Baby Bedtime Routine: Do’s and Don’ts

Quality sleep is essential to your baby’s growth and development. Sleep problems can lead to challenges with immune systems, development, and overall wellness. Creating a bedtime routine can make a big difference in your child’s sleep patterns and sleep habits. Sleep routines can help babies learn the steps that are involved in going to bed. A bedtime routine is a set of activities that are repeatedly done before nap time and bed every night. A bedtime routine can help your baby relax, get sleepy, and help them learn to fall asleep easily. Establishing a bedtime routine can set your child up for restorative sleep! Ready for the do’s and don’ts of a baby bedtime routine? I’ve got you covered!

Baby bedtime routine do's and dont's

Baby Bedtime Routine: Do’s and Don’ts

Baby Bedtime Routine Dos

It’s important to establish a baby bedtime routine that you will use prior to naps and bedtime Studies show that routines help provide security and comfort for babies. Here are some of the practices I’d recommend implementing:

Establish a pre-sleep routine right away

Babies quickly learn their routine and know what to expect next. You can start your baby bedtime routine as soon as you bring your newborn baby home from the hospital. At around 6 weeks, your baby will start to sort out their day and night. As your baby grows, they will develop circadian rhythms. At around 3 months old, your baby will develop circadian rhythms and they start to move away from newborn sleep schedules and shift to an infant sleep schedule. Routines make it easier for your baby to learn to fall asleep and for you to put your baby to sleep- those are both major wins right?! 

Start whether or not they’re sleep-trained 

A baby bedtime routine can be started even if your baby isn’t sleep-trained. When your baby is going through a sleep regression, having a bedtime routine is a great way to get them set up for a good night’s sleep.

Set up your child’s environment for sleep

Have a dark room (I mean DARK. Like, pitch black). Use white noise turned up to 60 decibels. (This is my favorite white noise machine!) Set the room temperature to 68-72 Fahrenheit. There are tons of baby sleep products and toddler sleep products to set up an optimal sleep environment for your little one. 

Start at least 30 minutes before bedtime

Your baby bedtime routine doesn’t have to take forever, but start at least 30 minutes before you want your child to fall asleep. Toddlers may need a bit of a longer wind-down routine- sometimes it can take an hour to calm a toddler’s mind and body for sleep! If your toddler struggles with winding down, there are lots of bedtime activities for preschoolers that can help. Toddlers can also benefit from a visual sleep routine chart and sleep rules- it’s helpful to have something they can see. Check off the chart and follow throughout the routine. Click here to download my sleep routine chart and sleep rules- these are SO helpful for toddlers. 

Create a wind-down routine they’ll learn to love

When you implement a baby bedtime routine, it can become extremely comforting for your little one. A sample bedtime routine would look like the following:

  • Bath (on bath nights)
  • Change into pajamas and swaddle or sleep sack 
  • Feed
  • Read books
  • Sing song and cuddle 
  • Place into sleep space

Nap Routines

Nap routines are just as important as bedtime routines. They can be short- about 15 minutes should be sufficient for more babies. The predictability of the routine is an excellent social cue to your baby that they’re being prepared for sleep. Essentially, the naptime routine is a shortened version of the bedtime routine and would look like the following:

  • Change into pajamas and swaddle or sleep sack 
  • Feed (Some people prefer to feed your baby prior to nap, this is all dependent on your baby’s needs)
  • Read books
  • Sing song and cuddle 
  • Place into sleep space

Baby Bedtime Routine Don’ts

Sleep routines are great when they actually work. (Well, that’s like anything in life, right?) There are some key things to avoid when putting your child to bed. Routines are also specific to your child’s needs- some steps in one child’s bedtime routine might not work for another child. 

Make sure your child isn’t overtired (or under-tired)

There’s a sweet spot for how much sleep your child gets where they aren’t overtired or under-tired. Use this wake time guide for average wake times for newborns and infants:

Do's and dont's of a baby bedtime routine!

Avoid screentime or other exciting activities 

Prior to your baby bedtime routine, ensure your child is doing calming activities to prepare their minds and bodies for a restful night of sleep, dare I even say to prepare them for sleeping through the night?! Avoid screens for at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The blue light from screens will disrupt your child’s circadian rhythms and make it much harder for them to achieve REM sleep.

Avoid added sugar before bedtime

If your child is eating solids, sugar right before bed is a big no-no. You can have a perfect sleep schedule, but nutrition plays a HUGE part in your child’s ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and fall back to sleep if they wake up. Think about it this way- can you eat a big slice of chocolate cake and then head to bed and fall right to sleep? Doesn’t work, right? The same goes for your child, and even more so as they are more sensitive to foods with added sugar. 

Avoid watching or reading scary stories before bedtime

Some children can handle it, but others can’t. Scary stories can cause a lot of sleep disruptions and lead to nightmares. If your child is sensitive to scary characters or stories, do your best to avoid these, especially before bedtime! 

Avoid the wrong sleep associations

Sleep associations can be positive or negative. Some examples of positive sleep associations are a bedtime routine, white noise, sleep sacks or swaddles, sleep soothing, etc. These associations are helpful in teaching your baby to fall asleep with their routine, but ultimately they are learning to self-soothe and fall asleep independently. Some examples of negative sleep associations are rocking to sleep, feeding to sleep, and laying with your baby until they’re fully asleep. 

Now listen here- if you are doing these things and it works for you and your family, continue doing it! BUT, if you are using any of these associations and it’s not working for you, that’s something I can help you with. My specialty is removing sleep associations that your child can’t do on their own. Totally exhausted but don’t know where to start? Take a look at my 1:1 sleep coaching services! You deserve to get good SLEEP. 

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