Here’s the thing about babies – they like to know what’s coming up next. They like predictability. They do not like surprised in their scheduling! So, any chance we can get to help our little ones understand and prep themselves for what is coming up next is a great chance to make that experience go more smoothly! A bedtime routine is no exception.
A consistent bedtime routine with the same steps carried out every night before bed will help your child to understand that the big long sleep is coming up. As a Sleep Consultant, I often get asked at what age to start implementing a “routine” at bedtime. The answer: This can be started as soon as baby arrives!
I suggest planning for about 30-40 minutes for the bedtime routine, so it’s not rushed, but it also doesn’t drag on so long that baby becomes either overtired or overstimulated.
A great bedtime routine includes:
- Feed - we want to fill that tummy up for a great night of sleep! The feed can alternatively be done after the bath, but what’s important is keeping baby fully awake on the breast or bottle, to ensure a good feed for the long night of sleep that’s coming up.
- Bath (don’t use soap and bubble bath every night, to avoid drying out babe’s skin – just a quick splash around in some warm water is a great cue that we are transitioning to night-time, because it’s so different than anything else that happens in baby’s day and generally only happens when the big, long sleep in the crib is coming up).
- PJs and Sleep Bag (sleep bags are among my must-haves for great nighttime sleep, for as long as babe is in a crib - it’s a great cue that sleep is coming up, and keeps babe safe and cozy!) Check here for great options!
- Books - two little stories, even just little board books that you have in baby’s room, are a great ending to a peaceful bedtime routine and create a consistent sleep cue for each bedtime.
- Into the crib with hugs and kisses and a little “key sleep phrase” – this, repeated any time your child goes into the crib, is another great cue for your little one that sleep time has arrived.
The most important part of the bedtime routine is consistency – with time and some great sleep cues each night, a good routine can help your little one become more comfy and familiar with their crib and the whole concept of going down for good sleep!
Erin Junker is a Professional Infant & Toddler Sleep Consultant, and owner of The Happy Sleep Company. She and her team work closely with tired parents to help them help their little ones get the healthy, restful sleep they need. Follow The Happy Sleep Company on Instagram and Facebook, and let’s get your family the healthy, happy sleep you deserve!