A positive bedtime routine can calm babies and young children so they’re ready for sleep. A good bedtime routine involves doing similar activities in a similar way each and every night, because babies and young children LOVE predictability. They start to understand patterns really early on and the more consistent we can be with our baby’s world, the happier and calmer they will be simply because they know what to expect day-to-day.
Having a bedtime routine for your baby or toddler is an easy and effective to tell them that bedtime is coming soon. Your baby will recognize a sequence of events before it’s time to fall asleep so the bedtime routine is very important to them in this process.
Here is an example of a bedtime routine for a 6-9 month-old baby with the goal to be asleep at 7 pm.
6:00 PM Bathing time
6:10 PM Little baby massage
6:12 PM Diapers, PJ’s, read a book
6:15 PM Breast/bottle feeding
6:45 PM End of feeding. Put baby in bed, sing a little song or prayer
6:50 PM Turn off the lights.
7:00 PM Baby falls asleep.
Why do we need a good bedtime routine?
Without perhaps even noticing, we all have routines we follow every day. In the morning you get up, make some coffee, have some toast and read the newspaper before you get dressed. Or at night you wash your face, brush your teeth, and read a book before going to sleep. These are such familiar patterns for us and we find these situations comforting and relaxing because of their familiarity. On a subconscious level your brain is either getting ready for the day or calming down to sleep mode because of the steps you are taking in your own routine.
Babies are no different. This is why so many babies thrive on having a good reliable pattern to their entire day – feeding and napping at predictable moments. In the daily schedules the times do not always have to be completely fixed, as long as the sequences in which actions and activities follow each other are the same. Babies absolutely benefit from that.
Settling an undertired or overtired baby
Before you start, there are certain steps you can take to ensure the bedtime routine works best. Especially with an over or under tired baby it will be tricky to settle no matter how good your bedtime routine is!
Start with limiting distractions. Some babies and most toddlers have a hard time winding down for bedtime, so start limit distraction about 30 minutes beforehand. This means turning off the TV and limiting any kind of physical activity to focus on more relaxing pursuits. Reading a story or singing a lullaby is a perfect way to get them ready for bed. Reading the SAME story or singing the SAME lullaby each time is even better! These will act as really strong cues to your baby that is it time for sleep. These steps, replicated in the same order each bedtime, each day will be links in a process to your baby: to get ready for sleep.
Establishing a good bedtime routine teaches your baby to accept sleep as the final component of the routine. It is also a great way for the parents or older maybe siblings, to have bonding time with your baby.
What else you should consider
Just a bedtime routine on itself won’t always lead to your baby settling or sleeping better; there are many other factors to line up as well, such as total amount of day sleep, timings of naps and awake times, calorie intake during the day, over tiredness, under tiredness… It can seem quite tricky to get right! But it always helps to start setting up these great habits. And if you need more advice, contact me and I can give you all the tools you need to get your child’s sleep on track.