Having a consistent bedtime routine is crucial for a baby’s overall health and well-being. It helps them to relax and unwind before sleep, making it easier for them to fall asleep and stay asleep for longer periods of time. Establishing a bedtime routine can also help parents to better manage their own time and create a sense of structure and predictability for the whole family.
In this article, we will discuss some essential tips and strategies for how to establish a bedtime routine for baby. By following these guidelines, you can help your little one to develop healthy sleep habits and create a peaceful and nurturing environment for sleep.
Best bedtime routine tips for your baby
Just like you, your children, including your baby, thrive on regular schedules. They need regular nap times, meals and bedtime routines. In fact, you probably have mini-routines that your baby anticipates, such as using a baby chest rub for dry skin before you dress them for the day, or an older baby may know they’ll be fed when you pop their bib on and sit them in the highchair. The same goes for baby’s bedtime. With a routine that becomes familiar to them, they will know it’s bedtime and learn to sleep sounder.
So how do you establish a bedtime routine for baby that works? Here are some key strategies for creating the best bedtime routine for your child.
1. Find the right bedtime schedule for you and your baby
Start by deciding on a bedtime that is appropriate for your baby’s age and individual needs. Most babies need between 12 and 16 hours of sleep per day, so a bedtime between 6:00 and 8:00 pm is usually a good starting point.
Much of your baby’s schedule will be dependent upon your own routine. Although your children are unlikely to sleep through the night for several months after you bring them home, after about six months, they will.
Therefore, choose a schedule that works for you as well. For example, don’t put them to bed so early that they wake up before the time you regularly get up. If you nap in the afternoon, try to schedule their naps at the same time.
2. Set the stage with dim lights and soothing activities
Use a bedtime routine to set the stage. Use a dim lamp or light setting. Consider a warm bath and put on their pyjamas. Add in a light massage to increase melatonin release. Read your babies a book or sing lullabies. Be sure to cuddle them throughout the routine.
When you put your baby down, whisper comforting words, such as, “Good night; I love you.” Then, turn off the light and leave the room. The key is that you do the same activities in the same order every night. Your baby will become familiar with the routine and know it’s time to sleep.
3. Build a comfortable sleeping environment
To encourage your child to settle down and rest, you should build a comfortable sleeping environment. For example, make sure the room is cool and no natural light enters it. You can use blackout curtains or blinds for this – just make sure any blinds have child-safe cords to create a baby-proof environment.
You may also consider using a white noise machine or a fan to create a soothing background sound. This can also ensure your child isn’t awakened by noises in your house at night.
If the air in your home is dry, you may consider using a humidifier. Choose a mattress that encourages sleep, and avoid adding stuffed animals, pillows or multiple blankets. Newborns like to feel secure, so swaddling them often encourages comfort and security.
4. Teach baby the difference between day and night
Infants cannot distinguish between day and night. They sleep throughout the day. However, you can teach them. Developing your bedtime routine is one key step in this lesson.
During the day, you can keep your home bright and noisy. Then, at night, keep the house quiet and as dark as possible, at least in your baby’s room and just outside of it. Continuing to do this while baby is young and sleeps in the day will eventually teach them that it’s daytime and not nighttime!
(As they grow older, the hustle and bustle will keep them awake and they’ll eventually drop their daytime naps, but not completely until they are aged between two and five!)
5. What to give your baby before bed to encourage a good night’s sleep
Before bed, make sure your baby has a full belly, so give them a final bottle or meal.
There are a few things you can give your baby before bed to encourage a good night’s sleep. If your baby is still breastfeeding, offering them a feed before bed can help to calm them and provide them with the nutrition they need for a restful night’s sleep. If your baby is formula-fed, make sure to warm the bottle to body temperature before offering it to them.
Massaging your baby with a gentle, unscented oil or baby-friendly lotion with a calming scent can help to calm their mind and body before bed. Focus on areas such as the arms, legs, and stomach, and use gentle, circular motions.
You may also try soothing products specifically designed for babies with mild ingredients, such as lavender sleep spray for babies which can be sprayed on bedding or in the room for a soothing scent to encourage restfulness.
Giving your baby a warm bath before bed can help to relax their muscles and prepare their body for sleep. Make sure the water is not too hot and avoid using any soaps or shampoos that contain fragrances or irritants.
Reading a bedtime story to your baby can help to calm their mind and provide a sense of comfort and security before sleep. Choose a soothing story with peaceful illustrations and a simple, repetitive storyline.
Playing a lullaby or using a white noise machine can help to drown out any external noises that might disturb your baby’s sleep. Choose a soothing melody or noise and keep the volume low.
6. Start developing your baby’s bedtime routine early
You should start implementing a baby bedtime routine as soon as possible. Although your child won’t necessarily start sleeping through the night for several months, they begin to understand what happens before bed and that nighttime is when you settle down and rest. Then, at the three-to-six-month mark, your baby will be settled into the routine and ready to sleep through the night.
You may need to monitor or change your baby’s routine based on their growth and other disturbances, such as your baby coughing in sleep. Therefore, develop a routine that has some flexibility and don’t stress if it doesn’t always go to plan… because it won’t!
7. Be consistent (as much as possible)
Establishing a consistent bedtime routine for your baby can have many benefits, including helping them sleep better and longer. A bedtime routine can also provide a sense of security and comfort for your little one, as they come to expect certain activities and events at the same time each night.
Try to perform the activities in the same order each night, and at roughly the same time. This will help your baby come to expect and anticipate each step in the routine, which can be calming and reassuring for them.
Try to stick to it even on weekends or during holidays. It can take some time for your baby to adjust to a new bedtime routine if it changes or you’re setting it up for the first time, but with consistency and patience, they will eventually start to sleep better and longer.
Last thoughts on how to establish a bedtime routine for baby
In addition to following these steps, there are a few other things you can do to help your baby sleep better at night. Avoid stimulating activities or screen time before bedtime, and make sure your baby’s sleep space is free from distractions such as toys or loud noises. You can also try using a gentle rocking or swaying motion to help your baby relax and fall asleep.
Remember, every baby is different, so it’s important to experiment and see what works best for your little one. And always make sure to put your baby to bed on their back, in a safe and comfortable sleep environment.
Establishing a bedtime routine for your baby takes time and effort, but the benefits are well worth it. With a consistent routine and a sleep-friendly environment, you can help your baby develop healthy sleep habits that will serve them well throughout their childhood and beyond.