Baby Bedtime Routine Guide
Establishing a consistent and calming bedtime routine is important for helping babies wind down and get good sleep. The right routine signals to a baby’s body that it’s time to relax and sleep. It also gives babies a sense of security and consistency, which promotes better sleep.
Creating a soothing bedtime routine doesn’t have to be complicated. With some planning and consistency, you can develop a routine that works for your baby and makes bedtime easier for the whole family. Here are some practical tips and guides to start a bedtime routine for your baby.
1. Set a consistent bedtime
Pick a bedtime and stick to it as much as possible, even on weekends. Consistency is key in establishing productive sleep patterns. Aim for a bedtime between 6-8 pm, depending on your baby’s age and sleep needs.
2. Create a calming environment
Keep the lights dim in the hour leading up to bedtime. Play soft, soothing music. Make sure the bedroom temperature is comfortable, not too hot or cold. You may want to diffuse calming essential oils like lavender to help relax your baby.
3. Give a warm bath
A warm (not hot) bath helps lower a baby’s body temperature which tells the brain it’s time to sleep. Keep bathroom lights dim. Avoid loud splashing. Make the bath part of the baby’s bedtime routine each night.
4. Put on pajamas
After the bath, put the baby in a fresh diaper and comfortable pajamas to help cue that it’s time for bed. Use this as an opportunity for a gentle touch and to speak softly.
5. Read a quiet story
Reading a short, calming storybook helps signal to baby that bedtime is approaching. Cuddle them closely as you read. Avoid books that are overly stimulating.
6. Offer a feeding
If the baby is still bottled or breastfeeding, offer a feeding as part of the bedtime routine. Keep lights low and speak softly. The act of feeding is comforting and soothing for babies.
7. Play soft music
Continue playing soft lullabies, nature sounds, or white noise as you rock and cuddle baby to the point of drowsiness before laying them in the crib. This masks any disruptive noises.
8. Say goodnight
9. Avoid Screen Time
It’s best to avoid screen time like TV, tablets, and smartphones in the hour leading up to baby’s bedtime. The blue light emitted from these devices can be stimulating and inhibit the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. This can make it harder for baby to wind down and fall asleep.
10. Use Calming Scents
Using calming scents is another great way to help create a soothing environment that promotes sleep. The scent of lavender has been shown to have a calming, sleep-promoting effect. Diffuse lavender essential oil in the baby’s room in the evening or put a few drops on crib sheets. Stay away from chemical air fresheners or strong scents that could irritate the baby.
11. Give the baby a massage
A gentle, calming massage with lotion or baby oil helps soothe and relax muscles. Use soft, stroking motions to massage arms, legs, back, and tummy.
12. Do calming stretches
Slowly stretch the baby’s arms and legs in a gentle, flowing way. This is calming and feels good before bed. Hold each stretch for up to 30 seconds.
13. Avoid overtiredness
Stick to a consistent bedtime that avoids the baby from becoming overtired. Overtired babies struggle to fall asleep. Time bedtime properly.
14. Give a lovey or toy
Having a special stuffed animal or blanket provides comfort and security at bedtime.
15. Don’t rush the process
It takes time for babies to wind down. Allow at least 30 minutes to transition smoothly to sleep.
Creating a consistent, soothing bedtime routine is one of the best ways to promote healthy sleep for your baby and the whole family. With a calming bath, dim lights, soft music, nursing or a bottle, stories, and cuddles, you’ll be establishing a routine that helps the baby relax and transition into slumber. Say goodnight in the same way each time. Be patient and consistent, and your baby will soon come to associate the routine with feeling sleepy. Learn here more about baby care and healthy growth.
Q. How do you transition from co-sleeping to a crib at bedtime?
A. Gradually move the co-sleeping child further away from parents over a period of weeks. Then move to a mattress on the floor in the nursery, then finally the crib.
Q. What if my baby fights diaper changes and pajamas as part of the bedtime routine?
A. Try making it fun by singing songs or playing peek-a-boo. Schedule diaper changes earlier if becoming too disruptive right before bed.
Q. Is swaddling safe once a baby can roll over?
– No, once a baby can roll over swaddling is no longer recommended. Use a sleep sack instead to transition away from swaddling.
Q. Can I rock my baby to sleep every night?
A. Occasionally is fine but avoid making rocking to sleep an association by varying the routine. Put baby down drowsy but awake.
Q. How do I get my baby to accept a lovey or stuffed animal at bedtime?
A. Try introducing it early, having it near the baby regularly so it picks up their scent. Rub it gently on their cheek before bed.
Q. What if my baby is overstimulated before bedtime?
A. Adjust the routine to make it more calming. Turn off screens, dim lights, play soft music, and reduce active playtime before bed.
Q. Is it OK for babies to fall asleep nursing at night?
A. It’s fine every once in a while but not as an every-night association. Try to put them in the crib drowsy but awake.
Q. At what age can you start a consistent bedtime routine?
A. Bedtime routines can start around 2-3 months old but may not be consistent until 6 months when circadian rhythms mature.
Q. Is it normal for a bedtime routine not to work yet for my young baby?
A. Yes, it takes time for a bedtime routine to take effect in very young infants under 6 months. Remain patient and consistent.
Q. How do I pick the right bedtime for my baby?
A. Watch for tired signs like rubbing eyes, disengagement, and crankiness. Pick a bedtime about 60-90 minutes after they show the first tired cue.