Starting a bedtime routine for your baby seems easy enough. You give them a bath, put on pajamas, feed them and they go to sleep. But what happens when your baby fights falling asleep, screams during their bedtime routine or wakes all night long?
Did you know that the activities you include in your baby’s bedtime routine (and the order in which you do them) determine whether your baby falls asleep easily and sleeps well at night? It’s true!
As a baby sleep consultant, the first advice I give parents is how to start a bedtime routine. It’s the first step we take to improve your little one’s sleep. So if you’re looking for my best baby bedtime routine tips, you’re in the right place!
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What is a bedtime routine?
A bedtime routine is a sequence of activities you do every night to help your baby relax and fall asleep easily.
Babies and young toddlers have limited comprehension. They can’t understand us saying “It’s time to go to sleep now.” (And toddlers don’t listen anyway!) So we have to use behavioral cues that are proven to relax babies, so they accept falling asleep.
It’s a way to relax your baby without them realising it, so they fuss less and are able to sleep easily every night. It takes about 15-30 minutes and typically becomes parents’ favorite part of the day!
When you create a bedtime routine for your little one and you do it at the same time every night, you’re sending signals to their brain and body that it’s time to sleep. And over time you’ll see your baby relax on cue. He’ll yawn when you put on his sleep sack. She’ll rub her eyes while you read her favorite bedtime book. And you’ll feel so proud of the peaceful, relaxing time you’ve created for them.
Why is a bedtime routine so important?
Check this out-> 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.
Bedtime routines have been proven to help children fall asleep easier, sleep better at night AND make moms happier. What more do you need to know?!
As a parent of little ones, the days are LONG. And it’s nice to have a relaxing ritual to look forward to every evening. An activity that marks the end of the day, and a way to connect with your baby every evening as they wind down, become drowsy and fall asleep easily.
No one wants to end their day with a cranky baby that refuses to sleep.
So if you’re struggling hard every evening trying to get your baby to sleep, my Exhausted Mom’s Starter Kit is the answer! It gives you ALL the details of what to do to help your baby relax easily and sleep well every night and includes cute printable routines you can hang on the wall!
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.
Testimonials of my bedtime routine, the Peaceful Nightly Ritual (PNR):
“The PNR changed our lives! Ewan knows the routine so well that he even prompts the next steps by pointing to his books and laying down to help put his sleep sack on. We do a family hug and then he’s done, meaning if the hugs go on longer than he likes, he tries to escape and lay down on his own, haha. Bedtime used to be so stressful, but now it’s a calm, loving family time.”
“I’ve been doing the PNR for 2 weeks and it has made such a massive difference from the very first 3 days. My 9 month old already has made so much progress not only sleep-wise, but with her milestones as well. It’s like she is developing her skills overnight!”
“The PNR, changing bedtime and being aware of awake times changed my life! I now lay my son down in his bed with confidence and have my life back at night to enjoy with my husband. I absolutely dreaded bedtime, now I look forward to it.”
What are the benefits of a bedtime routine?
In addition to helping babies and toddlers fall asleep easily and sleep better at night, here are other big benefits:
Benefit #1: Helps with bonding
As a mom of two, I know how busy and chaotic our days can be.
Although we usually find time to sit down together and do a puzzle or game (for like 3 minutes which is as long as my toddler can sit these days), our bedtime routine is truly the favorite part of my day.
That’s because I get to snuggle my little ones, sniff their freshly washed hair, read books, and sing songs before they happily go into their beds and fall asleep.
I’ve struggled with cranky babies that fight falling asleep, and let me tell you, this is so much better. Ending our days on a peaceful note makes me a happier mom, and helps me enjoy my kids more.
Plus, research shows that a peaceful bedtime routine improves the bond between parents and children, click here to read more!
Benefit #2: Baby easily relaxes on cue every night.
The first time you see your baby yawn and rub their eyes on cue is pure magic! Babies and toddlers thrive on routine and consistency, and within a few nights most little ones settle into their bedtime routine and fall asleep easier.
The best part is, your baby knows exactly what’s happening when you do the same activities every day. So they fight sleep less and fall asleep easier. It’s a win-win for parents and babies!
It’s best to start your baby’s bedtime routine the right way and my Exhausted Mom’s Starter Kit walks you through exactly what to do from the first night. It includes other helpful guides too like how to dress your baby for sleep and how to help your sick baby sleep well.
Benefit #3: Parents get downtime!
When your bedtime routine is over, and you’ve put your baby down for the night, you know the night is over. Cha-ching!
Even if your baby isn’t sleep trained, you should still see an improvement in their nighttime sleep. Most babies get their longest stretch of sleep after their bedtime routine.
This gives YOU quiet downtime to do whatever you want! Have a glass of wine, catch up on Netflix, reconnect with your partner, have dinner in one sitting – the evening is yours. All parents deserve this.
Ready to start your peaceful bedtime routine tonight? Get my Exhausted Mom’s Starter Kit here!
Baby bedtime routine do’s and don’ts
Here are my do’s and don’ts for parents creating a bedtime routine for their little ones.
Do the same activities everyday.
Channel your inner planner and get very specific with how you handle bedtime. In the first days of starting a bedtime routine, read the same 1-2 books and sing the same lullaby every night. Have your baby sleep in the same sleep sack every night. Remember, you’re showing your baby the activities that precede sleep, so the fewer inconsistencies the better!
Same time & order every night
The order of your bedtime routine matters a lot. I go into this in detail in my Exhausted Mom’s Starter Kit and lay out the exact steps to take. For example, you want to avoid feeding your baby to sleep, as that can perpetuate night wakings.
Get other people involved.
Include different caregivers like Dad, grandma, and the babysitter so they get the chance to bond with your baby during this sweet time. Getting your baby used to other people handling their bedtime routine also gives parents a break and enables you get out for a date night!
No last minute visitors
Grandma popping over to say hello or Uncle Ted dropping by for an impromptu wrestling match will surely excite your little one, making it harder to fall asleep at bedtime. Kindly request no visitors in the hour or two before bedtime to ensure your baby’s bedtime routine stays peaceful.
No bedtime dance parties
Cranking up the music and dancing with your little ones is a great way to beat late afternoon grumpiness or boredom. Just make sure to leave enough time for the adrenaline to wear off after your dance party. A good tip is to get the wiggles out, then have dinner and a warm bath to relax your kiddo before sleep.
Don’t repeat your bedtime routine at midnight
Knowing that the bedtime routine is a great way to relax babies has caused many parents to turn on the lights and start reading books when their baby wakes in the middle of the night. I don’t recommend this as turning on the lights and engaging with your baby will probably end up exciting them more than relaxing them.
Instead, if you’re struggling with a baby that wakes at night (and is 5 months or older) teach them to sleep independently, so they can learn to sleep through the night!
My proven sleep training program shows you exactly how to do this and is customizable for your baby’s age, personality, energy levels and your parenting style. It’s helped thousands of babies learn to sleep through the night, without crying it out! You can get all the details here.
Hopefully I’ve convinced you of the importance of starting a peaceful bedtime routine. It’s never too late, children of all ages benefit from a relaxing routine every evening.
Think of it as laying the foundation for healthy sleep habits for your child’s lifetime. If you’d like help getting a routine started, check out my Exhausted Mom’s Starter Kit here.