5 Features of an Awesome Bedtime Routine

Guest Post Written by: Sleep Expert Brittany Barrett

There are thousands of articles, books, blogs, and content written about how to get your baby to sleep through the night and the one thing you will read over and over and over again (and often skim over) is:  DOING A CONSISTENT BEDTIME ROUTINE

Now I know this seems so simple BUT I am here to tell you that there is a key to it, which is very often overlooked, and you may not be getting ahead with positive sleep skills because of it.

Here is an example of a strong bedtime routine:

  1. Bath: When babies are young it’s a challenge to help them organize their days from nights. Bath time is a great way to signal to babies that the “big sleep” is coming up— not just a short nap. Even once children are old enough to differentiate that on their own, it even helps them fall asleep easier as they get older too. When you get out of a warm bath, your body temperature drops quickly. Our body’s internal clock signals our body’s temperature to drop at night naturally to help us sleep, but getting out of a warm bath encourages it to happen more quickly and at the perfect time- right before they head off to bed for the night. 
  2. PJ’s/Lotion Massage: Making sure whatever you dress your child in is comfortable and not too warm or cool for the room temp. A lotion massage after a bath is helpful to ensure your child isn’t going to bed with overly dry/itchy skin.
  3. Sleep Sack (or swaddle if under 4 months): Sleep sacks are the safest way to keep your baby or toddler warm, and they can’t kick them off like they would a blanket. It also helps keep them from getting too active in bed or climbing out of the crib. If you make it part of your bedtime routine from an early age, your child is less likely to challenge and fight it as they get older.
  4. Feed: If your baby is of the age where they still require a bedtime feed then make sure they are put to bed with a FULL belly!
  5. Story and a Song: this is a great opportunity to spend a few minutes snuggling and making reading a part of your daily routine. Reading is such a great way to build your child’s vocabulary (even for young babies!), early literacy skills, and cultivates your child’s imagination. Not to mention books are filled with great life lessons and so much more information than toys or us parents alone can provide them with. This step of the routine is also important for babies that still have a bedtime feed to provide a small break between the feed and being placed into bed to prevent a feed to sleep reliance from occurring. 

If you do this CONGRATS!  Babies and toddlers love predictability, and thrive in familiar, comfortable environments where they feel safe and understand what is coming next.

However, here are a few things to ask yourself:

  1. Are the lights off during the process at any point?
  2. Is there music playing while the light is off?
  3. At ANY stage of this process does your child fall asleep or get super drowsy even for 1 second?

It is SO important that your child does not even get drowsy (you know, the milk coma…) or even nods off for a split second because you are ultimately starting off their sleepy time. In order for your child to be an independent and strong sleeper, the start of their sleep needs to be 100% on their own, not with your assistance.

Make sure the lights are on and that your child is kept awake.  If you want to play music as part of your routine, I suggest it ends before the feed and before the lights go out. And keep the whole routine from start to finish a length of 45 minutes maximum- you don’t want to lose the “sleep momentum” and have them catch a second wind because you missed their window to sleep!

Sleep well,

Brittany Barrett

P.S. To discuss any and all your little ones sleep needs/issues, you can book a free 15 minute consult with me here: www.weesleep.as.me/brittany

Brittany is a Certified Sleep Consultant with WeeSleep, with a background as an Early Childhood Educator as well as a certificate in Special Needs. She is a wife, and mom to a 4 year old boy, a 2 year old little girl, and a 7 month old baby boy. She has been with WeeSleep for over a year now and has a passion for helping parents navigate the waters of parenthood, including getting restful sleep for the whole family and helping each child meet their developmental milestones.