Thursday, September 7, 2017

Room Sharing and the Binky Free Life

At the new house we have four bedrooms upstairs--a guest room, the master bedroom, and two other bedrooms.

The girls did not share a room at the old house because Coco was a baby in her crib and Zuzu slept with us. From the time she could climb out of a crib, she climbed in bed with us and Coco was a newborn and we found that we all got the most sleep when Zuzu snuggled in between David and me, so that was fine. (She said maybe she'd sleep in her big girl room when she was fifteen or sixteen.)

At the new house, we wanted things to work a little differently. I loved the idea of the girls sharing a room and thought we could use the extra room as a playroom or later a little homework study and project room. I liked the idea of sisters whispering to each other before bedtime and feeling safe knowing that the other sister was just an arm's reach away. And David and I were kind of ready to reclaim our room. Even though we both slept okay with Zuzu in bed with us (it's a king size), I knew that I'd sleep even better without the occasional head bonk or elbow flung in my face.

So we started putting the girls to bed together in Zuzu's room, sharing her full-size bed. They loved it!

And they stopped sleeping.

I kept thinking it was just that school was starting and they were excited, but it would take forever to get them to settle down, one would keep the other awake (or WAKE UP the other one after she had dozed off), and they were not getting enough sleep. Zuzu would be so exhausted in the car after school, but then would wind herself up before bed to be wild, no matter how calm or soothing bedtime routine was.

We were starting bedtime around 7pm with a warm bath with a drop of lavender essential oils, low lighting, a diffuser with a sleepy time oil blend, reading stories, and then listening to a story app or nature sounds on my phone with the lights off. And they were STILL keeping themselves awake until 9:30pm.

I'm kind of crazy about bedtime stuff--I'm way more rigid than David is, but I want bedtime to be a well-oiled machine. I want an automatic routine that gives them a Pavlovian response of going to sleep at 8pm.

I mentioned before that I started googling melatonin for kids, and I actually asked our pediatrician about it yesterday at their check up appointment. (Zuzu is in the 50th percentile for height AND weight, Coco is in the 20th for height and 30th for weight. Head size was not measured, but I assume Coco is still leading the pack there.)

Anyway, I may not need to resort to melatonin because bedtime is going much better. I told the girls on Sunday that I'd talked to the doctor and kids need a lot of sleep to be healthy, so she said they need to sleep in separate rooms. (Let the doctor be the bad guy!). We'd already had Coco's toddler bed set up in her room; she just hadn't been using it.

So now bedtime goes pretty much the same way, but after reading stories together in Zuzu's room, Coco gets escorted to her room and tucked into bed. She protests a little bit, "I want to sleep in Zuzu's bed!" but I just say, "I know, but the doctor said you need to sleep in here, and I want you to be rested and healthy."

A little bonus is that she's asking me to rock her again now, so I get to keep that sweet routine going for a bit longer.

Also, I make it a point to try REALLY hard to whisper when I want to yell at them because I've asked them three times to put on pajamas or get in the bathroom to brush their teeth.

I've started using a kids' bedtime guided meditation using the Amazon prime Music app on my phone. A woman's soothing voice guides them under the sea, and I try not to fall asleep myself. Usually by the time I get Coco settled and go back to check on Zuzu, she has dozed off.

Granted, this has only worked for the past three nights, but that is something.

Last night, David was home, so the routine changed slightly (he let Zuzu listen to something else). She still fell asleep, but I was (secretly) annoyed because I want her to have that association that this guided meditation puts her to sleep every time. So we'll go back to that tonight.

The other thing that has complicated bedtime routines is that Coco finally gave up the bink. This is my last photo of my baby with a binky (and that gross Elsa braid, with which she is obsessed):

It happened by accident, not by choice. We were leaving for the weekend to go see my parents and her binky was in my car but we took David's car. She asked for it immediately and I said, "Do you want to go get your binky or do you want to go see Grammy and Bops?"

She said "Grammy and Bops!", so David and I looked at each other and said "Let's just do this."
The car ride was a little rough. Coco didn't sleep at all, even though we were in the car from 5 until 10. She cried for a long time starting around 9pm, asking for the binky and then just asking us to stop the car so she could get out. I finally gave her my phone to let her look at photos (which I rarely do), so that quieted her for the rest of the drive.

