One of the easiest, and most effective tools you can implement to get your child to sleep through the night is to establish a bedtime routine. It’s no secret that children thrive on routine, and a bedtime routine is one of the foundations for successful sleep. Choosing steps that are achievable night after night allows children to anticipate what happens next and ultimately learn that sleep is the final step.
Since we know a bedtime routine is a great idea, let’s dive into some questions you may be asking…
1.) What age should I start a bedtime routine?
Answer: As soon as possible
It’s very appropriate to start a bedtime routine in the newborn phase, as this helps newborns differentiate their days vs nights. It also prepares their bodies for longer stretches of sleep.
If you have an older infant and you still haven’t implemented a bedtime routine, that’s okay…it’s never too late to start. In fact, I often work with toddlers and older children who have never had a bedtime routine prior to working together, and that is one of the first things we work on together.
2.) How long should a bedtime routine be?
Answer: 30 minutes (or less)
It has been proven that infants and children have a short attention span. Since the point of the bedtime routine, is to teach children that sleep comes at the end of our routine, we don’t want to drag on the steps so long that the child loses interest and ultimately forgets that sleep is next. On top of that, who really has the time to spend 1+ hours every night putting your child to bed. 30 minutes should be ample time to complete a routine, and if you are really dialed in, this could be as little as 10-15 minutes
3.) What should a bedtime routine look like?
Answer: Do what works for your family
I know that’s a broad answer but it’s the truth. Every family I work with is different when it comes to schedule with work, extracurriculars, eating, etc. It’s not fair for me to ask a family to start bedtime routine at 6:30 when they don’t get home from work until 6:30. Do what works for your family when it comes to timing and schedule but pick steps that are easy and achievable every night so you can be consistent. An example of a bedtime routine may look something like this:
Bath — Lotion — Diaper/Pajamas — Book — Snuggles — Into Bed
I ask all my families to choose wisely… The last thing you want is to be reading 5 books every night for the past 5 years (ha-ha)
4.) What is the secret to a good bedtime routine?
Bedtime routine steps should look the same every night. This goes for mom, dad, grandma, or any other caregiver that puts the child to bed. When every situation looks the same and ends the same (in their bed ready for sleep), this drastically improves the likelihood of good sleep. If you stay consistent, your child will even tell you the steps of the routine as soon as he/she is able to.
5.) What is the most common mistake when it comes to bedtime routines?
Answer: Not staying consistent. Are you catching a theme here?