Send your little one off to sleep with these bedtime tips from Atinuke

Published on: 01 February 2022

Author and storyteller Atinuke shares some advice for a stress-free bedtime – plus some of her favourite soothing African lullabies.

I’m always thrilled when I can find recordings of African lullabies sung by people who are actually from those African countries. Such as these ones: 

I also love the lullabies sung by Elizabeth Mitchell, such as this one: 

Here are my top tips for getting little ones to sleep: 

1. Don’t EXPECT that your child will happily go to bed at bedtime, or go to sleep without you, or sleep right through the night.  

For most of history (and still in traditional societies) there was no such thing as bedtime, and children were not expected to sleep on their own. Children went to sleep when they got sleepy, and in the company of their caregivers. 

In modern societies we often need the evenings to ourselves to catch up on work or relationships or our sanity. But be kind to yourself and your child if you can’t seem to make it happen!  

2. Make bedtime a wonderful ROUTINE.

Parents who do the same thing – at the same time – every night seem to have the best success with bedtimes. It can come at the cost of spontaneity and a social life but eventually it leads to quiet evenings. Bath times with soft songs and bubbles, stories, cuddles, and low lighting are examples of things you can use in a bedtime routine. But the most important is to do whatever it is you do at the same time in the same way every single night. 

3. SURRENDER to what your child needs to go to sleep happily. 

And if this means you being there while they go to sleep, make the most of it if you can. It’s a good time to pop in an ear bud and listen to a podcast or an audio book or a guided meditation while you cuddle your child to sleep, or sit quietly in the room. 

4. CHANGE your routine to suit your child, it might be the path of least resistance.

Some mothers I know go to sleep with their children and either make the most of those extra hours of sleep or – if they wake in the early mornings – have their me-time then instead. 

Sleeping for long stretches of time is a relatively recent idea. In traditional cultures people are often up in the night for an hour or two before going back to sleep, or they wake very early in the morning and nap during the afternoon instead. 

Take your sleep at the best time for you and your little one – and don’t stress if it’s not the same time as everyone else!

5. REMEMBER it won’t be forever!

This time in your life is very short lived. Make the most of the cuddles and the closeness, of being the person your child loves and needs the most. By the time they are teenagers they will be pushing you away to forge their own identity. They won’t need your presence or cuddles in the same way. Most of your relationship with your child will be with them as an adult. So make the most of it while they are cute and cuddly! The things you are missing out on now will be waiting for you when your child is grown.

Find more bedtime tips for little ones with Bath, Book, Bed

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