If sleep is a constant battle in your house, you are in the right spot! Creating a great bedtime routine for your child might be what’s missing.
Let’s jump right in!
What is a bedtime routine?
A bedtime routine is the activities that you do every night in the same order at the same time in the hour or so leading up to bedtime.
Why have a bedtime routine for your child?
There are numerous reasons why having a bedtime routine is beneficial for your child.
By having a routine leading up to bedtime, your kiddo will learn that these activities mean it’s time to start winding down. As a result, there will be less of a struggle when it comes time to go to sleep.
Another benefit of a bedtime routine is that it creates an excellent time for bonding at the end of the day.
At what age should you start a bedtime routine?
When it comes to starting a bedtime routine with your baby, you can begin as early as six weeks old. If you choose to start that early, remember to keep the routine short and simple.
We didn’t incorporate a bedtime routine until our kiddo was about nine months old; we simply didn’t know how crucial they are!
Also, we thought that since we were still room sharing, a routine wouldn’t work. That’s not the case! Regardless of where your child is sleeping, having a predictable schedule before bed will be so helpful.
Another thing to keep in mind when deciding when to start a bedtime routine is that your routine will most likely change as your child gets older. You might find that you want to incorporate different things, or maybe some aren’t working anymore.
Remember, you know your child best, so don’t be afraid to change things if something in your routine isn’t helping.
Before we get into how to make your own bedtime routine, here is our experience with how beneficial they are:
Before we started a bedtime routine for our son, we always struggled with his sleep.
For example, getting him to go to sleep was always a fight. It was unpredictable whether he would go to sleep at his bedtime or if we would still be trying to get him to go to sleep an hour later.
Once he did fall asleep, he would sleep for such tiny stretches at a time. He would sleep for a couple of hours and then wake up and cry for us to get him.
Since his bedtime was so irregular, it was hard for us to keep a routine during the day. He had varying nap times because he never woke up around the same time due to bedtime issues.
We knew that there had to be something that would help, and that’s when we decided he needed a bedtime routine.
We started implementing a bedtime routine when our son was about nine months old.
Also, we decided that we would switch our son to his own room around the same time we started his bedtime routine.
He started sleeping in his room about a week before his new routine started, and surprisingly, he has no issues with that aspect.
So let’s fast forward.
About a week after implementing the bedtime routine, our kiddo started looking forward to the routine activities!
He also stopped fighting his bedtime and started going to sleep right at his bedtime every night.
Because he was consistently going to bed on time, we were able to make a better daytime routine, and his naps started to happen at the same time each day.
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to start a regular bedtime routine a lot sooner!
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Activities To Choose From When Making Your Routine:
When creating a bedtime routine for your child, the following activities are great stepping stones to getting you to your end goal: better sleep!
After Dinner Toy Pickup
Once your family finishes dinner, start picking up the house! If your child is old enough to help, let them!
Go through the main areas of your home, put the toys away, and pick up any items that need to be put away.
Doing a quick pick-up of your home each day is such a good habit to start because it helps your home stay organized.
It also helps show your child that they can help around the house and tidy up after themselves.
Bathing your child before bed is an excellent activity to add to your bedtime routine. This is because a nice, warm bath is very calming to many children.
Bathtime before bed is especially significant in the summer months. If your kiddo gets dirty from playing outside, this gives you a chance to clean them up before putting on PJs.
- The Ultimate Guide For Newborn Bathing
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Baby massage is another relaxing activity, and you can continue to do this as your baby gets older, too!
With our toddler, we use this lotion every night after bath time. This ensures that his skin is staying hydrated in the dry climate that we live in, and it also helps to relax his muscles.
Whether you choose to do bath time at night or not, your kiddo will need to put on PJ’s!
If your child is a little older, you can include them in picking out which pajamas they wear that night.
Once your child starts to get teeth, you will want to start cleaning them at least once a day. It’s great to clean your child’s teeth at night after they finish any feedings.
If you aren’t ready to use a toothbrush, you can use a damp cloth to wipe the teeth.
Once our kiddo was around a year old, we started using this toothbrush and toothpaste, and it’s always been one of his favorite parts of bedtime! I think he likes the fruity toothpaste. 🙂
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Storytime is a great addition to a child’s bedtime routine; reading with your child every day is so beneficial, and bedtime ensures you have the time for it!
If your child isn’t super interested in books yet, maybe start with one short story.
You don’t even have to read it necessarily; you can point to the pictures and talk about what’s going on in the pages. Another excellent option for little ones is touch and feel books!
These two simple suggestions might just be all that you need to pique their interest in reading!
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If you love singing to your child, lullabies will be fantastic for you to sing to them at bedtime. Your child loves the sound of your voice, and singing gentle and quiet songs will be very calming.
Say Night-Night To The Room
We started saying night-night to everything in my son’s room one night as a distraction when he was super upset, and it just stuck!
