Having a relaxing bedtime routine is key for your child’s sleep. Creating the right bedtime routine is one of the first things I focus on with my clients.
Research shows that kiddos who have a consistent bedtime routine fall asleep faster, have less night wakings and sleep better overall. Sounds good, right?! So let’s talk about how you create a good bedtime routine for your child!
A bedtime routine is a sequence of activities that we do every night before bedtime. Pick a few relaxing activities you are willing to do every night, and do them in the same order every night, in the room where your kiddo sleep.
I encourage families to start a bedtime routine when baby is 6- 8 weeks old. Your baby will soon learn to recognize this “sequence” and understand that sleep comes at the end. It will become an important cue to help them be more ready for sleep.
Over time, your child’s bedtime routine will evolve and change, but you will want to continue to have a predictable routine before bed. Even adults have bedtime routines – think about what you do before you go to sleep – I bet you have your own rituals!
The bedtime routine is a time to relax, connect and wind down. There are 3 parts to a successful bedtime routine:
Start your bedtime routine with the things you need to do to get ready: diaper change, lotion, brush teeth, potty, pajamas. If there’s something your kiddo dislikes, try to do it first so it’s out of the way and we can enjoy the rest of the routine. (we don’t want them to get all mellow and then have to stop to do something they dislike!).
Once kiddo is ready, it’s time to wind down in the bedroom and dim the light. The bedtime routine is NOT the time for rough plays or pillow fight (do those earlier in the day!). Pick 1-2 things relaxing things that your kiddo enjoys. Here are some ideas:
- Read books
- Sing songs
- Do some yoga together
- Calm play
- Listen to soft music or audio stories
- Talk about your days
Pick things that your kiddo enjoys. That means that if your child really is not into books right now, don’t do a book at bedtime. Try books at different times of the day, and pick something they enjoy at bedtime.
The last component of the routine is to connect with your child. Since we are about to be asleep/apart for many hours, make sure their “cup is full” before we say good night. I know it can be hard – by the time bedtime rolls around I am tired myself and/or I am thinking about all the things I need to do once my kiddo’s bedtime is over! But this is an important part of the day for kiddos. Be fully present and engaged: it will absolutely pay off once it’s time to say good night because they will have all they need for the night.
Now that you know the 3 elements that makes a bedtime routine effective, we need to talk about one more thing: how long should a bedtime routine be? Well, not that long. Your bedtime routine can be 20-30 min from beginning to end. If your routine is much longer, you can certainly shorten it. Decide what you want to keep/include during the routine and then be very consistent with your new routine. And get ready to dim the light, wind down and enjoy a short and sweet bedtime routine with your kiddo!
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