Consistency. Routine. Predictability.

Our pediatrician reminded us this morning that babies and small children like need these things. Trust me, doc. We are well aware.

Everyone seems to give that same piece of advice–particularly when it comes to discussions of sleep habits.

Set a routine. Stick to it. It’ll be your anchor when life gets bumpy.

We took that advice seriously and started a bedtime routine with Marshall when he was just a couple months old that we have more or less followed ever since.

–Nurse, Bath, Pajamas, Story, Bed–

Most nights that sequence of events happens between 7:30 and 8:00pm. Aside from the nursing, Jon and I do the bedtime routine together nearly every night. I love it. It is one of my favorite times of the day.

After nursing Marshall, I undress him and we have a tickle-fest while Jon runs some bath water. Jon comes back and gets Marshall’s pajamas and crib ready, turns on the humidifier, and grabs a towel. I fly the naked super-baby to the bathroom and sit him on his froggy bathmat. Usually I take the lead in bathing Marshall. Once he’s all cleaned up, it’s playtime. Lately the toy of choice is a set of stacking cups that Marshall is starting to figure out. Mostly he just chews on them for a few minutes until we say “all done!” Then he helps pull up the stopper and watches the water drain. Jon lifts him out of the tub, and I wrap a towel around him. I carry him back to his changing table. He fusses while we quickly get him dried, diapered, and into his pajamas. His stuffed dog, “Goggie,” tries to distract him from his fussing, and sometimes he’s successful.

Then comes story time. Also known as our last chance to hold and kiss and squeeze and smell and love on Marshall for the day. We alternate nights. One night I get to hold him while Jon reads “Goodnight Moon.” The next night I read while Jon holds him. We each get so excited for the nights that we get to hold him. Sometimes Jon misses out on his turn when Mars decides he needs a little milk top-off before laying down. The reading is fun too as you get to watch his face as he studies the pages.

When the story ends, we turn the crickets on. We carry him to the crib. We turn him into a kiss and hug sandwich. We say, “I love you. Goodnight. Sleep tight. We’ll see you in the morning.” We turn the lights off, pull the door closed, and then spend the next ten minutes watching him wander around his crib on the video monitor before finally nodding off to sleep.