Ever marvelled at those confident parents effortlessly lulling their little ones to sleep, leaving you intrigued by their bedtime success?
Well, here’s the answer, not-so-secret: it’s all about simple, daily routines and a baby bedtime routine
Now, I get it. The word ‘routine’ might sound overwhelming, like it demands a huge effort.
But let me tell you a truth we all know:
Establishing a consistent baby bedtime routine involves more than just putting them to bed.
It’s a vital step to ensure a peaceful night’s rest for both your child and yourself. With persistence, a new routine becomes second nature.
Effective baby bedtime routines promise calm evenings with your little one, giving you some ‘you’ time or ‘couple’ time. I can vouch for this because I made it my goal to spend quality evenings with my partner instead of dealing with tears, tantrums, and countless false starts.
At the beginning of my parenthood journey, implementing a bedtime routine was a struggle. My baby boy, Billy, always seemed overtired before bedtime, and I didn’t know how to help him drift off to sleep peacefully, sans the tears.
At 4 months old, Billy would only stay asleep for about 30 minutes after bedtime.
He was undeniably adorable, but every night felt like a guessing game, waiting to see if he’d wake up right at that 30-minute mark for the next few hours.
So, if you’ve been grappling with your little one’s bedtime routine, you’re in good company.
Why bedtimes can be challenging
Many parents inadvertently set their baby’s bedtime too late, a mistake I made, resulting in constant battles with an overtired baby. Another common issue is a lack of a solid plan to navigate bedtime with our adorable sleep snatchers.
The true key to a successful bedtime is a flexible routine customised to your child and family dynamics—something easy to follow, even on evenings out or special occasions.
Keep reading to learn 3 simple tips for a practical baby bedtime routine that I share with parents to make bedtime easier and less stressful.
#1 Starting a successful baby bedtime routine
The exciting part is you can begin a bedtime routine right from day one.
On Billy’s very first night, we swaddled him snugly and sang a soothing bedtime song, and this became his bedtime ritual.
For parents without a consistent bedtime routine, whether your little one is a newborn or a toddler, know that it’s never too late to begin!
With Billy, we always included a bedtime story. However, it wasn’t until he was 4 months old that we established a consistent daily routine.
The beauty of bedtime routines is that you can always adapt them if your current approach no longer suits your family dynamics. To be honest, initially, sticking to Billy’s bedtime routine was a bit challenging for me as it was new territory.
Yet, ensuring Billy, at 4 months old, had a consistent bedtime routine was vital. It guaranteed peaceful sleep, eliminated false starts and tears, and allowed for more quality evening moments with my partner.
If you’re struggling to initiate a fitting bedtime routine for your family, know that you’re not alone. Creating a bedtime routine for your baby can encounter common hurdles that might deter you from establishing this valuable pre sleep routine.
These obstacles often include:
Many parents wrestle with busy schedules, finding it difficult to carve out dedicated time for a bedtime routine. Balancing work, household chores, and various responsibilities leaves little room for a structured baby bedtime routine.
Babies and young children thrive on routine, but maintaining a steady bedtime routine can be challenging when unexpected events or late nights disrupt the flow. Achieving consistency demands commitment and the flexibility to adjust for unforeseen circumstances.
Lack of Knowledge:
Some parents might struggle with where to begin in creating an effective bedtime routine. The uncertainty about what elements to include, how to implement them, and when to introduce them can be overwhelming, causing hesitation in initiating a baby’s bedtime routine.
What’s the best time to begin your baby’s bedtime routine?
You don’t need complex steps or rituals to enhance your baby’s bedtime experience.
Begin by dedicating a simple 30-minute bedtime routine for your baby each night. This period covers the final feeding session and the process of settling your baby down to sleep.
Finding the right duration ensures your baby isn’t excessively overtired or undertired, avoiding bedtime struggles. Keep in mind that older babies and toddlers might need a bit more time to wind down, while a newborn may require a slightly shorter bedtime routine.
The goal of the bedtime routine is to signal the approach of sleep, not to have your baby fall asleep during the routine itself.
If your baby’s bedtime routine is either too long or too short, it can lead to overtiredness or undertiredness, resulting in bedtime battles we want to avoid.
Leverage your support network
Having a support system will simplify and enhance the process.
One of the best choices I made while establishing a bedtime routine for Billy was to team up with my partner. When you have someone supporting and aiding you, you’re more likely to stay consistent.
#2 Create a calm environment
I once underestimated the impact of a calm environment in the lead-up to bedtime, but it’s essential in making bedtime easier, quicker, and less stressful for everyone.
