If there is one thing I learned about babies is that they absolutely need some sort of routine. Having a nap routine, food routine, bathtime routine are all important. However, it is especially important to have a bedtime routine for your baby.
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Why are Bedtime Routines Important?
Your baby was inside the womb for 9 months. From there, they started to already learn some key factors in their routine.
They can hear noises and see light from the womb. When it is dark, they learn it is time to sleep. If it is too loud they cannot sleep.
The same principles apply after they are born. They learn by experience. If you are constantly rocking them to sleep, they learn to associate rocking with sleep. Soon, that is the only way they will go to sleep.
Having a bedtime routine for your baby that is used daily will help your child to sleep better and longer.
It will then, in turn, help you to get more sleep and be able to take better care of your baby.
You and your baby will be happier when you have a constant bedtime routine.
There are certain things you want to do in a routine while other things you absolutely do not want.
First off, there is a difference between sleep associations.
Negative sleep associations are things that a parent typically does for a child that they cannot do on their own. Some examples include:
- rocking or bouncing
- nursing or feeding a bottle before sleep
- driving in car until baby falls asleep
These type of sleep associations are not good in the long run because it doesn’t allow your baby to learn to sleep on their own.
If they wake up in the middle of the night, they have to have you to fall back asleep. This means less sleep for both of you.
Try to get enough sleep for yourself and your baby, even if that means rocking them to sleep. Around 4-6 months, when your baby can finally sleep through the night without waking up to eat, begin taking your sleep associations more seriously.
Slowly start implementing positive sleep associations in place of negative ones. It should only take a few days to break a habit. It may be hard but it is worth it!
Positive sleep associations are things that the baby can do by themselves to help them sleep. Some examples include:
- sucking on pacifier or thumb
- placing feet on their crib
- rocking back and forth themselves
- going to a fetal position
These will help your baby learn to sleep on their own. Then, when they wake up at night, they will be able to fall asleep on their own.
There are also external sleep associations which are things you can do that will tell your child it is time to sleep. These include:
- blackout shades
- white noise
- good room temperature
- lovey or something your baby likes to sleep with
- constant routine
- diffusing calming smells
External sleep associations are part of your routine that will help your baby to recognize when it is time to sleep.
How to Successfully Create a Bedtime Routine
A bedtime routine is something simple but effective. Here are some key points to include in your routine:
- always start at the same time each night.
- Change your baby’s diaper before sleeping.
- always feed your baby right before bed. With naps, you don’t want to feed your baby as it will make it so they have to have food to sleep. However, your baby needs a full baby to sleep effectively. Give them a bottle outside of their crib or nurse them.
- The room needs to be dark.
- at least 30 minutes before bed, have them in a calming place. It could be diffusing calm oils such as lavender, or have soft soothing music on. No tv or screens before bed.
You can either sing the same song to them every night, or the same book. Whatever you choose, keep it the same.
The routine needs to be easy enough that anyone can do it: mom, dad, grandma, or babysitter. That way, if you aren’t there, the routine can still be done and be effective.
You only want a couple things to do each night. The simpler the routine, the better your baby is able to follow.
These routines works even better if followed the same way for nap time as well. However, the only difference is nap time you don’t want to feed them before sleeping, only at nighttime.
Here is our routine that we have done for many months.
- turn off all devices, turn on diffuser with lavender and cedar wood oil
- Give a bottle
- Change Diaper and put into Pj’s and sleeper
- rub lavender oil on temples, and feet
- Positive Affirmations, goodnight hug and kiss
- Sing I am a Child of God
Throughout the entire process we will do positive affirmations. We tell her how much we love her, explain that it is time for bed, she is safe and secure, we will take care of her whatever she needs, and so on.
The routine takes less than 30 minutes. Then, she goes to sleep. Typically she does not have any problems throughout the night since we have used this routine. There are nights when she has trouble, which is to be expected as a baby.
You can print off this routine and adapt it to fit your needs. I have attached this routine to download, as well as a blank one for you to create your own.
We have ours printed and on our wall where anyone can see it to know exactly what to do. As they age, you can always change and adapt to find out what works best for you.
Remember, what works for one person, might not work for another baby. It does take time to figure out. However, when a routine is in place, bedtime is a much happier and easier time!
Here are some additional resources that will help your baby to sleep better at night! These include other blogs I have written, a sleep book we used and loved, and some additional research.
What is your bedtime routine for your baby? Share in the comments below!