Your baby has finally arrived. You’ve started to get used to parenting. She has started to discover life outside of the womb. And then, you hear a random friend suggesting you should start establishing a bedtime routine.
But what’s a bedtime routine? Why should you start establishing it? And more importantly, what to include in the routine? Find it out in this guide!
Why Should You Establish A Bedtime Routine?
Moms have established bedtime routines for their babies since the dawn of times. If you hadn’t realized it by now, you probably had your own bedtime routine when you were young. Probably all babies have. Because, as studies suggest, babies sleep better when they know what’s coming next.
This rule goes for older kids as well. A bedtime routine helps little minds anticipate what’s next in their schedule, setting their psyche in rest-mode. But for this, kids need to follow a well-established pattern.
Experts suggest establishing the routine as early as possible. Studies show that babies benefit from a bedtime schedule since their first month of life. Of course, the bedtime routine will include only a few activities when the baby is young, and you can introduce more and more activities as the baby grows.
A bedtime routine can also help when traveling. Many kids have difficulties in getting to sleep in unfamiliar environments, but the routine can help them soothe and fall asleep faster.
Moreover, a bedtime routine is good for parents too. You can transform this part of the day in a beautiful ritual, enjoying quality time with your bundle of joy.
How To Establish A Good Bedtime Routine?
The most important thing in establishing a bedtime routine is to set up a list of rituals and activities to perform before sleep time. Then, follow the steps every day to induce your kid in bedtime mode.
Start implementing the bedtime routine as soon as possible, even if the baby is just a newborn. Young babies learn their rituals quickly and you’ll find it easier to soothe a fussy newborn or toddler who knows what to expect.
Timing is also important. Start the routine early in the evening and allow plenty of time for each activity. Don’t rush your kids through the routine but relax and enjoy your time with them.
A last important thing, it doesn’t matter where you start the routine, but it matters where you end it. If you’re co-sleeping, end the routine in your bedroom. If the little one sleeps in her own room, end the routine there with a few exciting rituals. Teach the kid that her bedroom is a nice place all day round, not just a chamber where she’s “exiled” at bedtime.
17 Soothing Bedtime Routine Rituals
1. Active Play
Active play is the best way to start your bedtime routine. You might be wondering what’s soothing about it. Well, active play gets your baby tired. A tired baby will fall asleep faster if all the other steps of the routine are followed.
When the baby is young, active play means distracting her with a baby mobile or projection lights, dancing with her on your favorite music or let her bounce in a baby bouncer. For active babies who crawl or walk, active play means whatever exciting activity they enjoy, such as playing with educational toys, jumping on a trampoline, or anything else they might like.
This goes for older kids too. Just let the kid play and consume energy before passing to the next ritual, bath time.
2. Relaxing Bath
Every bedtime routine should incorporate a bathing ritual. The youngest find it relaxing, a toddler finds it fun, and kids of all ages simply enjoy splashing water all over and playing with their favorite bath toys.
Bath will further drain your kid’s energy and will contribute to soothing both infants and toddlers. If your baby has lots of energy, add a few drops of chamomile or lavender essential oil to the water. If your baby is not really a friend of water and you’re concerned about bath time when traveling, it might be a great idea to invest in an inflatable infant bath tub to take with you on journeys.
3. Relaxing Massage
A relaxing massage right after a bath will contribute to soothing your bundle of joy, preparing her for bedtime. Besides, a massage has numerous health benefits. In newborns, a massage contributes to muscle and bone development, promoting growth.
Toddlers benefit from a relaxing massage, while the ritual also strengthens their muscles too. Both mom and baby benefit from the skin-on-skin contact, and some massage baby oils or ointments can even reduce or alleviate diaper rash and other dermatitis.
The massage should be short, about 10 to 15 minutes are usually enough to relax muscles and soothe the baby.
4. Cut Off Lights
With your baby all washed up and relaxed, it’s time to reduce the lights. Light up a soft bedtime light instead of using the intense ceiling lamp. Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep.
At this point, it’s recommended to avoid watching TV, using a PC or playing games on mobile devices. None of these bring any benefits to the bedtime routine, let alone they are not indicated for young kids anyway.
5. Pick Out Pajamas
So, what to do instead of staring at a screen? Pick out pajamas. If the baby is really young, you can pick them for her. Once she started to develop preferences, involve the kid in the ritual letting her choose whatever she wants to sleep into.
