That bedtime and sleep are often such massive struggles for parents seems ridiculous and unfair. After all, sleep is something just about every animal on the planet has to do some version of, especially when they're little. So how is getting our kids to sleep so damn hard? Why does it take forever?! I talked to 15 moms to ask how long kids' bedtime routine takes, because let's establish some sort of baseline here... at least.
Honestly? I can't complain. My kids have a consistent bedtime routine — brush teeth, stories, cuddle, bed — that takes 15 to 20 minutes tops. Sure, lately they've been trotting down the stairs five to 30 minutes after we tuck them in to tell me they can't sleep and "need a cuddle," but after a quick snuggle they go right back up and it's not a big deal. My youngest child? She's actually always been pretty easy when it comes to getting her to hunker down for the night. My oldest, on the other hand, was apparently possessed every night by a caffeine-fueled demon from hell, so that was two-plus years of an hours long "bedtime routine." (I use that term generously, because it sure as you-know-what felt a lot more like an hours long, Game of Thrones-level battle.)
But one kid's bedtime routine does not the norm make. So, if you're wondering how other parents are fairing in the "go the f*ck to sleep" department, and if you're in the realm of what we could sort of consider "normal," here's a snapshot into the bedtime routines of other parents:
"OK, not to brag because my husband and I are mediocre parents at best, but we totally kick ass at bedtime. Both my 5-year-old and 2-year-old take 30 minutes to get to bed. I’m talking teeth brushed, went potty, read a book, and eyes closed. Both my kids were cluster-feeding, up-every-hour, co-sleeping demons for the first year of their lives, so the universe owed this to me."
"It really depends on how long we want it to take. If my kiddo is on her A-game, we can get it all done in about 15-20 minutes. That includes bath, pajamas, teeth brushing and flossing, and bed. But sometimes we let her play in the bath or we add in a story (we read to her all the time so it isn't always part of our bedtime routine)."
"I’m blessed. Both kids, 2 and 4, currently take 30 minutes each, so if we are both home easy-peasy... unless [the 4 year old naps at] daycare and then it’s the scene from The Exorcist when they tie her down.
It wasn’t always that way. From age 2 to 2.5, the older one would easily take two hours [to get to sleep]. We would read her stories and rub her back and she’d be out, but because our house was built in 1924 and creaks, she would wake up when we tried to leave. She would lose her sh*t, grab her blanket and pillow, and sleep on the floor against the door screaming through the crack at the bottom."
"Routine? What routine?"
"My 4-year-old’s [routine] starts at 6:30 and ends at 7. It should take about 10 minutes. She brushes teeth and uses the bathroom, puts on PJs, does a dance, sings a song, we read a book, we do a timed snuggle of 30 seconds that I need to count out loud (usually we do this twice), then she wants to do a show-and-share, which is like show-and-tell but a guess-who version. There’s a ton of dragging of feet in-between."
"I currently nurse [my toddler] to sleep, so it’s pretty simple. Bath, diaper, lotion, PJs, book, nurse. She is asleep by 8:30. She does not sleep all night, so we nurse again around midnight. [My older child] is the worst to get to bed. She wants someone to lay with her, her stomach hurts, she needs a drink, she thinks she heard something, there is a shadow in the corner, etc. It’s a two-hour ordeal with her."
"This whole bedtime 'routine' takes for-f*cking-ever. They only ever want mom. With three kids, there are no bedtime stories, no bath every night (my bathroom can’t handle the SeaWorld-style splash zone), and most nights we are lucky if two-thirds of them brush their teeth. Clearly we are winning the parents of the year award."
"I have been lucky. Both my kids are currently and have always been pretty easy during bedtime. When they were toddlers, it was bath after dinner. Bedtime was at 7:30 p.m. I would help them brush and floss their teeth. My husband and I would switch off reading to each child for 20 minutes or so every night, until my oldest started wanting to read her chapter books on her own. After that, light's out."
"It varies, because I'm a lazy parent and so the routine could involve doing stretches (rarely), brushing teeth (sometimes?), bath, or just changing into PJs (how lazy am I feeling?), and reading (a few poems, a couple books, am I including a Spanish-language book or lesson?). And then, if he's in his bed, I may have to turn some soft music on and sit there until he passes out or is almost asleep. But, again, if I am being honest(ly lazy) and he ends up in my bed, I might just play games on my phone while he snuggles beside me. That all said, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half."
