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Creating a Bedtime Routine

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Cara Dumaplin

Dad rocking and feeding baby for bedtime routine

You’ve probably heard that bedtime routines are an important piece of your baby’s nighttime sleep. Wondering why they’re important, when to start, and what to include? Let’s talk about it. 

Why are bedtime routines so important?

Babies thrive on predictability and routine. Their little worlds are full of action and stimulation, but providing a consistent routine offers safety and security. 

Did you know that by 8 weeks of age, your baby can recognize a bedtime routine? It’s true! He begins to learn that the series of events you do prior to bedtime means sleep is coming. Start tonight!

Don't worry! Your bedtime routine does NOT have to be complicated. The most important thing about a bedtime routine is that you do the same things in the same order each night. That doesn't mean you have to read the exact SAME book, but you can! That doesn’t mean you have to give a bath EVERY night, but you can! 

When should bedtime be?

First, we want to make sure that your baby has good awake time before bed. An overtired baby at bedtime can cause huge bedtime battles. Likewise, not being tired enough can make falling asleep difficult. If you need help finding the right wake windows for your baby, this can help.  

graphic displaying wake windows for babies before bedtime for ages 4 weeks to 24 months

You’ll also want to pay attention to the time on the clock. Most babies (older than 4 months) come to a natural lull between 7:00-8:00 pm. This time is typically when little ones fall asleep the easiest and stay asleep the longest. Now, some babies may need earlier, and some newborns may do better with later bedtimes, but 7:00-8:00 pm is often that sweet spot.

So how do you achieve that “sweet spot” bedtime and still maintain your baby’s necessary wake window? Use this to help!

Suggested last nap end times to get to bedtime by 7-8 pm

Bedtime doesn't have to be at exactly the same time each night. A bedtime "range" of about 30-60 minutes is ideal. For example: 7:00-8:00 pm or 7:15-7:45 pm. (This allows for flexibility based on when the last nap ended!)

What does a bedtime routine look like?

It can be this simple:

  • bath

  • diaper

  • pajamas

  • feeding

  • sleep-sack/swaddle

  • bed

It can look like this:

  • feeding

  • diaper

  • pajamas

  • goodnight book

  • bed

Here's another one:

  • diaper

  • feeding

  • song

  • sound machine

  • swaddle/sleep-sack

  • bed

What about bath time?

I love a bath as part of the bedtime routine! Science actually supports that a bath before bed can help promote sleep! Here’s why: During a warm bath, blood comes to the surface of the skin. This is called vasodilation. When we get out of the tub, blood vessels are still open, so our body temperature drops a bit. This slight drop in core body temp promotes sleep for us and our babies! A bath at the end of the day (followed by a bedtime routine) helps cue a baby's brain that bedtime is near. This can be an excellent way to prepare babies for night sleep.  

But does that mean I need to give a bath EVERY night? You can, but you don’t have to.  Some families enjoy bath time every night, and for other families, this just doesn’t work best. It’s up to you! Taking the bath out of the sequence won’t ruin your bedtime routine. It’s the consistency after the bath that helps!

This is what a bedtime routine could look like on bath night:

  • bath

  • lotion

  • pajamas

  • feeding

  • sleep sack/swaddle

  • rocking

  • prayers

  • bed

On non-bath nights the routine might be: 

  • wipe baby’s face

  • lotion

  • pajamas

  • feeding

  • sleep sack/swaddle

  • rocking

  • prayers

  • bed

Should a feeding be part of your bedtime routine?

Yes! A good feeding before bed is an important part of getting in those much-needed daytime calories.

Expert Tip: Do your best to break up eating and sleep by doing at least one thing in between the two.

Here’s what a bedtime might look like with little ones of different ages; you can even see this family’s version with two parents or only one. I'd also love to show you a bedtime routine with a newborn.

Bedtime routines truly can be simple. A calm and stress-free bedtime will promote a restful night of sleep for your baby, AND it will set you up for a peaceful night of self-care, relaxation, or connecting with your partner.

Have a great bedtime routine and STILL struggling at night? I’ve got classes for you. My newborn class is designed for babies 0-12 weeks and is a no-cry class designed to help establish a healthy sleep foundation and so much more. If your baby is 3-4 months, my class Navigating Months 3 & 4 will help you continue with that healthy sleep foundation and navigate the 4 month sleep regression. For babies 5-24 months, The ABCs of Sleep is a 14 night plan to get your baby sleeping 10-12 hours each and every night. Not ready to invest in a class? I have a free resource to get you started. I’ll give you practical ideas to implement today.

Bedtime with my kids continues to be a special time when they tell me secrets, share their hopes and fears, and snuggle too. Set it up now, and it will be the best part of your day for years ahead!

 

 

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