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Making the Evening Routine Manageable

By Michelle LaRowe

For many families, evening time can be the most stressful time of the day. Dealing with baths, bottles and bedtime can take more patience than even a well-rested mom can muster.

Fortunately with these helpful tips you can reduce nighttime stress and make the evening routine more manageable for all.

Have a set dinner time. Gathering around the family table is the perfect way to rally the troops after a busy day. When everyone is following a different schedule, reconnecting at the same time and at the same place starts the evening routine off right. While sharing a meal, take time to catch up by giving each family member a chance to talk about their day. Remember that even for the youngest members of the household, being included at the family table provides for a meaningful social experience.

Use dinner time as wind down time. Once the dinner bell rings, strive to create a calmer environment in the home. After dinner isn't the time to overstimulate the baby by putting him in a swing or asking the older kids to rearrange the playroom. Instead, encourage quiet activities like reading or listening to classical music to create an environment that fosters relaxation.

Commit to the nightly bath. Whether you're four months or forty years old, a warm bath signals to the body that sleep time is coming. Further promote sleepiness by following the warm bath with a gentle massage. If you're concerned that a nightly bath will dry out your baby's skin, consider skipping the soap and lathering your baby with lotion after gently patting his skin dry.

Establish a bedtime ritual, because children thrive when they know what to expect next and feel safe when they have a set routine. Once babies hit six weeks old or so, they begin to appreciate the consistency that comes from a predictable bedtime routine. For many moms, following a simple bedtime routine that consists of the “Five B's”: bath, brush, bottle, book and bed—works best.

Don't skimp on sleep. Many parents mistakenly believe that keeping their babies up during the day will help them to sleep better and longer at night. This is simply not true. Overtired babies are harder to get to sleep and have a harder time staying asleep. Most babies are ready for bed between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. If you're trying to get your baby to sleep at 7 and it seems impossible, move his bedtime up, rather than back and you may be surprised by the outcome.

Take time for you. One of the most important things you can do to manage the evening routine is to be sure that you're taking care of you and the things you need to get done. Whether it's enjoying a warm bath of your own or taking time to clip coupons in peace to save $5 on store brand infant formulas that meet the same FDA and nutritional standards as name brand formulas and cost up to 50 percent less), carve out time to take care of your needs and to check a thing or two off of your to-do list.

One of the greatest things about establishing an evening routine is that there is a starting point and ending point, which can give you great hope when you feel like the day simply isn't going to end. Don't be afraid to evaluate your evening routine and make changes until you find what works best for your family.

About the Author

Michelle LaRowe

Michelle LaRowe is the author of the Nanny to the Rescue! parenting series, Working Mom's 411 and A Mom's Ultimate Book of Lists. A return-to-work mom and expert on formula fed babies, Michelle is called on by the media as a parenting expert and has appeared on local, national and international television and radio and has been featured in print.

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