"I think it’s genetics because all my kids suck in one way or another when it comes to sleep. My husband and I were thinking about ideas for our nine-year wedding anniversary coming up and he got really excited and said, "Let’s get a hotel room for the night in New York City, order in food, watch Netflix all night, and sleep in!"
"I think they were easier as toddlers. Now they go to bed between 7 and 7:30 and they return multiple times to tell us everything they forgot, how much they love us, how hungry they are, how thirsty they are, how we hurt their feelings one day, how someone kicked a ball at them one day, how much fun they have at Great Wolf Lodge, how much money does "x" cost, etc.
Bath is every other day (except if needed). PJ's right after bath, then usually they need a second dinner, brush teeth, take away snack, brush teeth, then they get to lay with the parents and watch a show they like. Lay in bed with each for a few minutes, then they wait until you are comfortable and come out to start talking about everything mentioned above. Patience runs thin when they start to Army crawl and roll out and hide. Patience is gone when they scare the snot out of you because you didn't hear them Army crawling/rolling to a hiding spot. Sometimes threats are made and privileges are removed, some days they stay in bed and fall asleep. It's all about balance."
"Currently they take 25 minutes from teeth brushed to eyes closed. But, the first night my oldest slept through the night was the day my youngest was born. And my youngest was... challenging. She’s always been a night owl, dropped her afternoon nap at 17 months, and from that point on if she slept for even a few minutes anytime after 11 a.m. she would be up until midnight. Singing, playing, laughing, always in a good mood, but wide freaking awake. Car rides, afternoon activities, everything we did was strategically planned so that I could monitor and make sure she didn’t nod off in the afternoon. Those four years were rough, but she’s a dream now."
"Oh you mean the frustrating, ridiculous chaos that ensued from 7 to 10 p.m. every night for five years? I don't remember because I never slept during that time, but I survived it to tell everyone that even if your toddler doesn't sleep through the night until she goes to kindergarten, she eventually will. Now our only routine is the nightly argument of who gets to sleep with the dog (and the dog would rather sleep downstairs by herself)."
"My husband and I jokingly call our experience 'the evolution of sleep,' because our son's bedtime routine (much like him) has evolved substantially with time. Our son is just shy of 17 months now, and he started sleeping in his swaddle in his crib at 4 weeks old. When he started in his crib he was nursing (often), so we would nurse and he would pass out. That was our routine.
Then we transitioned from nursing to formula and with that transition came the bottle, so we would offer the bottle before bed and that would put him to sleep. Then when we got rid of the bottle we would rock him to sleep, and from there we made a motion towards putting him down awake when it was time to go to bed. This was then followed by the Ferber method (around 11 months) while he still had his pacifier for comfort. Then, a few weeks ago, we kicked the pacifier for good.
Since we could no longer leverage off of these tools (bottle or pacifier) for comfort we knew we needed to fill the void, essentially. So now we do a bath after dinner, change into our pajamas, and then sing to him and slow dance with him. Usually he puts his head on our shoulders (when we are serenading him to sleep), but as of late I'm mid-ABCs (an exceptional lullaby, if I do say so myself) and he's already reaching for his crib as to tell us, 'Yeah, I'm good with the singing guys.' What's adorable is that as soon as he lies down he grabs his best friend Nigel (the snow owl) for some cuddles, which is exceptionally cute. It's certainly been a process, one that came with many sleepless nights, and its a process that's gone from being very lengthy to short and sweet, and it's one that we are very proud of. The key for us was to stick with whatever change we made and offer support along the way."
"So, start to finish — with post-dinner bath, teeth, hair brushing, then we do some family down time, after picking up toys, then story, song, and lights out — is about an hour to hour and 15. When they were younger toddlers, when everything was bath, teeth, story, song, etc., it was more like 30 minutes."
"I refuse to talk about what my 6- and 4-year-olds were like as toddlers, but my current tot, also known as ThirdBaby™, has a routine, if you can call it that, that lasts maybe three to five minutes. Diaper, PJs, bottle (which she always takes two sips out of), pacifier, bed, and see ya in the morning, kid. Unfortunately, said 4-year-old still gets cuddled to bed every single night because he has nightmares and I have no willpower to say no."