Have You Created Your Baby Bedtime Routine?
Welcome to part 3 of our Sleep Training Tool Box series and the next ‘sleep tool’: the baby bedtime routine. Thanks to part 1 of the series you have your environment all set up and ready to support sleep, and from part 2 you are putting your baby down for sleep according to their circadian rhythm. The next step is to include a soothing baby bedtime routine that tells your baby that sleep is coming.
Your Baby Bedtime Routine
The bedtime routine is just a set of steps that you go through before sleep – you can choose what to include or with an older child you can choose together. It’s a great way to signal that there is a transition happening between an active time and time for sleep.
The key here is to leave yourself enough time, around 30 minutes for a bedtime routine, to get things done calmly and be relaxed. As much as you want to yell ‘just brush your TEETH’ while your toddler suddenly wants to name everything in the bathroom (although there are nights we’ve all done it!) try to just redirect them to the task at hand – I’ve even had to leave the room for a couple of seconds to keep my cool, but it’s worth it to not get them worked up and derail bedtime. Examples of things you could include are:
- Bath (doesn’t have to be every night, and sometimes baths are just too stimulating to be in the bedtime routine – we moved ours to the morning time and it really set up the day with an activity time!)
- Brushing teeth
- Diaper or potty time
- Putting on pajamas, a special sleeper or sleep sack
- Story time
- Cuddles and for older kids you could also make this a time of day that you chat about their day. I love the 20 open ended questions you can find here.
Once your child is relaxed and drowsy, try to leave the bedroom before they fall asleep and you’re done!
For naps you should still have a routine but it can be shorter. For example you may not change them into special sleep clothes, or you might only do songs instead of stories – you can experiment and see what works for you and your child.
Other bedtime sleep routine supports for older children might include a lovey, or a toddler clock. After 12 months of age a lovey may help sooth a child for those middle of the night wake ups and can replace a soother if you have been using one. If your child is older and needs help in the morning or for those night wake ups to know whether it is time to get out of bed, a toddler clock can be very helpful. Setting the clock can be part of the bedtime routine, along with a reminder of how it works (‘see, the stars are up and you will know it’s morning when you see the sun’).
So, we have an environment set for sleep, a biologically appropriate schedule and a calm, soothing routine. In part 4 we’ll talk about our last sleep tool and why it’s an important one not to leave out of your sleep tool box.
Alanna McGinn is a Certified Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site – a Global Pediatric and Family Sleep Team. She provides free child and family sleep support through her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She invites you to join her sleep community as she works towards Good Night Sleep Site’s mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips please visit Good Night Sleep Site. Join our movement and #BringBackBedtime.