How to Establish a Bedtime Routine to Make Nighttime Easier
If kids had it their way, they’d probably never sleep. Their little bodies are so busy exploring all day that it’s important that they get a healthy amount of sleep each night. But for many parents, bedtime is a struggle. This is where a bedtime routine that’s followed diligently can come in handy - both for children and their parents! It may seem straightforward, but you’d be surprised how much easier it is to get your child to bed when they have sleep cues and know what to expect. Here are some simple ideas to make night time easy a little easier.
Try a Countdown for Sleep (For Toddlers and Older Children)
Reminding children how much time is left before bedtime can help them wrap their head around the concept better than if they’re simply told it’s time for bed right now. When it’s almost time to start getting ready for bed, let your child know there are 5 or 10 minutes left for what they’re doing at that moment. For younger children, it can help to offer a few reminders during that time frame about how much time is left. By the time the countdown is over, the child is more likely to accept that it’s time to get ready for bed.
Your child’s bedtime routine might start with a bath. It may not be every night, but bathtime is so soothing for little ones and can be the first step in winding down.
After bathtime, apply lotion to your child’s skin, both to add moisture and as a calming massage. Parents.com has a great guide to infant massage. Consider trying lavender-scented lotion as it has a calming effect and if done nightly could become a great sleep cue for your little one.
If your child is old enough for teeth brushing, now is the time to get that out of the way before you wind down with your child in their bedroom.
Get Dressed for Bed
A clean nighttime diaper, pajamas and SleepSack® swaddle or wearable blanket come next. Many children associate bedtime with their SleepSack® wearable blanket or swaddle, so it can be a huge cue for winding down. For older children, try our SleepSack® early walker, which has foot holes so little walkers can still move around.
Do a Quiet Wind-Down Activity with Your Child
For many parents, this means reading. For others, it may be playing with quiet toys in the child’s room. Whatever the case may be, show your child that your focus is on them during this time and that now is when you settle your bodies and get ready for rest. Now is a good time to keep the lights low. Install a dimmer in your child’s bedroom, or just keep a small lamp on. If your child has a special lovie or soother, give it to them as you read. If you have a rocker, rocking as you read is also a great way to start to lull your child to dreamland.
Nighttime Feeding (For Babies)
Whether baby is breastfeeding or bottle feeding, a full belly can help baby sleep for longer periods.
Put Your Child Down While They’re Drowsy But Awake
To ensure good sleep habits, try to put your baby in the crib or bassinet to sleep while they are nodding off, but still awake, so they will learn to fall asleep in the crib.
There may be times when you can’t stick to the routine. Don’t beat yourself up! Just get right back into it the next day and help your child to remember what bedtime means. Remember, these ideas are flexible and can be customized to whatever fits your life and your children and may change as they grow.