Saturday morning was also rough. She went to sleep without a problem, considering it was close to 11 before we made it upstairs to bed, but she woke up about 5:30am and cried and cried for her binky.

One thing you might not realize about Coco is that she has a very high-volume cry. My little niece Curie has such a delicate cry that I'm like, "Is she actually fussing?" With Coco, there's no doubt. She's a screamer. So she screamed for her binky, and I will tell you that had there been an accessible binky, I totally would have given it to her. My mom came upstairs and tried to comfort here and distract here, but she was inconsolable. Poor little bug. But, alas, we truly had no binky to give her, and she finally quit crying and sniffled and then went back to sleep lying on my chest until 9:30am.

We skipped a nap that day because she slept so late (and also, no binky) and she was tired enough that bedtime wasn't a problem, but the next day she asked for the binky at naptime and instead substituted a gross stuffed ice cream cone with a cherry on top as a binky, sucking on the cherry.

At one point on Sunday she asked to go home, and I knew she meant that she wanted to go home and get a binky. I told her we don't have anymore binkies at home, either. They are all gone.

She has mentioned her binky a couple of times since we got back on Monday (and she didn't nap in the car for long), but she has been pretty much okay without it.

I'm not missing it, honestly, because she's three and she always wanted it in the car and then she wanted to talk to me and I couldn't understand her with the binky in her mouth, and I was so irritated when she'd take the bink out of the car and then scream for it the next time we were in the car but I didn't know where it was. Also, I love seeing her sweet sleeping face without the binky blocking it.

(Zuzu was two when our pediatrician recommended we nix the binky and I did what he said, but regretted it because she instantly stopped sleeping, started climbing out of her crib, and that all coincided with me being very pregnant and then having Coco, so that's why Zuzu ended up sleeping in our bed for the next three years.)

We had two binkies at home (one in her bed and one in my car) so when we got back from my parents', I snipped both of the binks and hid them in a dresser drawer just in case we got so desperate that we wanted to give her one even though it was "broken." But we haven't had to, and she hasn't asked. I think we are over the hump (tomorrow will be a week without the bink) and so now we live the binky-free life. Liberating!

That's the update here. Any advice on bedtime routines? Now that they are in separate rooms again, Coco is pretty easy to settle, but Zuzu has a hard time getting herself settled down to go to sleep. She just fights it! Also, my kids frequently ask for a snack RIGHT at bedtime (like after they've brushed their teeth), which makes me CRAZY (David always gives them one because he is a sucker and thinks I'm excessively rigid about bedtime). Am I excessively rigid about bedtime? I'm trying to remember to tell them after dinner that this is their last chance before the kitchen closes and they can have a piece of bread with butter if they're still hungry because there will be no snacks before bed. But it's hard! And I don't want to be mean.

I just want bedtime to feel cozy and warm and fuzzy for them AND for me--I don't want to be stressed that they aren't getting enough sleep or irritated with them that they can't seem to settle down.


  1. Well isn't that anonymous commenter special??


    My SIX year old still sleeps in our room, not our bed thankfully. baby steps, amirite? I remember being her age and terrified at night, while I shared a room with my older sister... Some kids have crazy active imaginations, and it's hard to chill. It's still hard for me to chill, despite a rock solid bedtime and perfectly reasonable husband.

    So I'm doing the same basic things, but bath time happens much earlier - it gets her going, it does not calm her down. We do the usual things, teeth, hair, pajamas, story. Always have to offer a snack earlier, after dinneR, bc if she wakes up on an empty stomach, she starts throwing up. Good times. We don't listen to the same music every night, but we do listen to her choice of a fairly short list of options. One playlist that we created, one of thunderstorms, a handful of "rock a bye baby" pop music (she's liking Adele lately, but Pink Floyd is a favorite too...) and some "sleepy piano" music. I will totally be looking up that guided meditation thing - we listen to all of this stuff on Amazon prime, too.

    So I'm not quite as rigid? Bc I don't mind the change in music? But we do all these sleep associations AND melatonin, and some nights she still needs to be in our bed to sleep bc of whatever, and then we move her to her bed.

    It can't last forever, right?

  2. I am excessively rigid about bedtime, but I make no apologies for it. I think it's necessary. Sleep is so important, and I don't think most kids get enough.

