A solid bedtime routine is the first step of our journey into a peaceful sleep. Could you imagine getting into bed with your jeans on or not brushing your teeth before laying down?! Those repetitive actions before bed are important for both us and our kids!
My go-to bedtime routine is simple and to the point. It takes about 30-45 minutes from start to finish and still works well when you add a couple kids to the mix. If the routine is too long, the process can be a bit confusing for your child. They might be thinking “is it play time?” I always recommend keeping the same steps to the routine as the consistency helps cue the brain and body that sleep is coming.
**Special Note for Toddlers** Bedtime can be a source of major pushback and tantrums. Our goal is to create an environment that is calming as our kids prepare for sleep. If you find that the transition from dinner/play (whatever is going on before the bedtime routine begins) to preparing for bed is triggering for your child, make if fun! Major meltdowns increase cortisol levels making it harder to settle to sleep. Give lots of warnings that bedtime is coming (“5 minutes until bedtime”, “2 minutes…”, “1 minute…”). Make a game out of getting into the bathtub (“let’s pretend we are birds flying to the bathtub”, “let’s be race cars driving to the bathroom”). While maintaining clear boundaries, avoiding meltdowns at bedtime sets everyone up for success for the whole night.
Breast or Bottle Feed (age dependent)
Bath & Brush Teeth
(if not bathing every night, a warm cloth to the face and hands will do)
Lotion, PJ’s, Sleep Sack/Swaddle (age appropriate)
Story &/or Song
**If baby is under 15lbs or 6 months, move the feed to before the story**
Sleep Sack/Swaddle (age dependent)
Story &/or Song
**Keep the naptime environment consistent with bedtime by using white noise and a dark sleeping space**
In the very early days, when your baby is taking 4 + naps a day, the simple act of putting on the swaddle before every nap is the beginning of creating a routine. If the thought of doing the complete nap time routine is a bit overwhelming, just start with the swaddle!
If your night is thrown off a bit with a later outing and you end up skipping part of the routine, it’s not the end of the world! Most kids who have consistency a majority of the time will do absolutely fine if the odd night is a bit off. So if your child falls asleep on the car ride home from a dinner at grandma’s house, don’t feel like you have to wake her just to get the routine in! If a simple transfer from her car seat into her bed works and she stays asleep, go with that!
As I mentioned before, routines are so important in cuing the brain and body that sleep is coming. Those intentional activities will help build a foundation for your child’s healthy sleep hygiene. Bedtime shouldn’t be a stressful time of day! With consistency, your child’s journey into sleep can be a special time enjoyed by both you and your child!