Encourage your little one to have initiative by not interfering with her choice. Then, help her put on the bedtime outfit and get ready for the next step of the ritual.
6. Pick Out Bedtime Story
Like pajamas, your baby should also be able to pick the bedtime story. It doesn’t matter it’s the same book you’ve already read a zillion times. By letting the child express a preference you help her build character. By asking your baby why she wants the same story over and over again, you can even teach her how to stand for her choices.
A bedtime story is also important because it induces the little ones into sleep mode while it creates a stronger bond between baby and parents.
7. Warm Milk
Most newborns and infants drink milk right before bedtime. And this ritual soothes older kids too. If you have to deal with a fussy toddler, offer her a bottle of warm milk. If your kid has difficulties falling asleep, warm milk can still help.
For toddlers and kids, warm milk can even replace a bedtime snack and keep them full until the next morning. After all, the last thing you want is a hungry toddler waking you up in the middle of the night.
8. Teeth Wash And Potty Time
Good hygiene practices should be taught from a young age. You can start brushing the gums of an infant from about three or four months with a soft toothbrush. Once the first teeth erupt, accustom your baby to brushing them regularly.
Once the teeth are clean, it’s potty time, or simply put a clean diaper on a young baby. By teaching your kid to use the potty before bedtime, it’s less likely to have her wake up in the middle of the night for a loo.
9. Glass Of Water
Introduce this ritual at around 18 months, or about when your kid might start to ask for water before falling asleep. Fill a glass or a sippy cup with water and place in on the nightstand next to the bed. How is this soothing?
Most toddlers and kids try to find excuses to get out of the bed if they’re not really sleepy. And more often than not, the excuse is they need water. Don’t give them the opportunity to build up energy and have a glass of water at hand when getting your baby into bed.
10. Bedtime Talk
Once your baby is in the bed, take some time to just talk. Follow this ritual even if the baby is too young to talk or even to understand what you’re saying. For newborns and infants, just listening to their parent’s voice is soothing.
Toddlers and kids can tell you how their day has been, share their worries, joys, and concerns. You can even stimulate their imagination by asking what they think they will dream that night.
11. Read Bedtime Story
After you’ve shared your stories, it’s time to read the bedtime story the kid has picked for the night. Sit next to the bed, or lay alongside your bundle of joy, and read the story letting the child enjoy the pictures in the book.
If your bundle of joy is still an infant, read to her while swinging in a rocking chair. Again, your voice is soothing for your baby, and this will relax her even more.
12. Bedtime Yoga
If the baby hasn’t fallen asleep by now, it’s bedtime yoga time. Find a few simple stretching movements that are simple for toddlers to perform, and let the child stretch her muscles and bones. This favors blood circulation and improves tissue oxygenation. Moreover, stretching is also relaxing.
Lullabies have always been associated with bedtime. They are soothing and babies of all ages love them. Choose a song to sing your baby every night. With time, your baby will learn it and you too can sing along together.
Some moms even choose a lullaby long before the baby is born. In this way, the baby learns the song from the womb and the familiar sounds soothe her even more.
14. Soothing Sounds
It’s surprising how many parents believe babies sleep better when there is quiet. But that’s not exactly accurate. Babies are accustomed to sounds and noises, and silence is something new for them.
In fact, the womb isn’t a silent place. The flow of blood, bowel movements, mom’s heartbeat, are all sources of noise. The voices of the parents are also amplified by the tiny environment in which the embryo develops. That’s why most babies find it more comforting sleeping in a noisy room.
White sound machines are able to soothe the baby, or you can just use an mp3 player to play soothing nature sounds or tranquil melodies. You can even leave the music on for the whole night.
You don’t have to believe in anything or belong to a religion to introduce this ritual in your baby’s bedtime routine. This moment is rather a moment of thanking God, the Universe, or whoever you want about everything that happened during the day.
This is also the moment when the kid can express her wishes for the days to come.
16. Say Goodnight
It’s now the time to say goodnight. This moment of the bedtime routine foretells that it’s time to turn off the lights, close the eyelids and sleep. Keep it short and simply say goodnight to your baby.
17. Goodnight Kiss
End the bedtime routine with a goodnight kiss ritual. Lean over the crib or toddler bed, snuggle your baby and give her a kiss. This will help both of you fall asleep by feeling the warmth and love of the other.