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, developments and overall wellness. Creating a bedtime routine can make a big difference in your child’s sleep 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, wind down, 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 bedtime routines? I’ve got you covered!

Baby Bedtime Routine: Do’s and Don’ts

Baby Bedtime Routine Dos

It is important to establish a pre-sleep routine that you will use prior to naps and bedtime. Studies show that routines help provide security and comfort for babies. Babies quickly learn their routine and know what to expect next. You can start a sleep routine as soon as your bring your baby home from the hospital. At around 6 weeks your baby will start to sort out their day and night and as your baby grows, they will develop circadian rhythms. At around 3 months your baby will develop circadian rhythms and they start to move away from newborn sleep schedules and shift to an infant sleep schedule. Routines can also make it easier for your baby to learn to fall asleep and putting your baby to sleep, those are both major wins right?! One thing to note, bedtime routines can be used even if your baby isn’t sleep trained. When your baby is going through a sleep regression, having a bedroom routine is a great way to get them to setup for a good night sleep.

It’s important to set up your child’s sleep environment so that it’s conducive for sleep.

This means having a dark room, I mean pitch black, using white noise turned up to 60 decibels, room temperature should be set to 68-72 Fahrenheit. Sleep routines don’t have to be extremely long, start 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! Toddlers can also benefit from a visual sleep routine chart and sleep rules, something they can see, check off and follow throughout the routine. Click here to download my sleep routine chart and sleep rules, these are SO helpful for toddlers. 

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 for daytime sleep. Nap routines 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 babies needs)
  • Read books
  • Sing song and cuddle 
  • Place into sleep space

Baby Bedtime Routine Don’ts

Sleep routines are great, when they 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. 

Try to ensure your child is ready for sleep, there’s a sweet spot for sleep where your child isn’t overtired but isn’t undertired. Use this wake time guide for average wake times for newborns and infants.

Baby Bedtime Routine: Do's and Don'ts | Average awake times and naps for newborns and infants

Prior to bedtime, 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?! 

If your child is eating solids, try to avoid foods with added sugar prior to bed, this can significantly delay bedtime and cause middle of the night wakeups.

You can have a perfect sleep schedule but nutrition plays a huge part in your child’s ability to fall asleep and fall back asleep. 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 to your child and even more so as they are more sensitive to foods with added sugar. 

Try to avoid watching or reading scary stories or shows before bedtime.

Some children can handle it but others can’t, it 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! 

Lastly and likely the most important are 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 falling asleep independently. Some examples of negative sleep associations are rocking to sleep, feeding to sleep, laying with 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. This is what I help families with, removing sleep associations that their child can’t do on their own and that require a parent. Need help but don’t know where to start? Take a look at my 1:1 sleep coaching services!

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