Think of your baby’s sleep environment as a crucial factor in helping them to sleep well. It’s a step we cannot afford to overlook.
The ambience just before bedtime plays a vital role in signalling your baby that it’s time to wind down. This means you’ll want to ensure a calm setting for your baby’s bedtime routine, away from distractions.
Create a calm setting to soothe your baby:
- Dim the lights
- Minimise noise
- Maintain a comfortable temperature
- Create a screen-free zone
- Avoid exposing your baby to screens close to bedtime, preferably around 60 minutes before sleep.
The blue light emitted by screens can disrupt your baby’s natural sleep rhythm and inhibit melatonin production—the sleepy hormone helping your little one fall asleep at night. Therefore, it’s crucial to protect it.
Did you know you can enhance your little one’s melatonin production by ensuring a dark room for sleep and spending time outdoors later in the afternoon?
Vitamin D absorbed from being outside will convert into serotonin, and serotonin naturally converts into melatonin when we are in the dark. This is why a dark sleep room is essential for your baby’s sleep.
Need help to make your little one’s room darker?
Check out my favourite window coverings Here.
Embrace flexibility in the routine beyond the bedroom
A change of environment can infuse new energy into your routine. Don’t confine your routine to a single room.
Allow the wind-down to occur in various cosy spaces.
Extending the low-stimulation atmosphere to your living room can be a great idea if it’s kept dim with low lights and the TV off.
#3 Design the perfect baby bedtime routine
This can be a bit challenging, especially if you’re used to going with the flow and not putting much thought into the lead-up to bedtime.
When deciding what to incorporate into your bedtime routine, it’s crucial to remember that every baby is unique, and so are their needs.
Tailor these calming activities to suit your baby’s age and temperament in their bedtime routine:
- Bath time
- Fresh nappy
- Changing into cosy pyjamas
- Dimming the lights
- Playing soft music or white noise
- Gentle rocking
- Reading a bedtime story together
- Brushing teeth for older babies and toddlers
- Putting on a sleeping bag
- Using a soothing sleep phrase
- Placing your little one into their cot
When to bathe your baby
The bath is the only part of the bedtime routine exempt from the 30-minute timeframe.
Fit it into your evening according to your family’s schedule and home dynamics. Offering a warm bath in the evening is beneficial as it distinctly signals the body to wind down for the night.
If you do a bath every second night, that’s perfectly fine. On non-bath nights, a quick face wash will still signal that bedtime is approaching.
Remember, bath time is a great way for our little ones to burn off that last bit of energy, so making it FUN is essential.
Step 1: Dressing for sleep
After the bath, dry your baby, apply lotions or creams, give a massage, change into a fresh nappy, and dress in cosy pyjamas.
Step 2: Milk feed
A full tummy is crucial for a good night’s sleep, and the bedtime milk feed is ideal when your baby is awake and alert. The reason for this is it encourages them to take a full feed.
When our little ones have a full tummy, it helps in achieving a long stretch of sleep and maybe even sleep through the night.
Plus, sucking is a calming reflex, so when we offer this feed before bedtime, our babies instinctively calm down through this reflex.
- For formula or breastfed babies, a pre-sleep feeding session is essential.
- Burp your baby well afterwards to avoid nighttime discomfort.
- For babies on solids, ensure they eat a meal at least an hour before bed.
Step 3: Calming activities
Once your baby is full, engage in calming activities like cuddling, rocking, singing, and storytelling.
A story or lullaby can be a comforting way to wind down and connect before sleep. If you notice sleep cues like arching their back or rubbing their eyes or face, it’s time to move on from the book and get your baby into bed ASAP.
Step 4: Settling your baby in the cot
Say goodnight, kiss your little one, and place them in their sleeping space to drift off to sleep.
Concerned about your baby not falling asleep?
The bedtime routine is a vital aspect of the Baby Sleep Essentials Program I teach parents. Establishing a bedtime routine impacts how your baby falls asleep and stays asleep for the night.
If you’re wondering, “How do I get my baby to fall asleep in their cot?” It’s a cue to explore the step-by-step gentle sleep training process, minus the cry-it-out drama (you won’t find any of that here).
Final thoughts and key takeaways
Whether you’re a new parent or experienced a consistent bedtime routine is key to your baby’s sleep. It’s not just a checklist but a series of steps that calm your baby, ensuring a peaceful night’s sleep for your household.
Embrace this routine, cherish these moments, and create the perfect bedtime routine for your little one, setting the stage for a great night’s sleep.
You’ve got this!
Kat – Catnap tamer, parent whisperer & your gentle baby and toddler sleep consultant
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