Creating a Bedtime Routine for Your Baby
Are you ready to help your baby have smoother sleep at night?
Do you wish your baby would sleep longer stretches?
If so, you are not alone!
With so many different methods sleep training methods to consider, it can be overwhelming trying to get your baby on a schedule. So I want you to throw out the concept of a sleep training method and just focus on this one foundational element: a peaceful bedtime routine.
Having a consistent, peaceful bedtime routine is, in my opinion, one of the most important parts of helping your baby wind down and get to sleep at night. With a predictable routine your baby will know what to expect, what is coming next, and will receive the transition from waking to sleeping with less stress and more relaxation. It’s never too early to start implementing a bedtime routine, and I highly recommend having one established no later than 6 weeks of age.
Establishing a bedtime routine by 6 weeks will not only provide peace for you and your baby at the end of the day, but it can also set you up for future successes in getting your baby to sleep through the night. It can also help establish great boundaries for your child for years to come.
There is no one perfect bedtime routine as each family is different. The key is consistency and predictability combined with calming activities to end the day. Here is a fantastic list of some possible elements you can include in your nighttime routine to help you all drift off to sleep more peacefully.
sway and sing a few lullabies
read a few books
say your prayers
listen to soft music
spend time cuddling
bond while feeding
put on nighttime diaper & pajamas
put on swaddle or sleep sack
turn down the lights
turn on white noise
say your special “good night” words or cues
Creating the Routine
Start by choosing 4-6 items from the list above or your own favorite soothing elements. Choose an order that makes sense logistically (ex: bath before changing into pjs) and that will also help your baby begin to wind down. Next, decide how long you want your bedtime routine to take. Ideally it should be no more than 45 minutes. If the routine takes longer than that or it seems your baby is getting overly tired by the end of the routine, simplify the routine by cutting out an element or 2. Once you’ve established the order and the timing begin to implement your routine every single night. It also helps to have a similar routine for nap time, but it should be much shorter.
If your bedtime routine looks like this: bath time, massage, pajamas & sleep sack, feeding, books, white noise on and lights off, bedtime; then your nap time routine might look like this: sleep sack, books, white noise on, lights off, nap time.
I cannot stress consistency enough. The reason this works as well as it does is because your child knows what to expect and is soothed by that predictability.
One last thing I want to mention is that a bedtime routine that works for one baby, may not work for another. Babies are unique individuals with different personalities and preferences. Your 3 year old may have loved her bath time and lullabies, but those same bath time and lullabies might amp up your 5 month old. Tune in to your child and how he or she responds to this routine. If the series of activities seems to energize your child instead of calm or if you note that one particular element is problematic then change things up. I recommend trying a specific routine for at least 5-7 nights before making any drastic changes.
What are your favorite elements to your bedtime routine?