Bedtime routine: Preparing your child for bed
Establishing a predictable, consistent bedtime routine is an essential part of setting up healthy sleeping habits. It comprises of a small amount of activities that both you and your baby enjoy that are exactly the same each night in the same order. Your baby will soon recognize the predictable routine which they will find comforting. It is what signals to your baby that it is time for bed and helps them to prepare for sleep and wind down.
Similarly to most adults, babies thrive on routine. We signal to our own bodies that it is time for bed when we put our pajamas on, brush our teeth, perhaps read a book or listen to a meditation. All these things signal to the brain that it is time to switch off and sleep.
How long should your baby’s bedtime routine be?
Your baby’s bedtime routine should be no longer than 20 to 30 minutes, following the same simple and predictable steps for each sleep at night. For all day naps, this can be done within 5-10 minutes. To ensure you have the opportunity to teach your child to self-settle, your baby should remain awake throughout the entire routine. An infant that consistently falls to sleep while feeding, rocking or cuddling will find it difficult to get back to sleep when they wake after a sleep cycle.
We recommend that you take turns in putting your baby to bed so they don’t become reliant on one person. It is also best to do the bedtime routine in the nursery in dim lighting without any outside distractions or stimulants. You want to avoid any distractions such as being on your phone and give your baby your undivided attention right before bed.
Benefits of a bedtime routine:
- Babies love predictability: They start to understand patterns really early on and the more consistent we can be with our little ones, the happier and calmer they will be because they know what to expect day-to-day.
- Preparation for bed: Having a predictable bedtime routine helps babies learn, through actions, that it’s time to go to sleep.
- Improves sleep: Establishing a calming, soothing baby sleep routine will help them relax before it’s time to sleep.
Sleep routine activities
You may wish to follow a few of the following suggestions as part of your bedtime routine depending on your family’s lifestyle and your child’s age:
- Warm bath
- Nappy Change
- Swaddle/Sleep Bag or Suit
- Bottle or breast feed
- Story Time
- White Noise
- Closing the curtains
- Cuddling a teddy or comforter
We have also created a sample bedtime routine with times and activities.
To remove any pressure or stress around bedtime routines, we have found an excellent excerpt from the National Sleep Foundation:
“Sleep associations are incredibly strong. The repetitive nature of a parent’s exact actions before bed—in my case: talking in a soft voice, my son saying “goodnight”, closing the bedroom door, closing the blinds, and turning on the sound machine in the same order every night—is very powerful. It doesn’t matter that there’s no massage or books (we read every morning instead), what matters is that we created a reliable set of steps before bed that cue her brain and body that it’s time to sleep. As a colleague of mine says, “You could stand on your head as the first step in your bedtime routine, as long as you do it every night.”
Night night! xx