How To Create a Peaceful Bedtime Routine

 

how to start a peaceful bedtime routine for your baby

When teaching your baby to sleep well, where do you begin?
Naps?
Bedtime?
During the night?
The majority of baby sleep experts agree, the best way to set your baby up for sleeping long stretches at night is to begin a bedtime routine.

The purpose of a bedtime routine is to calm your baby in the evening, so that her body can relax and welcome sleep. Certain activities have been proven to relax babies, and when done in the right order, it sets your baby up for sleeping longer at night.

For instance, a 2009 study of 400 infants and toddlers showed that starting a consistent bedtime routine helped children fall asleep quicker, wake less often at night and improved maternal mood.

This post may contain affiliate links.

 

What’s The Best Age To Begin A Bedtime Routine?

 

Most newborns sleep around the clock quite easily. So, unless you’re a routine-lover you don’t need to start a bedtime routine right away. Instead, 2-3 months is a great age to introduce a bedtime routine, because this is when your baby is learning to distinguish night versus day. If you have an older baby or toddler, it’s never too late to begin a relaxing evening ritual, as children of all ages will benefit.

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RELATED: How to Help Your 2 Month Old Baby Sleep Well

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The peaceful bedtime routine that I’ve laid out below has the essential elements for relaxing your baby. Doing these elements in the right order is critical for helping baby sleep longer at night. Your 3-6 month old needs a shorter routine, while your older baby and toddler often need a longer routine to help them settle for sleep.

As with all parenting advice, your consistency is essential. Doing the same activities, in the same order, at the same time each evening, signals to your baby’s body and brain that it’s time to relax and welcome sleep. Over time, your little one will adapt and settle in peacefully for sleep.

 

Here Are the Steps For Your Baby’s Peaceful Bedtime Routine

 

Do You Prefer a Video? 
Hear Jilly walk you through starting a bedtime routine for your baby. 

Step 1: Start with a Warm Bath

The first signal to your baby’s body that it’s time to relax and prepare for sleep is bath time. What could be more relaxing than a nice, warm soak at the end of a long day? Lavender and chamomile help babies & adults relax, so choose a baby-friendly bath soap with these scents.

Newborns don’t need a bath everyday, especially if it dries out their skin. Opt for bathing every 2-3 days instead, or just use warm water without soap.

If your baby is spirited (AKA really energetic) and you suspect bath time is exciting her rather than calming her, feel free to skip it and instead bathe earlier in the day.

 

Relaxing Baby Soaps

Click to order on

 

RELATED: Find Out the Right Bedtime for 3 Month Old Baby

 

Step 2: Include a Massage

After bath time, dress your baby in only a diaper and give her a relaxing massage. Infant massage has been proven to reduce fussiness, crying, constipation, colic and teething pain.  Each of which will probably plague your baby at some point during her first year.

If your baby suffers from tummy gas, make sure to bicycle her legs during massage to mobilize any trapped gas.

Energetic children will especially benefit from a nightly massage as it melts away excess energy. This is essential for them to relax enough to fall asleep, rather than fight bedtime.

Baby massage is a great activity for Dad and helps him bond with baby every evening.

 

Soothing Massage Oils / Creams

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Step 3: Dress Your Baby in a Sleep Sack

 

After massage, it’s time to get baby dressed in pajamas and into a sleep sack. Sleep sacks, or wearable blankets, are your baby’s safest sleep attire. To reduce the risk of SIDS, never put a loose blanket in your baby’s bed (or a pillow and bumpers for that matter.) Over time, putting on your baby’s sleep sack will serve as a cue for her that it’s time to relax and fall asleep. It’s like baby hypnosis!

Use a swaddle blanket for your younger baby so that her startle reflex doesn’t wake her throughout the night. Once she’s able to roll over, transition her to a regular sleep sack.

 

Keep Baby Safe & Cozy in a Sleep Sack

 

Click to order on

 

Step 4: Give a Top-Up Feed

 

Now its time to give your baby a top-up feed to help her sleep longer at night. Keep the lights dimly lit, which helps her stay awake long enough to finish the feeding. Once she’s done, sit her upright to burp. You don’t want any tummy troubles waking her tonight!

