Establishing and maintaining a baby bedtime routine can help your little one fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up rested and refreshed, not to mention also giving you a more relaxing night! Believe it or not, your baby's bedtime routine begins well before you put them into their cot.
Your routine doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it’s best for it to be as simple as possible so you can repeat it no matter where you are.
Babies learn by actions before they communicate with speech. Having a constant, reliable bedtime routine helps baby learn when it’s time to sleep. The most important ingredient of a soothing bedtime routine is consistency. Repeating the same steps in the same order is comforting to your baby and will help establish longer, better sleeps faster.
“Sleep associations are incredibly strong. The repetitive nature of a parent’s exact actions before bed is very powerful. It doesn’t matter that there’s no massage or books, what matters is that we created a reliable set of steps before bed that cue their brain and body that it’s time to sleep....you could stand on your head as the first step in your bedtime routine, as long as you do it every night.” - National Sleep Foundation
What age can I start implementing a routine?
Usually by the 6-8 week mark babies have found some sort routine (relatively predictable patterns of sleeping and eating). You may find your babe is a little earlier or later than this and that is perfectly fine. As with everything, you need to follow the timeline and tools that work for YOU.
So what does a baby bed-time routine look like?
Baby’s bed-time routine will vary for everyone, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Basically, you want to create a smooth and calming transition from being awake to being asleep. Here is a good bed-time routine guide that you may want to try:
45 minutes to 1 hour before sleep:
Give baby a bath, clean diaper/nappy and clothes.
Baby probably does need a bath to stay clean but more importantly the warm water is naturally soothing and calming before bedtime.
30 to 45 minutes before sleep:
Baby massage (this is a good way to apply lotions), put jammies on and swaddle. Turn on ambient/white noise, make the room dim/dark.
> Pro tip: Ensure the room is a comfortable temperature for baby - if baby is too hot or cold they will become uncomfortable and restless. A good temperature for baby is between 20 and 22 degrees celsius (parents often make the mistake of making baby's room too warm!) Silk products are another fantastic way to ensure baby's temperature is regulated throughout the night as silk is naturally insulating and breathable (meaning it keeps babe cool in the heat and warm in the cold!)
15 to 30 minutes before sleep:
Nursing/feeding, other calming activities of your choice
Hold off on noisy, stimulating toys and avoid tickle-fests (no matter how cute the squeals of delight might sound). Provide plenty of one-on-one attention and stick to quieter activities like cuddling or exploring fingers and toes.
10 to 15 minutes before sleep:
Move to baby’s bedroom if you haven’t already. Burp (if needed), and gently rock and/or snuggle to calm baby even more.
5 minutes before sleep:
Your baby should be very drowsy. Put them down in their cot/crib before they fall asleep (this allows baby to get used to falling asleep by themselves, not in your arms)
> Pro tip 1: Have your Silky Cot Sheet already secured in the cot - babies find the silk texture soothing for sleep.
> Pro tip 2: As you are putting baby down, make sure you don’t let their head down before the rest of their body. If baby thinks they are falling (the feeling created by this motion) they will wake up on instinct usually with a jolt which ruins your whole calming approach to bed-time. Keep baby’s body as flat as possible when you lower them down.
As your baby falls asleep, try leaving the room.
Follow this exact routine and your bub will sleep right through the night, right? Wrong. Every baby is different and young babies often wake multiple times per night, which is perfectly normal. Don’t worry if bub wakes again 3 hours later or even 30 minutes later. The idea is to lay the foundation so that over time, your baby associates all these cues with sleeping. A habit or routine is not created overnight which is why consistency is so important. The more you do it, the more concrete it will become!