5 bedtime routine steps to help your baby sleep better

some tips to help your baby sleep better with a bedtime routine
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Since we are celebrating the wonder of sleep today internationally, we are sharing some invaluable tips to help your baby (and you!) sleep better. Read these bedtime routine steps to help your baby sleep better. Written by Petro Thamm, MD of Good Night Child Sleep Consultancy.

One of the first pieces of advice that anyone would give you to establish good sleep hygiene for your little baby, is to implement a good bedtime routine. But what does a good bedtime routine look like?

5 steps to a great bedtime routine

  1. Create a spa-like environment by focusing on all the senses
    A bedtime routine with predictable soothing sensory experiences is one of the best ways to encourage your little one to settle to sleep without a fight. Think about what your baby feels, see, smells, etc. The best analogy for this is, for example, to create a spa-like environment for your baby, where all the sensory input is conducive to sleep.

    The sensory triggers also provide helpful cues for your baby to know when it is night time and time for sleep. Keep the sounds calming (white noise, classical music, lullabies), the touch soothing (massage, deep pressure, consistent temperatures), the smells delicious (lavender), the light comforting (no bright lights, candlelight). 

    Television should, of course, not be part of bedtime routine. It is much too stimulating not to mention that blue light that suppresses melatonin production and will negatively influence the quality of sleep.

  2. Make it predictable and consistent
    Children love predictability – especially toddlers. It makes them feel as if they have control of the situation and this makes them feel safe. The consistent nature of a bedtime routine is also part of the very important cues that will help your baby understand which step is “sleep”.

    A key thing about a bedtime routine is that it must always be the same, so your baby knows what is coming next.

    For example, if you take your baby to the bath to open the tap water, always include them in  doing that. If you first massage and then read a book, you should always do this. If your child is 18 months and older, it’s a good idea to create a visual display of the bedtime routine on the wall which you can refer to all the time.

    Take pictures of your baby in every step – the last step being them sleeping. This makes them feel very secure.

  3. Feeding should be in the correct order
    Try to not automatically feed your baby as the last step in the routine. Although you do want to put your baby down with a full stomach, you don’t want your child to always associate feeding with sleep, as this will cause unnecessary night waking.

    Try and include another step in your bedtime routine after the last feed, such as reading a book. The visual stimulation is excellent for development and they will love hearing the calming sound of your voice.

    If you have a smaller baby or a newborn, feed half of the feed prior to the bath so that your baby can actually enjoy it instead of getting too hungry or wanting that milk too much!

  4. Not too long, not too short
    A bedtime routine should be more or less 30 minutes (which includes bathing time) for the best onset of melatonin – the hormone that makes us sleepy.) If you stretch out the routine too much, mom, dad and baby will be overtired by the time it is finished. Also, time your bedtime routine so that your child is not already sleepy when you start it.

    If your baby’s optimum awake time is two hours, for example, you should start your routine at the 1.5-hour mark to make sure that they still have the capacity for the stimulation and energy it requires. The last thing you want is a baby crying the whole way through!

  5. Bedtime is a time for bonding
    Bedtime should be a wonderful, bonding experience. Try to have dinner ready so that you are not stressed during the process.

    Be present in mind body and spirit and enjoy these last cuddles of the day with your little one. Children pick up on our emotions – if you’re tired, grumpy and “just want to get it over with” don’t be surprised if your baby reacts the same way. This is especially true with toddlers, who will particularly crave attention during this time if they were are school the whole day. It is also advisable that dads and other caretakers are involved in the bedtime routine – one parent should not always handle bedtime because your child might start associating sleep with only that one caretaker.

    However, if both parents are involved your child learns that the same consistent bedtime rules apply no matter who does the routine – this makes life much easier for potential future babysitters.

Does your baby sleep through the night? Tell us in comments below.

baby sleep bedtime routine

Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) on bedtime routine steps to help your baby sleep better

Q1. What should be included in a baby’s bedtime routine?

A1. A baby’s bedtime routine should include creating a spa-like environment conducive to sleep, maintaining predictability and consistency, feeding in the correct order, ensuring the routine is neither too long nor too short, and viewing bedtime as a time for bonding.

Q2. How can a spa-like environment be created for a baby’s bedtime routine?

A2. A spa-like environment can be created by focusing on all the senses, including calming sounds like white noise or classical music, soothing touch through massage or consistent temperatures, pleasant smells such as lavender, and comforting lighting without bright lights.

Q3. Why is predictability and consistency important in a baby’s bedtime routine?

A3. Predictability and consistency help babies feel in control and safe, as they know what to expect next. This consistency aids in understanding bedtime cues and promotes a smoother transition to sleep.

Q4. What is the significance of feeding in the correct order in a baby’s bedtime routine?

A4. Feeding should not always be the last step in the routine to avoid associating feeding with sleep, which can lead to unnecessary night waking. Incorporating another step after feeding, such as reading a book, promotes development and prevents over-reliance on feeding for sleep.

Q5. How long should a baby’s bedtime routine typically last?

A5. A baby’s bedtime routine should last around 30 minutes, including bathing time, for optimal onset of melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep. It’s important not to stretch out the routine too much to prevent overtiredness.

Q6. Why is bedtime considered a time for bonding with a baby?

A6. Bedtime provides an opportunity for bonding between parents and baby, fostering a sense of security and closeness. Being present and enjoying cuddles during this time enhances the emotional connection between parent and child.

Q7. Why is it recommended for both parents to be involved in the bedtime routine?

A7. Involving both parents in the bedtime routine ensures consistency and reinforces bedtime rules, regardless of who is handling the routine. This approach makes it easier for potential future caregivers and strengthens the bond between both parents and the baby.

Q8. How can parents ensure bedtime routines are enjoyable for both themselves and the baby?

A8. Parents can ensure an enjoyable bedtime routine by having dinner ready beforehand to reduce stress, being present in mind, body, and spirit, and embracing the cuddles and interaction with the baby. Maintaining a positive attitude enhances the overall experience for both parents and the baby.

Q9. What visual aids can be helpful in a baby’s bedtime routine?

A9. Visual aids such as a visual display of the bedtime routine against the wall can be helpful, especially for toddlers. Taking pictures of each step, with the last step being the baby sleeping, provides reassurance and familiarity for the child.

Q10. Why is it important to avoid overstimulation during the bedtime routine?

A10. Overstimulation during the bedtime routine can lead to difficulty in settling down and falling asleep. Timing the routine appropriately and avoiding excessive stimulation help ensure a calm and peaceful transition to sleep for the baby.

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