 

Step 5: Read a few Bedtime Books

 

Separating feeding and falling asleep lessens your baby’s dependence on you as a sleep prop. The reason why you want this is because it gives your baby the ability to resettle herself when she wakes in the night, rather than crying out for you. A great way to separate feeding and falling asleep is by adding story time in the middle.

Sit your baby up to burp while you read 1-2 bedtime books together. Have calm energy and a soft voice, and avoid stimulating books that light up or play music.

Reading to your baby before sleep has been shown to increase memory development in babies

Just like with bath time, if you think books might be revving your baby up, rather than relaxing her, try singing calming lullabies instead.

 

Bedtime Books We Love

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Goodnight Moon

If Animals Kissed Good Night

I Love You Night & Day

Step 6: Time for a Tuck In

 

By now your baby should be nice and relaxed, so it’s time for bed! Place your baby in her bed, tuck her in and sing a few soft lullabies while you turn out the lights. You may need to pat her back, rub her head or offer a pacifier to help her settle into sleep. Over time, lessening your hands-on comforting will help your baby sleep through the night.

If your baby is 5 months or older, and always cries when placed in the crib awake, it’s time to sleep train!

When babies can go into the crib awake and fall asleep on their own, they’ll start sleeping long stretches at night. You don’t have to do cry-it-out to achieve this. My sleep training program has 4 step-by-step methods to teach your baby to self-settle, and 3 of these methods have you stay with your LO. You can get more details here.

Let’s stay connected!

38 Comments

  1. Caitlyn

    I’m having trouble finding help with my situation! My baby goes to bed wide awake and falls asleep without any help, but then wakes up every 3 hours! I have a 5.5 month old who used to sleep for long 7-9 hour stretches, and then experienced a terrible sleep regression just after she turned 4 months. She hasn’t slept longer than a 3 hour stretch since. The problem I’m having is that she wakes up 4-5 times a night screaming crying, and will not go back to sleep until I feed her. She cannot settle herself. However, she is a great daytime napper, and puts herself to sleep at nap and at bedtime. She goes down in her crib completely awake and falls asleep without a fuss! But then she can’t do that during the night. She goes down around 7:30pm, and then is up crying until she gets a feed at 10:30, 1:30, 4:30, and up for the day at 6:30. Help!!

    Reply
    • panagiota

      Hi there Caitlyn. Thank you for your message.

      Sorry to hear you’re struggling. How much does your baby sleep during the day? Do you follow awake times?

      Please check out our 5 month old sleep guide here –> https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/sleep-training-5-month-old-baby-tips

      This will help you understand what to expect from your LO’s sleep at this age, plus it’s got many tips on how to get them sleeping better at night.

      Also, if you haven’t already, you can sign up for our free Exhausted Mom’s Survival Kit, a step by step guide that will help you create healthy sleep habits for your baby, create a bedtime routine, set the right bedtime and help your LO sleep better day & night, overall.

      https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/exhausted-moms-survival-kit

      Try implementing these tips for a few days and then let us know how things work out. Good luck. Panagiota, BSMS Support Team

      Reply
  2. Amanda

    Hello,

    My 13 week old son suffers from pretty bad reflux issues and our pediatrician told us that we have to hold him upright for a minimum of 30 minutes after each feeding. When trying to implement this nighttime routine, I’ve found that two or three booksIs definitely closer to ten minutes than 30, and my son falls asleep in my arms well before I can get him into the bassinet. He usually didn’t wake when I transfer him, but the recommendation is for him to be drowsy but not asleep. If I keep him awake he gets overtired and riles up and cries a ton, and if I wake him before settling him in the bassinet he also turns to crying. Do you have any tips on how to navigate so he learns to fall asleep in his sleeping area instead of on me and waking up later in his bassinet?

    Reply
    • panagiota

      Hi there Amanda. Sorry to hear about the reflux. Hope your little guy gets better soon. Yes, the best thing is for your LO to be placed into the crib drowsy, but you don’t have to wake him before putting him in there.

