Bath, Book, Bed by Walker Books Maria Tunney
Our friends at Walker Books have written this month’s Sleep Club guest article. Maria speaks about her personal experiences of implementing a bath, book, bed routine with her little girl Ada and the top books that you will find on their bookshelf!
Sometimes, after a long and arduous day of toddler peace talks or a tough email-frenzied day at the office, all I want to do is lie stationary on the couch and tune out the world. It can be so tempting to want to rush bedtime and get my daughter Ada to sleep as soon as possible. But, despite my often bone-deep exhaustion, I very actively try and not rush the routine bed, especially when my daughter Ada and I can enjoy a book together.
What I’ve come to value is just how good it feels to empty my head and let myself be very present in the moment, enjoying the warmth of Ada’s soft pyjama-clad body and her freshly shampooed honey-scented head rested against mine, her small squidgy fingers, pointing away at the pages of a book.
Bedtime can be a really precious time for you and your little one. It’s a way to reconnect. It’s a softening of the limbs, an opening of the heart. It’s a stress-reliever for you AND your child.
From when Ada was about eight weeks old, we started our bedtime routine. Before then, we were pretty much winging it … she’d be still up, dozing, at 11pm whilst we caught up on the latest Netflix special. So, we decided we better get a little bit of structure into our evenings!
Those first few months of the routine were actually pretty hilarious – our whole bath-book-bed would last an hour and a half! We’d run her a bath, monitoring the temperature with our hyper beady anxious new-parent eyes, and then we’d ever-so-incredibly-carefully wash her little arms and legs and tummy. Then we’d give her a very precise baby massage – rolling each tiny baby toe between our fingers with soothing lavender oil. We called this section of the night time routine, ‘The Baby Salon’. We’d dress her in a tiny onesie and swaddle (and re-swaddle, and re-re-swaddle) her up, like a little sausage roll, into her baby blanket. She’d have her milk, we’d carefully select and read a bedtime book and then she’d drift off into a lovely haze of milky, picture book dreams.
This routine, in its various forms – bath, book, bed – has almost always stayed the same … although, now, with Ada being a very robust, running-and-shouting one and a half year old toddler, it exists in a much shorter format.
My favourite part of it all is reading to Ada. Once Ada is all snuggled up and cosy in her Gro Bag – we’ve just put her into her first 18-24 month one that is 0.5 tog for the summer nights – we hop up on the bed together. We choose two books from our staple night time collection that we rotate every evening. These are books that we tend to read to Ada just at night, so that Ada associates a particular book with bedtime and, hopefully, that is a little signal to her that sleep time is near at hand…
I work in publishing and a big part of my job is reading aloud but I know that there are so many parents who feel nervous or anxious about reading to their children. There is truly NO right or wrong way to read to a child. When my husband reads to Ada, he and Ada give each character in the book a ‘sip’ from her bedtime bottle. That’s their bedtime duet.
Ada is also OBSESSED with putting things to bed at the moment. She very methodically takes a muslin by two corners and fluffs it up before delicately placing it over her little teddies or, well, anything actually. She even once put her poop sack to sleep. So, I like to pat the front cover of a book when it’s finished, as if to say, “Good night, Book, sleep well.” And she follows suit, even shhhhhh-ing it.
The cosiness of reading to your child, the way it nurtures their ever-expanding brains, how it can help establish a bedtime routine … only good things can come of it!
If you haven’t yet started reading to your child before bed, it’s NEVER too late. And if you haven’t decided on a bedtime book, you can always head to your local library to nab a selection of titles and try a few different ones out. All families with babies aged 0-12 months are also eligible to receive a free Bookstart Baby pack (with two gorgeous little board books) which libraries often hand out at rhyme time sessions. A great way to start your library!
What you’ll find on our bedtime bookshelf:
Huggy Kissy and Nighty-Night, Leslie Patricelli
Good Night Like This, Mary Murphy
Goodnight Everyone, Chris Haughton
A Bit Lost, Chris Haughton
Follow the Track All the Way Back, Timothy Knapman, Ben Mantle
Soon, Timothy knapman, Patrick Benson
Owl Babies, Martin Waddell, Patrick Benson
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, Mem Fox, Helen Oxenbury
Time Now to Dream, Timothy Knapman, Helen Oxenbury
So Much, Trish Cooke, Helen Oxenbury
A Child of Books, Oliver Jeffers, Sam Winston
Mrs Mole, I’m Home! Jarvis
A Busy Day for Birds, Lucy Cousins
Splish, Splash, Ducky! Lucy Cousins