Imagine leaving work, the gym or Costco; walking in your front door and just going right to sleep. Though that sounds like a DREAM many days for us parents, the reality is, we need to wind down and get ready for bed to have the best sleep possible.
Your routine may include putting on warm PJs, having a cup of tea, popping out your contacts, or for many of us, packing lunches/snacks/laying out clothes etc. for the busy next day and throwing on your husbands old t-shirt and shorts! We all have our routines, whatever they may include, that gets us ready to transition to bedtime and sleep. We need to do the same for our babies, and set them up for a good night’s rest with a solid, predictable and consistent routine!
Your bedtime routine should be:
*about 20 -25 minutes long
Start your bedtime routine about 20-30 minutes prior to bedtime to help your baby start to wind down from the day. Your routine may include jammies, a sleep sack, songs, a nice massage with lotion or oil (this is my fav), a book, bottle, nursing, rocking… the list goes on as to what your routine may include. The key is to choose what you want to do and keep it all around 20 minutes or so each night. (I don’t tend to include a bath as part of our routine b/c that doesn’t always happen each day)
When getting ready for bed it is important to follow THE SAME bedtime routine each night! Your routine should be very consistent! This will give baby a cue that it’s time to get ready for bed and overtime they will depend on this consistency. So whatever your choose to include in our routine, make it something that you can see yourself doing every night. If it isn’t realistic for you to give a full body massage while burning incense and your husband is playing lullabies on the ukulele, then don’t include those in your nightly routine! Save the fancy stuff for special occasions! Babies don’t need fancy, they need consistency and love. Our routine at our house is:
head upstairs about 20 minutes before bedtime
potty, brush teeth, wash face (if it wasn’t a bath night)
change into PJs and pick 3 books to read
climb into bed together and read books
Mom/Dad turns on sound machine, tucks in her blankets, kisses, hugs, noses, more kisses, probably another hug, then light off.
*calm and quiet
The purpose of a bedtime routine is to signal that it’s time to get ready for sleep, but also to help baby wind down from the day and start to relax. Keeping your routine as calm and quiet as possible will help baby start to relax and prepare their brains for rest, restoration and growth! Some tips to keep your routine calm and relaxing:
use a white noise or sound machine in baby’s sleep space (my favorite ) avoid jungle sounds or nature sounds as those can sometimes jerk baby awake with the change of pitch and tone
blackout curtains like these help to keep sunlight from peeking in and waking baby too early, or preventing them from falling asleep during those sunny summer evenings
using lotions or essential oils with Lavender (speak to your pediatrician prior to using any essential oils with a baby)
Keep your routine to 1 location, rather than moving about the house. (It is ideal to complete all of your bedtime routine in 1 location that baby can learn to associate with bedtime. Bouncing from the living room for a bottle, to the bathroom, to Mom’s bed for snuggles and then to their crib can be very confusing for baby, and may prevent them from going down easily. If you change into PJs in Mom and Dad’s room, and then move to their room for a bottle, books and snuggles, that will allow for a more predictable series of events for baby.)
Once you’ve set baby up with a consistent and calming bedtime routine, she will be able to transition to sleep easier since she is changed, fed, calm and loved. Another idea to keep in mind is how you put baby to sleep. Rocking, nursing etc. to sleep, otherwise called a sleep prop, may lead to trouble during the night. So try to move your feeding towards the beginning of your routine, so that it is not the final step that is actually helping baby to sleep.
Something to keep in mind – the reality is you are not always going to have the time or energy to do a full blown bedtime routine EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! That’s ok! On nights when we are running behind or getting home late, or Mama is tired, we do a quick version of the big show! Ex. potty, brush teeth, pjs, 1 book, sound machine, kiss, lights, GOODNIGHT! I can typically get the abridged version of bedtime done in about 5-7 minutes!
And another note, it is never too early to start a bedtime routine! Even from the very beginning, though your newborns schedule is unpredictable, it doesn’t hurt to get into a mini-routine before your first stretch of night sleep!