      It’s true that reflux can complicate sleep a bit. If your baby struggles with reflux, feed him earlier in his PNR- right before or after bath time.Then, keep baby upright for 15-30 minutes.Baby can sit upright in a tubby chair during bath time. Or if you feed him after the bath, do a modified massage with him propped up on a pillow. Then keep baby upright while you read 1-2 bedtime books. Feeding early in the PNR should minimize reflux affecting baby’s sleep.

      Also if his night sleep is good, even if not put in the crib drowsy, you don’t need to change the fact that he’s already asleep when put there since your baby is still young. Hope this helps. Panagiota, BSMS Support Team

      Reply
  3. Kara

    Our 15 week old son started sleeping through the night (10pm-8pm) at 7 weeks old! Consistent routine was play eat sleep during the day then we started bedtime around 9pm with a bath, then bottle and rock to sleep. We would put him down sleeping then wake him up a bit after he got swaddled in his pack and play and was fine. I could hear him every so often in the night grunting and making noises but would settle himself to sleep. The past week he has been waking up once a night around 2-3am to eat 4-6 ounces then goes back to sleep for another 4-5 hours. Any advice? He also won’t go to sleep unless he has the bottle in his mouth while being rocked, ive tried putting him down drowsy and when I see the sleepy signals (yawning, eyes closing or rubbing eyes) but it doesn’t work for him. Help!

    Reply
  4. Jessie

    I introduced a bedtime routine (similar but not 3xactlt thus one) at 2M and baby goes down to bed easily at night, even in the midst of 4M regression (baby is now 4.5M) but still needs to be breastfed to sleep. In one of ur videos you say not to proper sleep train before 6M or during a regression and in the routine shown here the baby must be put down awake which results in cries for us here. What should I do?

    Reply
    • Leena

      Hi Jessie! Sorry to hear about your struggle, the regression can be quite a turnado sometimes! I will link Jilly’s 4 months guides for your to look at, it answers your questions and adds a few key tips 🙂 We usually recommend sleep training around 5-6 months old, because there are major developmental leaps that happen before that age that could disrupt the process. So if you can, I’d recommend hanging tight for a little while longer before you start sleep training. However there are still tips and routines that you can implement right now. Wait no more! Here is a link to our FREE EXHAUSTED MOM’s SURVIVAL KIT and a general sleep guide for your little one’s age. It will help you understand your LO’s current developmental stage and the affect on sleep and what you can expect from your LO right now.

      https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/exhausted-moms-survival-kit

      https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/4-month-sleep-regression-tips-video

      Best of luck! Leena, BSMS Support Team

      Reply
  5. Aliisa Valkeinen

    My baby has a bedtime routine that involves bath and then i an breastfeeding him about whole 1 hour. Then i put dress In a sleep sack. I talk to him whispering at the sme time and then put White noise on and turn Light of. I keep him In My arms until he relax. He is now 4 month and the sleep regression has arrived. Is is ok that the bedtime routine includes so long feeding?
    He has always done that. When he was newborn it took 2-3 hours To breastfeed him.

    Reply
    • Leena

      Hi Aliisa! Hi! You can breastfeed on demand but try to keep your baby awake while feeding. Once baby’s feeding pattern slows and her eyes start to close, gently remove him from the breast and burp him. Then place him down to fall asleep. It’s ok if he’s drowsy going into the bed. Many babies younger than 5 months need to be helped to a drowsy state.

      Implement tthe tips on the guides below for 2 weeks and you should see improvement.

      4 MONTH SLEEP GUIDE:
      https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/4-month-old-not-sleeping

      4 MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION:
      https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/4-month-sleep-regression-tips-video

      Also starting 5 months, you can begin “formal sleep training” gently.

      Our program, 21 Days to Peace & Quiet. We offer 4 different step-by-step methods for you to choose from (from super gentle & gradual to quick & efficient.) Each step of the way you get advice based on your baby’s developmental stage, energy levels, and temperament.

