A great bedtime routine is one of the key components to helping your little one become a great sleeper. Because it always has the same activities in the same order before sleep, a bedtime routine signals your child’s brain that “it is almost time to sleep – get ready!”. There is no one right way to create a bedtime routine as long as the components are relaxing and not stimulating. The important thing is that you do the same activities in the same order and at roughly the same time every night (or nap).
Your routine can be as simple as close the blinds, turn out the light, turn on the white noise, diaper change/pajamas, rock and into the crib. The older your child, the longer your routine though try to keep it no longer than 20-30 minutes. For naps, use a simplified version of your bedtime routine and cap it at 5-10 minutes.
Creating A Bedtime Routine For Infants
Your routine to be something that is easy to do, pleasant for you and enjoyable for your child. A sleep association is anything your child associates with helping him get to sleep. A routine is a positive association because it helps prepare your child’s brain for sleep.
However, if your baby routinely falls asleep during your routine the part during which he falls asleep is known as a sleep crutch; something that is required in order for your baby to fall asleep. Feeding and rocking are common sleep crutches. This is because children often require the same sleep crutch in order to fall back asleep in the middle of the night. At the end of your routine, your child should be awake and aware that he is going into his bed.
When making a bedtime routine for infants you have free reign to include whatever you like as long as it is calming and soothing. Read a book, sing some songs, snuggle in your rocking chair are all popular. If you do your routine consistently from the beginning, eventually your baby will learn that “it is time to relax and get ready for sleep”.
I recommend making your routine simple enough that anyone putting baby down for a nap or bedtime can follow it. This way, even when grandma or a baby sitter is caring for your little one, they’ll be able to help baby wind down and relax.
Creating A Bedtime Routine For Toddlers And Older Children
For verbal children, let them be involved in planning your routine. Many families find it helpful to create a poster of their bedtime routine and sleep rules, especially if you are implementing a bedtime routine for the first time. Having a poster gives children a visual and helps them picture how bedtime works.
Creating the poster should be a family affair – let your children help decorate it and work as a team to create their routine and sleep rules. If Sally wants to sing 3 songs but Johnny wants to read 3 books; the compromise could be they each pick 1 song and 1 book. By sticking to their new routine, Sally and Johnny’s parents have eliminated the nightly fight over songs vs stories.
Brainstorm about other ways that you can avoid bedtime conflicts. For example, if reading a story is part of your routine, have a special basket of bedtime-length stories. That way, you avoid setting off a bedtime battle when Junior pulls out the longest book he owns and you have to say no, please pick out another. With a basket of special books just for bedtime, Junior can pick out whichever story he wants and you, as his parent, know it is appropriate for bedtime.
Consistency Is Key!
Consistency is the most important part of a great bedtime routine for infants, toddlers, and also older children. You can do all the planning and make all the posters you want, but if no one follows through your routine will be useless. Each parent may have their own style, but the routine should look similar no matter who is doing it.
It is also important to start your routine at roughly the same time each night. This way your child’s body will be used to becoming sleepy that time of evening and falling asleep becomes as easy as possible.