    The snacks thing is infuriating, and I refuse. I remind them over and over about the kitchen closing.

    I DO love the melatonin if the routine still isn't working and for the short term.

    I tell you what was the biggest barrier to sleep for my girls at that age, though. It was that darned nap. I stopped them at 3 for both girls. I know. I know. They were beastly for a while there at about 5 p.m. BUT - it worked, and they'd be fast asleep at 7:30.

    So there's a tradeoff, for sure.

  3. Having no kids, I really don't have any bedtime advice to offer. I will say that my sister & I shared a room up until I was about 12 years old. We had bunk beds that separated into twin beds, depending on how much room we had. When they were stacked, I would hang off the top bunk & we would stay up half the night whispering to each other. So the separate rooms is probably a good idea. ;) (Although even when we did finally get our own rooms, there was a heating vent in the wall between them & we would talk through there. ;) ) If they really miss each other, maybe you could let them have "slumber parties" together on weekends/non-school nights as a treat?

    Good luck to Coco, going binkie-free! I remember being at a scrapbooking crop (party), & one of the women there did a great layout titled "Bye Bye Binkie," about how they said goodbye to their son's soother. They explained to him that he was a big boy now & they were going to say goodbye to the binkie. They made a big ceremony out of it and tied his binkie to a balloon and set it free. She had a series of photos showing them tying the binkie to the balloon & then releasing it. Oh, the expression on this poor brave little boy's face as he watched his precious binkie float away...!!

  4. Our bedtime routine works well for awhile and then falls apart and cycles back, it's pretty much usually a work in progress. We are not morning people and getting to sleep early enough to be well rested for school and work is a challenge for us.
    I like the relaxation idea and I tried tonight without a guide but between big boy's wiggles and fussy baby pounding toys on the door, it was a fail. It's nice to have a routine but maybe David is on to something skipping a night because you don't want something they can't sleep without. Not that I can give advice, I've been up every two hours all night long for a month nursing the teething babe back to sleep because my sleep training tactic is wait it out. Good luck. I hope your girls (and my boys) get into a good routine asap.

  5. I totally pulled the doctor move for potty training "Dr. Jones said you need to use the potty now" and bam, done.

    I am a stickler for because sleep is so important. My husband is less rigid than me, but he is very supportive of the time. One thing that helped us was that we explained to the kids why we are so rigid about bedtime (which sort of backfires sometimes because my daughter gets upset when we have a late night or get up early). We told the kids what happens in their brains while they are sleeping (probably helps that we're neuroscientists). We tell them that when they are sleeping, their brain is working hard to remember all the things they learned that day. We also tell them that when they are sleeping, the brain cleans up the garbage and that helps it work better and stay healthy. (This is referring to recent work showing that when we're sleeping, our neurons actually shrink and other cells act like street sweepers and garbage trucks and flush out junk that accumulates.) We also showed them on an official-looking website (like AAP or National Sleep Foundation) that indicated how many hours of sleep a night kids their age need. Then we talked about what times they had to go to bed and wake up to sleep the appropriate number of hours. They're old enough now to do the math, but we used to count the hours on a play clock when they were your kids' ages.

    Despite all our efforts, most nights bedtime here is like whack-a-mole. Good luck!

  6. My only caution about wanting to develop a strong association between the guided meditation and them falling asleep is that it's very easy to go from "every time I listen to guided meditation I fall asleep" to "only times I listen to guided meditation I fall asleep." Some flexibility in the bedtime routine is a good thing because it gives them the flexibility to fall asleep in different routines and different situations, which will become more and more important as they get older and do more things! (Sleep over with friends, go to summer camp, go to college, etc.)

  7. You aren't mean. David needs to TOUGHEN UP! Ha. I'm probably a total jerk to my kids because if they weren't listening or I had to ask twelve million times to pick up toys or put pajamas on then no stories and I put them to bed, give hugs and kisses and then BOUNCE. I've got Netflix to watch.

  8. This info would have been handy when my now almost 21 year old and 16 year old were babies :) If they asked why they had to go to sleep I probably just yelled "Becasue I said so"! Enjoy the time now because it really does go quick, and the older they get the less they actually do want to hang with you. I think you guys do an amazing job in all areas of parenting! (but then again I am not a nero-scientist so maybe ignore me ;)

  9. I'm with you on the snacks. Stay tough, mama! We have the same problem, and I feel mean denying them food, but I know that if I give in once, the battle will only become worse.