      You enroll on this page: https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/21-days-to-peace-quiet-program

      Hope this helps! Good luck mama! / Leena, BSMS Support Team

      Reply
  6. Bianca

    This is a really great idea. toddlers need to learn their bedtime routine so that they will not cry when they are sleepy at night.

    Reply
    • Leena

      Hi Bianca! Thank you for your comment, glad you like the article! For any additional questions or feedback, please don’t hesitate to contact us again!
      Make sure you share the tips you like to family and friends and like us on Facebook to see inspiring posts and more tips&tricks!
      Have a great autumn! / Leena, BSMS Support Team

      Reply
      • Forzana Ali

        Hi, I’m a new mom for 8 weeks old. I’m trying to give her sleep schedule but she’s awake whole night and sleeping most likely whole day. How to fix that?

        Reply
    • Aliisa Valkeinen

      How loud should the White noise be? Can it be too quiet? I find it difficult To set the right volume. At the moment i have used it about 40db what sounds like someone is whispering next To you.

      Reply
      • Leena

        Hi Aliisa! It can be quite loud actually. This way it will overpower outside noises. Jilly’s FREE Exhausted Mom’s Survival Kit has a lot of tips regarding the quite noise machine. You can get it here :): https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/exhausted-moms-survival-kit
        / Leena, BSMS Support Team

        Reply
  7. Luisa

    Hello Jill, my baby is 4 months now and we are going through the regression :/ the main problem is that she will
    Cry for us to come and replace the pacifier every hour. Should we start sleep training to wean it off? What is your advice regarding the pacifier at this moment? Thank you! Tired mom!

    Reply
    • Leena

      Hi and thank you for your message!

      It can be exhausting to keep going back and forth with the pacifier. We usually recommend sleep training around 5-6 months old,
      because there are major developmental leaps that happen before that age that could disrupt the process.
      Usually around 7 months, babies develop the so called pincer grasp and that’s when they might be able to pick the pacifier up independently.

      If however the constant running around multiple times a night is exhausting the entire family, it could be a good thing to wean out from now. You can choose to either go “cold turkey” or take it away earlier each night so baby can learn to settle more on her own. Here is a guide for your 4 month old, it covers the big developmental changes your LO is most likely going through right now, causing sleep disturbances.

      https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/4-month-sleep-regression-tips-video

      If and when you are interested in starting sleep training, we offer 4 different step-by-step methods for you to choose from (from super gentle & gradual to quick & efficient.) Each step of the way you get advice based on your baby’s developmental stage, energy levels, and temperament. For more information on the program, please don’t hesitate to ask, here is the link to it:

      https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/21-days-to-peace-quiet-program

      Best of luck/ Leena, BSMS Support Team

      Reply
  8. Vicky

    At the moment our 6 month old’s bedtime routine looks like this – dimmed lights for an hour before bedtime, upstairs for nappy change and into pjs and sleeping bag. Bottle feed sat in his darkened nursery, then a cuddle and into his cot. Some nights he is almost asleep after the feed so I try to wake him before putting him into bed. More recently he has had nights where he is quite alert after the feed and cries when put into his cot. If I shush and pat his tummy he eventually settles to sleep. I’d like to bring his bottle feed earlier so that there is a gap before bed (say 20 mins) but he is very energetic and baths and books both excite him. I’ve tried baby massage but he gets very wiggly. Any other suggestions to fill those 20 mins without getting him too excited? I sing twinkle twinkle to him before putting him in his cot but this only takes a few minutes.

    Reply
  9. Denise Nourse

    Hello, I am grandma to 5 month old twin boys. My daughter, who is also a fraternal twin, is having a heck of a hard time because they are waking every 1 to 3 hours a night. (I can offer little advice on how to get them to sleep through because she and her brother began sleeping through the night at around 2 months without any purposeful help from me or dad). Sometimes they will take 2-4 ounces each time they wake, other times they won’t. I know they just need to learn to self soothe, but it is hard when they set each other off. And separate rooms is not an option.
    My daughter is exhausted. She does have a semi-bedtime routine which includes changing their diapers, rocking and feeding. Dad is not terribly good with infants so doesn’t help as much as I feel he should and so my daughter is in charge of getting the boys to bed and taking care of them at night. So, any suggestions, for basically a single mom of twins, for getting them to sleep through the night?

