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As simple as a baby’s bedtime routine sounds it really is something that your baby needs and you do too! Babies, like adults, usually like some kind of structure. They like to know what is coming next.
- What is a bedtime routine?
- When should I start implementing a bedtime routine?
- Why does my baby need a bedtime routine?
- Does it matter which parent takes on the bedtime routine role?
- 10 steps you should include in your baby’s routine
- 1.No screens
- 2. Bath
- 3. Milk
- 4. Lotion
- 5. Music
- 6. Pajamas
- 7. Storytime
- 8. Brushing teeth
- 9. Prayers
- 10. Saying goodnight
- What time should I start my baby’s bedtime routine and how long should it take?
What is a bedtime routine?
A bedtime routine is a sequence of events that lead up to something, in this case, SLEEP!
We all do things that lead up to going to bed. Even as adults, we have some kind of a nighttime routine.
Maybe yours consists of taking a bath or a shower, taking your make up off, or brushing your teeth.
I know for me; my nighttime routine almost always involves doing the same things in the same order. If for whatever reason a step gets missed, it gets me all out of sorts.
Your little one is the same way. Having a predictable bedtime routine will only set your evening up for success.
I’m not saying if you do these things, motherhood will always be easy, but I promise you it will provide the necessary tools for your baby to create good sleeping habits, fall asleep quicker and sleep better.
When should I start implementing a bedtime routine?
Well, this is really up to you, but I think it is something you can start implementing right away. Over time your routine may evolve a little bit, but that is ok!
Obviously, your newborn baby’s routine is going to look very different to your toddler’s bedtime routine, but the foundation is the same.
A bedtime routine consists of a series of different things that signal to your baby it is time to go to sleep.
Why does my baby need a bedtime routine?
As I stated before, babies like to have some predictability, so creating a routine that encompasses the same steps will help your baby begin associating those things with going to bed.
It will also help your baby wind down and be much better prepared for a good night’s rest.
Plus, Mom and Dad can predict the night as well. With everyone on the same page about the evening it makes the whole process easy.
One other way I have found a bedtime routine benefit my baby is that if we are out of town and our baby is sleeping somewhere different, we still adopt the same routine.
Even though he isn’t in his own crib, his bedtime routine will be familiar to him so he can still feel safe and happy about going to bed.
Does it matter which parent takes on the bedtime routine role?
Ideally, your baby’s bedtime routine needs to be a shared responsibility, if and when possible.
Whether you both share the nightly tasks or take turns or a bit of both, it is important that your baby is ok going to sleep with either parent putting them to bed.
Eventually, you might want a date night with your spouse, so Grandma might need to put your baby down to bed.
If your baby is always used to YOU doing everything every single night, when someone else enters the picture they may have a harder time with the process.
Sharing the responsibility with Dad can help switch it up and show your baby that a bedtime routine done by anyone, can give the right environment to go to sleep.
Whether it is you or your spouse doing the routine you need to make sure as parents you are both on the same page.
You need to be able to both offer the same steps and rules. Your baby or toddler needs to understand they are not in control of the routine- you are!
Kids are smart, no matter how young they are. My toddler already tries to pull some strings to stretch out his bedtime by wanting to read more books.
Try to set a limit to each activity so your routine stays timely and there is an expectation for your child.
10 steps you should include in your baby’s routine
This part is ultimately up to you, but here are the 10 things my baby’s bedtime routine consists of. Everyone one of these points really helps prepare my baby for bedtime.
Screen time, whether it is the TV, computer, tablet or phone, can have a negative effect on sleep. Light from screens suppress melatonin, often resulting in poor sleep.
Looking at screens too close to bedtime can also be too much of a stimulus which can make it more difficult for your little one to wind down and go to sleep easy.
Eliminating any screens 1-2 hours before bed can really enhance the quality of your child’s sleep.
Setting the stage for bedtime even a couple hours before your child actually goes to sleep can really make a difference.
Bath time has always been a part of my baby’s bedtime routine.
When he was a brand new baby, I didn’t give him a bath every day but after about a month or so I started to give him one each night.
Bath time can help your baby relax (I know baths help me relax!) but as your little one gets older, they can be fun too.
Adding some bath toys to the mix can really create an exciting experience for your baby
After the bath I always offer a bottle. Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, right after the bath is a great time to give your baby some milk.
It is important to make sure milk does not become a sleep prop.
This is why milk happens towards the beginning of the routine and not right at the end.
If eating to sleep become part of your normal routine your baby will know no other way of getting to sleep.
Breaking up eating and sleeping is essential for your baby developing their own sleep skills and good sleep habits.
If you would like to learn more about creating a good routine for your baby to help them sleep through the night… check out my FREE Sleep training guide and sleep schedule!
When my baby was little, I used lotion as an “activity” to break up eating and sleeping. After the bath, I would dry off my baby, put a diaper on and then wrap him in a blanket for him to drink his milk.
Once my baby finished his bottle, I would lay him down on a blanket and lotion him.
Now my baby is older and finds other steps to his bedtime routine more exciting (reading, brushing his teeth) I usually lotion in conjunction with him drinking his milk.
Lotioning your baby at nighttime is a great way to help them feel more relaxed.
I also use a couple of different essential oils for my baby such as lavender and On Guard.
This step doesn’t necessarily have to come in this order. I actually start playing music when my baby is drinking his milk all the way up until we read.
Whether you play soft music or sing a lullaby, music can have a really positive effect on calming your baby before bedtime.
This step is pretty obvious but even though it is simple, dressing into pajamas can help signal to your baby it is time for bed.
Plus, it is another “activity” to break up sleep if you have a really young baby who may not be as interested in something like a book.
If you have a toddler, letting them pick out their pajamas could be something fun for them to do.
Reading is probably my toddler’s favorite part of his routine.
Even when my baby was tiny, I would still read something to him. As he got older, a story (or 2) before bed has been something he looks forward to every night.
You may have a few bedtime stories that you specifically save for nighttime or your baby may have his favorites he likes to pick.
As long as reading is part of your routine, that is all that matters.
8. Brushing teeth
This step may not apply to you if your baby doesn’t have any teeth, but if you wanted you could still offer them a baby toothbrush to chew on. As your little one gets older, brushing their teeth might be something they find fun and exciting.
After storytime, I tell my 17 month old it is time to brush his teeth (he has a mouthful of teeth!) and he will run into the bathroom ready.
*This step could also include going potty as well if you have an older toddler. *
Our bedtime routine always includes saying a prayer together. This is a great way to wrap up the routine and signals to our baby now it is time to go to sleep.
10. Saying goodnight
This is where I put my baby in his sleep sack, give him a snuggle and say goodnight and give him goodnight kisses.
My baby knows how his routine goes every night, so by the time I lay him in his crib he knows what to expect and is happy to go to bed.
What time should I start my baby’s bedtime routine and how long should it take?
Setting an expectation for bedtime can really help set your baby up for successful sleep.
But you may be wondering what time should I begin the process and how long should it take?
Depending on when your baby goes to bed will depend on when you should start your getting ready.
I like to start about 30 minutes before the time my baby is in his crib and I have left the room.
Ideally, you want your routine to last about 30 minutes. If it is too short, it will not allow enough time for your baby to wind down.
If it goes on too long, it will begin to drag out and your child will have a harder time recognizing when it ends and what the whole process is leading up to.
Bedtime routines can be your best friend. They allow both child and parent to be able to predict the events leading up to going to sleep.
Not only will it benefit you when you have a baby or toddler but also as your child gets older, still including a routine of some sort will continue to provide successful sleep.
What does your baby’s bedtime routine look like? What steps do you implement into it?
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