Figuring out the perfect bedtime routine for your child isn’t always easy but it’s crucial for your baby’s health and development. A bedtime routine should start with nightly rituals that are consistent each night before bedtime so your baby will start learning sleep cues. Once this routine is established, your baby will start feeling sleepy each time you start these activities and will be ready for bed in no time. The key is to make sure the bedtime routine includes soothing activities to calm your baby down so he/she will be prepared to sleep!
- Tone it down
15 minutes before you start your bedtime routine, take it down a notch. Dim the lights, turn off the TV and other electronics, and use quieter voices. This will start to soothe baby.
- Start with a bath
Many parents start off a bedtime routine with a bath because it’s such a soothing activity and a great way to wind down for the night. The feeling of the warm water and being massaged with soap is so relaxing for baby. A bath should be 5-10 minutes (if any longer this could actually stimulate the baby instead). Dry baby off with a soft towel and then have a quick cuddle before putting on PJs.
- Set up the nursery
After the bath, you will be bringing baby to the crib in his/her nursery so you want to make sure the perfect sleep environment is all set up and ready. Have a nightlight on for when you come in from the bath so the lights are low, but never keep the nightlight on during night sleep as babies need darkness to produce the sleep hormone. Plus a light is stimulating. A good way to make sure the room is super dark is to use blackout curtains or good ol’ black trash bags work great too. Once baby is in the crib, turn on the sound machine and make sure it’s on the white noise setting that is constant. No rain, waves or other sounds that go up and down with pitch as this is also stimulating for baby. Next, you will want to remove any blankets or toys from the crib making sure all that’s left is a breathe-through crib mattress. With the SafeSleep Breathe-Through Crib Mattress by Secure Beginnings, parents can rest assured their baby’s bedtime routine will be safe for sleeping. The SafeSleep Breathe-Through Crib Mattress not only helps prevent overheating, it allows your baby to breathe normally through the mattress if he/she rolls over onto their stomach in the middle of the night.
- Put on pajamas/swaddle
Soft and comfy pajamas made from materials like organic cotton and bamboo are very soothing as they feel silky against baby’s skin. If your baby is still being swaddled, try using a zip-up swaddle that is ventilated like the breathable Woombie Air. The two-way zipper makes it easy and quick to put on so you won’t stir baby who may already be falling asleep (and it makes for easy diaper changes in the middle of the night!)
- Story time
Story time is a pretty traditional bedtime routine activity because it is relaxing and a great way for parents to bond with their children. You may think it is silly to read your baby a bedtime story when baby cannot understand it yet, but reading to baby will have a big impact on his/her language development. Plus, hearing your soothing voice will also be helpful in putting baby to sleep. I’ve read to my baby since birth and now at 15 months he chooses his bedtime book and turns the pages.
- Place baby to sleep
It’s important for parents to put baby in the crib to sleep before baby is fully asleep. This is because it will help your baby learn to fall asleep on her own without relying on mom or dad to rock her to sleep each night. During the time while baby is in the crib but still not asleep you can sing to her or say a phrase like “Night, night” as a sleep cue. Say this confidently and exit the room. If baby cries don’t rush right in. Give it 10 minutes to see what happens. You want your baby to learn how to self-soothe. This is so important.
Babies actually wake up many times a night after their sleep cycles which can be between 40 to 50 minutes depending on their age. If a baby knows how to fall asleep on their own, they will fall right back asleep and start a new sleep cycle. If baby is used to mama rocking him to sleep or feeding before sleep, when they wake up, they will want this to fall back asleep again. It’s called a sleep crutch or sleep association.
If baby is still crying after 10 minutes, go into the room and shut the door behind you (no lights so baby does not see you and become stimulated) and shush the baby for 1-2 minutes. Do not touch or talk to baby. If baby cries really badly then a gentle touch on the hair is good. Never pick up baby! By shushing baby for a couple minutes then leaving the room again, this lets baby know that you are there for them. Repeat every 10 minutes for as many times as it takes for baby to fall asleep. There is much more to this method however and could change depending on your baby and parenting style. I learned it from SleepWell Baby, certified child sleep consultants. They are amazing! Our son went from waking up every 1-2 hours needing me to rock or feed him back to sleep to sleeping all night in his crib for 12 hours straight. I highly recommend you try their free 15 minute call to see how they can develop a successful bedtime routine that helps your baby sleep well.
Written by Julie Andreae, Co-Founder of Secure Beginnings and Safe Sleep Expert
Our Breathe-Through Crib Mattresses are so safe, physicians write prescriptions for infants who must tummy sleep for health reasons.