    Reply
    • Jilly Blankenship

      Hi Denise,

      You’re such a wonderful grandma to be actively looking for help for your daughter!

      It can be a lot of work getting twins sleeping well, but I’ve helped many families do this.

      First, my 5 month old sleep guide has specific tips to help the twins start sleeping better: https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/sleep-training-5-month-old-baby-tips

      The great news is that at 5 months old babies can start learning to settle themselves to sleep and sleep long stretches at night. It’s when I believe you can officially start sleep training.

      After about a week of implementing the tips from my 5 month old guide, sleep training can begin! (First you want to set a healthy and consistent sleep foundation for the babies. It helps sleep training go easier.)

      If you’re willing to help, that can make sleep training go a lot easier.

      I have a step-by-step program where I walk you through all the steps of getting your babies sleeping great at night here:
      https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/21-days-to-peace-quiet-program

      Once the babies are sleeping through the night, mom can get her energy back so she can handle the full days with them (and enjoy it!)

      I’m happy to answer any other questions you have.

      All the best,
      Jilly

      Reply
  10. Niamh

    Hi Jill,

    Super helpful article, exactly what I was looking for so thank you! My baby is 13 weeks and we are wanting to start a consistent bed time routine that’s calm but she often gets so upset and it takes a while to get her settled. Two things, she absolutely hates having her clothes changed, nappy change she can cope with but once I have to move her arms in and out of clothes it’s complete meltdown! (She has some issues with her shoulder we’re having treated) so that means bath time & massage aren’t really an option right now. I think the overtired thing you mentioned to Alex above might be part of it because she’s not a great napper during the day, they are more catnaps than a solid hour etc. But wondering if you have other tips or should we simply stick to the other 4 steps for now?

    Reply
    • Jilly Blankenship

      Hi Niamh,

      I’m happy you enjoyed this article.

      Many babies hate getting dressed and undressed. Just try to do it as quickly as you can, given her shoulder issue.

      I wouldn’t skip the bath and massage, though. Those can be really relaxing for babies and help him unwind so they can relax and fall asleep.

      You can dress her in pajamas after that, and if she cries just keep it quick and offer a feed after (which should help calm her.)

      Keeping her well rested can also help with crying during the bedtime routine, so make sure to follow the age-based sleep recommendations I give here on my website (click the top menu for your baby’s age.)

      I hope this helps and good luck,
      Jilly

      Reply
  11. Samantha

    Hello Jilly, I need some help/advise to get my 3 month old to sleep during the day and help with settling her not by rocking her like I have been every sleep to get her to sleep. Would like to teach her to self settle.
    I’ve noticed durin* the day she’s not linking her sleep cycles so I’m not sure why that maybe..
    please help!!

    Reply
    • Jilly Blankenship

      Hi Samantha,

      Here’s my sleep guide for 3 month olds: https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/3-month-old-sleep-problems

      Many babies don’t have the ability to self-settle until they reach 5 months. You can certainly try (once a day) but if baby refuses/cries every single time, you may want to wait until she’s 5 months.

      The above guide has specific nap tips to help her nap well without having to be rocked.

      Good luck!
      Jilly

      Reply
  12. Michelle Garibay

    Hi! Thank you for all of your wonderful posts! I am going to be a first time mom, baby is due July 5th! I have a question about sleeping, since July-Sept tend to be warmer months.

    In your post you wrote to put baby in pajamas and then swaddle or sleep sack. Do you find that a zipup onesie and a sleep sack/swaddle are too much? Is diaper and swaddle or sleep sack enough?

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Jilly Blankenship

      Hi Michelle,

      Congratulations on your pregnancy!! A summer baby!

