Did you know our little ones 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 way to signal to them that sleep is approaching. From quite young, your little one will come to recognise a sequence of events and when the last event is going to sleep, the bedtime routine will be crucial to them settling well.
In this article:
- Why bedtime routines are important for babies and toddlers
- How to build a bedtime routine for your baby
- Our baby bedtime routine
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Why bedtime routines are important for baby
We all have routines we follow every day. You yourself might have a morning ritual of getting up, making a coffee, having some toast and reading the newspaper before jumping in the shower. Or a nightly routine of washing your face, brushing your teeth, reading a book in bed, then 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 gearing up for the day or switching to sleep mode because of the steps you are taking in your own routine, which is replicated every day.
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 times, which is what our Sleep Programs can offer you (among other things!).
And you can certainly take some steps to ensure the "ritual" around bedtime is spot on for your little one too!
How to build a bedtime routine for your baby
The first and most crucial step in your bedtime routine actually happens well before bedtime - making sure your little one is good and ready for sleep! An over or under tired baby will be tricky to settle no matter how good your bedtime routine is, so you want to make sure their awake times are spot on for their age.
We would then recommend having a short wind-down period before each nap, so your baby is heading to sleep nice and relaxed. 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.
You can also have a short routine of a nappy/diaper change, cuddle, putting your baby into their swaddle or sleeping bag and saying a sleep phrase such as "it's sleepy time now". These steps, replicated in the same order each nap time, will be links in a process to your baby; the end result of which is sleep.
For bedtime in the evening you'd want to have a slightly longer routine to really help your baby wind down from their day. Often babies can have a build up of over tiredness as the day progresses, so their bedtime routine shouldn't be too stimulating or overly drawn-out.
Our baby bedtime routine
Here is a sample bedtime routine for a 6-month-old baby heading for a 7 PM bedtime (as per our Sleep Programs):
6:00 PM Bath baby in a nice warm bath
6:10 PM After drying baby, massage them with some almond oil (or other natural oil)
6:10 PM Dress baby in their sleeping clothes and sing a song or read a book
6:15 PM Start bedtime milk feed
6:50 PM Bedtime milk feed ends. Put baby in their swaddle or sleeping bag, give them a cuddle and sing them a song. Put baby in their bed, saying your sleep phrase and turning off the lights.
7:00 PM Baby goes to bed for the night.
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 other family members, such as dads, grandparents or older siblings, to have bonding time with your baby.
What else you should consider...
A bedtime routine won't, in itself, 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, calorie intake during the day, nap hours after 3PM, over tiredness, under tiredness... it can be quite tricky to get right!
Our Sleep Programs give you all the information and tools you need to start setting up these great sleep habits with your baby or toddler.