Creating a Healthy Bedtime Routine
By: Kristin Thelen
One of the most important goals for healthy sleep is a predictable bedtime routine. Babies, and children alike, thrive on the comfort and safety of routines. Routines provide calm as kids are able to predict what is coming next.
Infant Bedtime Routines:
While newborns are struggling to separate days from nights, a 30 minute expected routine can help set their circadian rhythm, or internal body clock. When your baby is young, you want to give him/her as many signals as possible that the longest stretch of sleep is approaching. Even as young as 6 weeks, babies start consolidating that first chunk of sleep and it becomes their longest sleep of the day. When we can coach them to prepare for this properly they will fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
A strong routine at bedtime helps babies associate the pattern of behaviors with their longests stretch of sleep.
Parent’s must always consider what brings about sleep for their baby in the bedtime routine. We want to be careful that the baby isn’t relying on an external object or motion to fall asleep, also known as a sleep prop. This is commonly the breast, bottle, pacifier, or mom or dad’s rocking or holding. The goal is for babies to learn that sleep comes internally and independently. If your baby tends to fall asleep during the last feeding of the day, start your bedtime routine with the feeding to help your child to begin to disassociate eating and sleeping.
If baths rile your baby or child up rather than calm them, try these 6 relaxation tips.
- Dim the lights.
- Play soft relaxing music.
- Focus on breathing, and practice deep breathing with them.
- Allow them 10 minutes just to soak and be in the warm water.
- Follow with a relaxing massage with lotion on their limbs to increase the relaxation.
- Separate siblings and offer baths one at a time while the others do a quiet calming activity to wait.
Toddlers & Early Childhood Bedtime Routine
With Toddlers, a predictable routine leaves less room for negotiations. “I read two books a night, do you want to pick them or do you want me to pick?” When kids know the rule and it’s consistent, they are less likely to push back.
The bedtime routine also provides a moment of connection each day. On a busy day when you haven’t had time to give your child the undivided attention you wished, the bedtime routine can be a relaxing time to give your child eye contact, gentle touch, and words of affirmation to keep your relationship strong.
Transitions are hard, and moving to the bedtime routine for some can be a challenge. I love including baths daily as the first step of the bedtime routine, bedtime doesn’t need to be mentioned during this important step. Before you start the routine parents should share stories of what the routine will look like, they may practice a dry run through the actions of the routine, create a visual chart to show the steps of the routine in order, and set a timer as necessary to move through the steps efficiently.
A visual routine chart can do wonders for a toddler, 2.5 and older. An interactive chart allows the child to engage with the routine, and feel control within the process. Children can be responsible for closing a flap, moving a magnet, or adding a sticker to a chart, as a few examples.
The ideal bedtime routine lasts roughly 20-30 minutes. Here are some examples of possible bedtime routines by age. If you make it a time you and your child both enjoy every evening it will be easier to stay consistent!
18 months-3 years old
4-8 years old
*Keep awake for the full feeding
If you need additional assistance with establishing a great sleep routine, or have other sleep concerns please contact Kristin for your complimentary discovery call today. You can search her at www.lovesleepschool.com, email her directly at [email protected], and find her on Instagram @love.sleepschool for more on sleep!