      Yes, you want to keep baby in a swaddle blanket until they can roll and then a traditional sleep sack- every night for every sleep. You adjust the clothing under the sleep sack rather than not use a sleep sack if it’s hot.

      On warm nights baby can even be in a sleeveless onesie and no pants under the sleep sack. Find a summer sleep sack with a TOG (insulation) level of 0.5-1.

      If you use AC at night, remember we all cool off during the night while we sleep so you’ll dress baby warmer.

      I found it was reassuring to have a thermometer in baby’s bedroom so I could also check the temp, then check a guide on how to dress baby under the sleep sack. Most sleep sacks come with a guide, but here’s a link to a general one: https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/sleep-sack-pajama-guide-small.png

      I hope this helps!
      Jilly

      Reply
  13. Betina Carteze

    My baby wakes up fully, the moment I put her in her bed. How can I stop this? She’s going to be 11 weeks old in 3 days

    Reply
    • Jilly Blankenship

      This is SO common. Young babies want to be soothed to sleep. If this is the only way your baby will fall asleep, that’s ok. You can work on teaching her to settle herself to sleep when she’s closer to 5 months old.

      All the best,
      Jilly

      Reply
  14. Alex Guthrie

    Our 3.5month old goes down for her naps very easily and we have begun to be able to put her down in her crib drowsy but awake and she generally puts herself to sleep, sometimes with a bit of a helping pat. Her naps vary greatly day to day from 3-4naps of 2 hours to 45mins). Therefore her bedtime can change greatly (we try to put her to bed 2 hours after she wakes from the last nap usually between 7-8.30). Bedtime however is a real battle. I usually Breast feed her 1 hour prior to bedtime then 30mins before bedtime she has a calm bath & we read her a book. However as soon as we zip her into her sleep suit and start trying to help her fall asleep she becomes very unsettled (often gets hysterical whilst in our arms) . It often takes 20-30mins of this before she falls asleep. She the almost ALWAYS wakes 30mins later and we have to do the whole process again! She seems like she wakes wanting one more feed and will sometimes fall asleep while I give this to her after she re-awakes, although she doesn’t feed to sleep at any other times of the day. Any suggestions how we can make bedtime easier & calmer for all?

    Reply
    • Jilly Blankenship

      Hi Alex,

      When babies regularly cry at bedtime it’s because they’re tired and just want to go to sleep! I’d start your bedtime routine 15-20 mins earlier so she can get used to it without crying through it.

      Bedtime is the time of the day when baby is the most tired, so this explains why she wants to nurse to sleep then.

      Keep awake times at 1.5-2 hours all day, this can help her sleep longer after bedtime.

      I hope this helps,
      Jilly

      Reply
  15. Amanda Coy

    Love this video! Need to get the survival kit. Sleep to do list for my 4 mo old (started sleep regression): Wean pacifier (she will cry without it every time), wean swaddle, start bedtime routine. She’s not fully rolling over. So. Do I do one at a time? All at once? In bassinet? In crib? She sleeps beside me currently but will outgrow it in a couple months.

    Reply
    • Jilly Blankenship

      Hi Amanda,

      If your baby isn’t yet rolling I would:
      A.) Start bedtime routine
      B.) Wean swaddle and out of bassinet when she shows signs of trying to roll
      C.) Wean off pacifier IF she needs you to replace it many times each night.

      Good luck!
      Jilly

      Reply
  16. Megan Tan

    That what I did to my baby. By having a bedtime routine, my baby will know that it is time to go to sleep.

    Reply
    • Jilly Blankenship

      Thanks for your comment, Megan.

      Yes you’re right. A bedtime routine is a great behavioral cue for kids to relax and settle for sleep.

      Reply
  17. Lacy Blanchard Ngo

    I love this bedtime routine, especially the warm bath. We did something similar when our babies were little. They are now 8 and 4 and I still read to them before tucking the in bed

    Reply
    • Jilly Blankenship

      Thanks Lacy!

      It’s great that your kids enjoy being read to at bedtime. Reading is a great way to relax your mind enough to fall asleep.

      Reply

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