    I also am more strict than Greg about the sleep routine. I'm guessing this trend might have to do with the moms dealing more with the fallout from lack of sleep, am I right?

  10. And even though we already chatted off-blog, I'll add this: it doesn't last forever. You can start to incorporate things as they get older that makes the whole bedtime scene so much easier.

    I look back fondly at the photographs of my children playing in the tub, but truth be told - the nighttime ritual was never my favorite thing. It felt like a list of things that needed to get done against a ticking time bomb clock, and it made me sleepy and unmotivated for the things I needed to get to as an adult on my own time - which is post-bedtime time.

    Now that they each shower independently, brush teeth, clean up rooms, layout clothes for the morning, set their own alarm clocks, etc. those things can get done while dinner is being made or while we're cleaning up the kitchen, or as we're tidying up the house / switching out laundry, responding to a work email, etc. I feel like it's four people working towards a common goal - to straighten up and clean up from the day, and prep for the day ahead. It's a complete game changer. Now the 8 year old calls down when she's done all of her nighttime chores and is ready for some storytime. And the 14 year old wraps up homework and my husband sometimes joins her in bed while they each read their own book for half an hour or so. It starts to feel very civilized and pleasant - and more of a shared experience and shared responsibility. You'll get there, and you're not wrecking them in the process.

    I won't weigh in on where they sleep because you know your family. I am strict on no food after dinner (because we eat dinner much later, and sometimes right before bed) and I also caution on over-complicating routines or making all the steps mandatory. I think flexibility at nighttime is important - routines are calming, but I also don't want to have to replicate every last detail every time we travel or stay up late for an event - and I always wanted them to be able to fall asleep no matter who was the person guiding them there - me, dad, a babysitter, a grandparent, or even on their own if circumstances call for it.

  11. Well, you know me from facebook (and my old blog) that I'm waaaay out there as far as parenting styles. Ideally, I want my daughter to recognize when her body is tired and then put herself to bed, and I'm also a huge fan of bed-sharin and the "family" bed, so I prefer my children in bed with me until they don't want to be, but obviously this doesn't work for everyone.

    That being said, I do turn out all lights and turn off all screens when *I* am ready to go to bed, and that is often no a popular decision. My daughter gets revved up by a bath also, so I try to do it a little earlier than right-before-bed.

    Also, I've always thought that a snack right before bed helped kids sleep?? This must just be how we are raised or what we are used to. Right before bed my girlfriend and I always ask our girls to do a "tummy check", so if they're hungry or thirsty we try to resolve that before trying to sleep.

    Everyone is so different! Hope you find what works for you.

  12. Ah man, I'm laughing because kids are seriously such amazing bluff callers. I have never once made my daughter go to sleep (single mom, kind of youngish relatively, maaaajor night owl, routines bizarrely cause me to stress). Well, that child put herself to bed at 2 years old on. She'd announce she was tired and go to sleep at 8:30. As she got older, she'd ASK me to impose bedtime. She gave that up when she realized I was a lost cause and just started telling her friends she couldn't talk past her bedtime. She'd just omit that it was self imposed! Had I cared, she would have made bedtime hell. (I know this because of all the things I DO care about.) And they'll KNOW if you try to fake it! You can't pretend not to care! Anyway. I think you're doing an amazing job. They sound like such lovely bedtime traditions! I can tell you my daughter would be so super envious! And I'm sure it'll get easier. When they're teenagers, they'll sleep all day. ;)

  13. Dorothy is my worst sleeper by far. It is hard for her to fall asleep, and she is exactly like you describe-- really tired after school and then totally wound up by bedtime. She sleeps with Cooper (her choice-- she has her own room), and he LOVES to sleep. They have a bunk bed, so she can be rowdy and play until 9:30 (which she does sometimes), while he falls blissfully asleep by 8 at the latest. Counterintuitively, we moved their bedtime back a half an hour and start the whole thing at 7:30. After bath and stories, I say goodnight and step out. What they do in there after 7:45 IS NOT MY BUSINESS.

    1. I meant we moved the bedtime UP by a half hour-- we used to start at 7. I know they say that sleep begets sleep, but for some reason starting later has helped Dorothy.