories, songs, and music box (I leave after winding up the music box). Whew! Potty takes forever as she likes to ''read'' on the potty. When she was potty training, we encouraged her to have a book. She so loved it, she has always continued that. It's a drag in terms of the length of the nighttime routine, but we don't want to discourage her love of books. As for how many books we read after washing up, it depends on how late it is. We've done as many as 5 and as few as 1, though often she is negotiating for one more book. Frankly, I'm just happy that she goes to sleep easily on her own and sleeps through the night, but I do really wish we could somehow get the routine cut back. At the same time, it is special time for us. Lori

I found your question interesting on a lot of levels. It wasn't clear what your husband issue with your daughter's bedtime routine truly is.

1. Routine taking too long? 30-40 minutes including brushing teeth is absolutely not too much time. I do at least that with my daughters (6 & 8) after the brushing teeth. We need the snuggle and the closeness. Each of us reads (me for the longest time), sometimes sing together, give each other foot massages, etc.

2. Too many different activities? It's what you have evolved to, and it works for you. It doesn't seem too complicated. Why would he care?

I wonder if there is something else going on.
* Is he concerned about your breastfeeding? Maybe he thinks it's time to stop but doesn't want to say it outright.
* Does he ever get to put his daughter to bed? She can handle somewhat different bedtime routines with different parents (my ex's routine is different from mine); maybe he is feeling left out. anonymous

My child is much younger than yours (21 months), but her bedtime routine (bath, PJs, milk and books, teeth) sounds similar to your child's and I think it is appropriate. Sometimes it does drag on, but it seems to work well for us. Liz O.

A few more words about the ''ornate'' bedtime (1) Yes, it is nice to have some relaxed, leisurely time with one's child at the end of the day. (2) Remind your husband that inevitably his sweet little girl will become a surly, independence-seeking adolescent and that at some point during those years she is almost sure to look at him and say, ''Don't come in and kiss me goodnight any more. I'm too old for that now.'' Which is not fun at all. Melanie

I'm glad someone finally stated the obvious --- it sounds like your husband misses you and is envious of the time you and your child spend together at bedtime. Perhaps there is a way for this to be positive for all three of you.... remind him that he gets a little solitude and peace while you are tucking her in --- and be sure that he gets some time with you as well.

Perhaps while you are busy he can make a pot of tea, and the two of you can sit down together and talk or read when you're done. Its tricky -- I know I used to crave being ALONE after the kids were down...but you need to take him into account, and let him know he matters. If evenings have to be your alone time, set time aside in the morning, or SOME time. Your healthy marriage is a gift you give your children. Heather

Thanks to everyone who posted in response to this, my question. I want to clarify, as my husband feels a little maligned. My husband *does* help with the bedtime routine. He diapers and pajamas our daughter, he tends to our newborn while I read to and nurse our gal to bed and he goes in and comforts her if she fusses after bedtime. Your posts helped a lot. It helped for him and I to sort out what his problems are with the routine, mainly that she wont be nursing forever and that I turn out all of the lights in the house while nursing her. It helped, too, to know that the time we take is normal.Thanks again! Molly