It seems like putting your baby to sleep should be one of the most straightforward things to do, however it’s not always easy. Spending an hour or more with an over-energized or fussy baby, trying to get them to wind down to sleep is frustrating for any parent.
The truth is that a good night’s sleep for your baby, and yourself, starts before you even put them down in their cot. Creating a baby bedtime routine will take out the stress of putting your child to bed and help your baby form positive long-term habits for their self-care.
With a consistent and predictable sleep routine, your baby understands it’s time to wind down and relax.
The routine is a tool for sleep training your baby
Even before they can communicate with words, babies learn from observing and repeating our behaviors. Babies learn through actions and repeated behaviors. When we set a predictable pattern with bedtime rituals, we teach them to shift their mindset to snooze mode.
A sleep routine is best kept simple, so it is easy to do every night consistently. The different steps in the routine — and they don’t need to be elaborate like reading a book or swaddling your baby — are powerful in their repetitive nature. The repetition of these steps in that same order each time becomes associated with sleep, like a cue for the child’s brain and body to prepare for sleep.
Why is establishing a bedtime routine important?
Sleep training will help your baby have better sleep quality.
With a consistent and predictable sleep routine, your baby understands it’s time to wind down and relax. Knowing what’s coming next and taking part in it becomes calming.
A baby bedtime routine is also relaxing for grownups.
Little by little, as your baby gets used to the routine and starts going to sleep more easily, these times before bed will become more enjoyable for the whole family. Even for you, being able to go through the predictable pattern of the routine means you don’t have to worry about your child struggling to sleep and instead you can focus on bonding and relaxing together.
Sleep training your baby helps going through unusual periods.
With a regular sleep routine, your baby can develop a sense of comfort that is soothing when sick, in a new environment or going through sleep regression. The routine becomes something that is well-known and reassuring, something reliable in an unfamiliar environment.
At what age can we start a bedtime routine for a baby?
0 to 6 weeks: Newborns and infants have their own sleep pattern around feeding and growing. A newborn sleeps between 14 to 17 hours a day, for a few hours at a time. From 0 to 6 weeks, there’s no point in setting up a sleep schedule. During that period, just make sure they get enough sleep and take note of the things that seem to soothe or relax them.
6 to 8 weeks and onwards: At 6 weeks, your baby will start having more regular patterns for eating, playing and sleeping. If you already have an idea of what helps them calm down or how to recognize their sleepiness cues, it will make it easier to start their bedtime routine.
Remember that it takes repetition and consistency to become a sleep routine, so stick to it each evening.
Tips to help baby sleep with a routine that works for the whole family
Depending on your baby’s temperament and mood, as well as your own habits, a pre-bedtime routine can take as long as 1 hour or as little as 20 minutes. If the day was filled with excitement it can take a little longer to get into sleepy mode than if your baby had a slow day snuggling with mum.
Below is a sample timeline for a great bedtime routine, which you can adapt for your baby:
45 minutes to 1 hour before sleep
A time for self-care: taking a bath with a nourishing bath oil, applying lotion, putting on a clean diaper… Using natural products with essential oils such as lavender and clary sage are great to help them relax.
30 to 45 minutes before sleep
Giving your baby a short massage on their stomach with a natural oil, putting on their pajamas, or getting swaddled. Playing some calming ambient music, dimming the light in the room…
15 to 30 minutes before sleep
A calming activity like reading a book, nursing or feeding…
10 to 15 minutes before sleep
In the baby’s room, the environment should already be suitable for sleep. Burp your baby if needed, hug and snuggle…
5 minutes before sleep
Your baby should already be sleepy. Lay them down in their cot before they fall asleep.
Time to sleep time
Leave the room as your baby falls asleep, and if they fuss a little give them some time alone. It’s ok, being alone is also something they need to learn to do to fall asleep.