When we turned his focus from crying to talking about the different things in his room, it immediately calmed him down.
For example, we walked around his room and said ‘night-night, dresser. Night-night stuffed animals. Night-night books.” and so on. Now he likes saying goodnight to his room every night.
If you have ever read Good Night Moon, it’s kind of similar to that book.
Turn On The Night Light
Another thing our son loves doing at night is turning his night light on. We have this touch night light, and it’s terrific! It has so many sounds and different light options, and you can control it from your phone!
While we are getting our son ready for bed, we have the night light as bright as it can go since it’s much less bright than the other light in the room. We also have it playing the lullaby music.
Once we are finished with his routine, we have our son touch the top of the night light, and it switches to his night time preset of white noise and the lowest setting of light. He is always fascinated that it changes with his touch.
This final option is just however you lay your baby down for sleep. If you like to rock with your child for a little bit, or if you lay your kiddo down and give them a good night kiss, then that is the last step of your routine!
Optional – Breastfeeding
If you are breastfeeding, it’s a great idea to do your nursing session at the beginning of your routine. This will ensure your child doesn’t fall asleep while nursing, which is a super hard habit to kick!
Also, by finishing your nursing session at the beginning of your routine, you will be able to clean your child’s teeth before they go to sleep.
To give you an idea, here is our current bedtime routine for our 18-month-old:
- 6:45 – We finish eating dinner
- 6:45-7:00 – We pick up the kitchen/living areas and put away toys in the living room and bedroom.
- 7:00-7:15 – Breastfeed. Our son isn’t completely weaned from breastfeeding, so he still has a nursing session after dinner.
- 7:15-7:40 – Bath time!
- 7:40-7:45 – Put on lotion and PJs, and brush teeth.
- 7:45-7:55 – Read three short bedtime stories.
- 7:55-8:00 – Rock in the chair and then lay down in the crib to sleep.
As you can see, our bedtime routine takes about an hour and fifteen minutes. It works like a charm for us right now, but it will inevitably change once our kiddo has completely weaned from breastfeeding.
Tips For Bedtime Routine Success:
Once you have your bedtime routine all set and ready to go, keep these tips in mind as you start to implement your new changes.
Try not to include any electronics in your bedtime routine! You will want to turn off things like TVs and tablets at least an hour before you want your child to go to sleep.
Electronics give off certain lights that are proven to keep you awake, and that will make it harder for your kiddo to relax when it comes time.
You will want to try your hardest to keep your child’s bedtime routine as consistent as possible. Consistency is critical when it comes to routines and children.
After doing your routine, your kiddo will start to expect these activities and, ultimately, look forward to them!
Evaluate What Time Is Bedtime
When our son was around six months old, we realized that his bedtime was too late. I had read that having a later bedtime doesn’t mean that your child will sleep in, so we bumped his bedtime from 8:00 pm to 7:00 pm.
Then a little before he turned 18-months, we pushed his bedtime back to 8:00 pm because by that point, 7:00 pm was just too early for him.
You will want to move your child’s bedtime in 15-minute increments until you get to your desired time.
It Might Take Time
As with any change, it may take time for your child to adjust. Once you come up with a bedtime routine for your kiddo, make sure you stick with it for at least a week before deciding it isn’t working.
If your child is still struggling with bedtime, reevaluate the routine and figure out what isn’t working—experiment with removing one aspect of the routine and see if that helps.
Dim The Lights
When anyone is trying to relax, having dim lights makes a world of difference. Try to do whatever you need to make sure the room you are in is peaceful.
Give Yourself Enough Time
The last thing you want during a bedtime routine is to be rushing around! That isn’t calming for anyone.
If you find that you are continually running out of time and going past when you wanted your child to go to bed, start increasing when you start the routine by 5 minutes a day. It may take a few days to find your groove!
Make Sure Your Activities Are Calming
Make sure that whatever activities you choose to do before bed are calming. Tickle fights or wrestling are not going to be conducive to relaxing your kiddo.
Remember, there can be set backs!
Things like teething and growth spurts can be significant setbacks! If everything is going fine and your child took to the routine, but all of the sudden they hate going to bed, stop and take a closer look.
In our experience, teething is usually the culprit of our son’s sleep disturbances!
So there you have it! Finding the best bedtime routine for your child should be helpful if you are struggling like we were. It might also be your family’s new favorite time of the day if you are all able to come together and have calming quality time.
Before you go, check out these related articles:
- Easy Ways To Calm Your Baby During Bath
- Do I Need a Baby Monitor? The Ultimate Guide
- Crucial Tips for Going Shopping With Your Baby
- How To Keep Baby (Safely) Warm in a Car Seat
- The Best Tips for Fixing Newborn Day-Night Confusion
Do you have a bedtime routine for your child? I would love to know what your family’s favorite part of bedtime is! Let me know in the comments below.