Predictability and consistency underpin a foundation of safety, security, and calmness in a child’s life. Following the same steps and setting up sleepy cues are the key to creating the ideal bedtime routine for your little one. It can take a few weeks for your child to get used to the steps and for their bodies to start reacting positively. Remember, these steps aid them in sleeping well at night, too. Be patient and enjoy this wonderful bonding time. This is where you build your relationship with one-on-one quality time, without any interruptions, and you convey the message, “You are important to me” to your small child.
Most adults cannot sleep on command. We need to find our unique bedtime ritual and have our favorite cushion to fall asleep happily and then sleep well. The same goes for our little ones.
Research has shown that “our sleep system, along with most other neurophysiological systems, likes predictability and consistency.”
Ref: Rebecca Scott, research assistant professor of neurology at the NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center—Sleep Center.
Babies will soon become accustomed to their bedtime routine, and some may even show you signs that they are ready for it. “I had a mom who said her toddler would grab his lovey and start saying goodbye and walking her to his room to start their wind-
Setting the stage with a consistent bedtime routine is good for healthy sleep habits and may help your little one to start sleeping through the night.
So how would one go about finding the perfect bedtime routine for one’s baby?
I’m almost sure that when you go to bed at night, you have a sleep routine. Jumping into bed with your shoes and work clothes on, will lead to a night of poor sleep. A probable sleep routine may be that you brush your teeth, wash your face, change into pajamas and maybe read for a little while before you switch the lights off. This is the same for babies or toddlers. They need consistent recurring events to help set them up for a good night. It will signal and play out as a sleepy cue that the baby will recognize and know what to do next. This may lead to the most special moments you may have with your little one as it is quality time spent with mom or dad. Moreover, both feelings of love and security will become the norm. This is also a lovely time to include dad if he has been away for work commitments.
When would be a good time to implement a bedtime routine for baby?
When you have a newborn at home, enjoy the precious moments with the new little person without any pressure from schedules and routines. It is best to get to recognize your infant’s hunger and sleepy cues, and fulfilling their needs by responding appropriately. You may want to start implementing a bedtime routine at around 6-8 weeks. A good routine could last for 10 minutes. Before they start showing signs of tiredness, take them to a quiet environment, swaddle them, put on your white noise and dim the lights in the room. That will be enough for your little one to start recognizing the sleepy cues.
Is a bedtime routine really important?
Yes, a million times! Having a great bedtime routine that you follow as your little ones grow, will help teach them the difference between day time and night time. It reinforces their biological clock and follows their natural circadian rhythms. It will prepare them mentally and emotionally that sleep is a biological need and good for them.
Having a bedtime routine will create a sense of security and help through those trying going-to-bed times when they go through leaps of development, separation anxiety, and sleep regressions. It gives them comfort, and babies will start to love the routine. A calming bedtime ritual following a predictable pattern every night will give your baby time to wind down from the excitement and activities of the day and to prepare for sleep. It teaches both baby and mom to relax about sleep and having less anxiety around it. For a few loving parents, a baby’s sleep time is one of those milestones that can be quite a challenge. But having this wonderful bedtime bonding experience will be beneficial for years to come.
Ideas on the best bedtime routine for my baby
This is where we say to our parents they have to find three things they and their baby enjoy doing. It should be fun, relaxing, and age appropriate.
There is no one-size-fits-all bedtime routine. It may be flexible but it has to suit your child’s needs at the time. Sometimes you may have to speed it up and other days you may make it a little longer. It all depends on how their daytime naps went.
Here are a few examples:
- A soothing bath – Bathing your baby as part of your bedtime ritual is very important because a person’s body temperature drops a few degrees after a bath. This drop in temperature helps to signal to your body that it’s time to sleep. Bathing a newborn baby is very good for the baby, as the sensation of being in the water is similar to being in the womb, the warmth is soothing and then the drop in core temperature after the bath signals to the body it is time to sleep. Just be aware that a bath can potentially dry out your baby’s skin. Newborns do not need to be bathed every day. From 4 months onwards a bath can be one of the best bedtime cues to help your baby unwind and know it’s night time! It is the only big change that takes place in a baby’s daily routine.
- Feeding your baby plays a big part in promoting good sleep. We want to make sure our little ones’ tummies are full. The best practice is to move the feed to just before or just after bath time.
- Lots of cuddles throughout.
- The next step is up to you … You can do an infant massage (it helps with the production of melatonin), read a book, listen to music, sing a sleepy song or lullaby, do rhymes, build blocks and/or puzzles, and make sure you get in enough giggles. This can happen in your baby’s sleep environment so that the little one can start to associate sleep with good feelings and being happy.
- White noise. This is a wonderful and powerful sleep cue and helps in all aspects of sleep.
- Sleepy keywords. Having sleep key phrases are important to help babies understand what is expected of them. Saying these words throughout the day and also explain to them what is going to happen at bedtime and that sleep is healthy for their bodies, will help them to love sleep.
TIP: Here is also a great tip to help your little one connect the past, present, and future.A nice bedtime habit to start with your child is to recapture the day. You can say, for example, “Today we went for a walk and it rained. We came home and had lunch,” etc. What we think is probably unimportant, may be important to our children, what they ate, where they were, who they saw. Recapturing the day is a way of giving security. Your little one will carry the good feelings of their day to bed with them. You can also talk about what will happen tomorrow.
What a gift to be able to help our children learn and love their days!
How to establish a bedtime routine
- Getting the timing just right will help you know when your little ones naturally feel tired. Watch them for a few days and write down roughly the time when they start showing that they are tired. Begin to make your bedtime ritual 20-30 minutes before they are visibly tired and catch them at the perfect time!
- Letting your baby sleep in the same spot is very important in establishing a healthy connotation to their sleep environment. We recommend 6 weeks to start laying your baby down in a dark room that is familiar to him or her. Your little one may fall asleep in the pram or the car. A helpful note would be to at least have one nap in their familiar environment with all their sleepy cues and also the same spot for their nighttime sleep.
- Practice putting them down calm but awake: This is a skill that needs to be practiced, and babies can only master it when they get the opportunity to. This will help them sleep on their own throughout the night, too, as you would like them to know where they fall asleep.
- As children grow and mature, start bringing other aspects into the bedtime routine. The day will come that your little one won’t be interested in reading picture books anymore, then exchange it with something age-appropriate.
- What is an ideal bedtime – Check the graphic below!
Consistency is the key!!!!
*The beautiful images used in this post was taken by Miko Möller from Them Kollektiv