Like adults, babies are creatures of habit. When it is time to get ready for bed, you probably just don’t jump into bed and close your eyes. You are more than likely following a routine - i.e. brushing your teeth, washing your face, changing clothes, etc. Like us, babies can benefit from a consistent and comfortable bedtime routine.
When should you start a bedtime routine for baby?
Don't stress about establishing a bedtime routine as soon as you get home from the hospital. Both you and the baby are recovering from your new bundle of joy entering the world! Additionally, newborns cannot yet distinguish day and night which will make establishing the routine more difficult. You can attempt to start a bedtime routine when the baby is around 6 to 8 weeks of age.
Why a baby bedtime routine is important
By following a series of steps in a consistent order every night, you will establish habits which help your brain recognize it is time to go to sleep (both baby and you!) Although the order of your routine may vary, these bedtime routine steps can help set the tone for a peaceful and calm sleep.
Put your child to sleep in the same place
It is common for babies to fall asleep in their strollers or car seats. Always strive to put your baby to sleep in their crib at around the same time, even for naps, beginning at a couple of months old. This is essential to help the baby sleep more soundly and to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Try your best to eliminate errands when it is the baby's nap time. If your little one falls asleep in the stroller or car seat, be sure to move them to their crib as soon as possible.
A Soothing Bath
A warm bath is one of the most soothing and comfortable ways to relax before bed. You can encourage extra relaxation for your little one by using a mild soap or lotion formulated with chamomile or lavender is a great way to get your little one super relaxed and calm. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend bathing newborns and babies every day due to their delicate and sensitive skin
A Gentle Baby Massage
A gentle massage can help boost the production of melatonin in babies. This hormone plays a critical role in the body’s sleep cycle. The body naturally produces more melatonin with evening darkness, which promotes healthy sleep. If you decide to apply baby lotion on their skin, you can also incorporate a gentle massage to help relieve any gas pains and ease your baby into a relaxed state.
Read a Book
Settle down into your cozy rocking chair or glider. Read a favorite book (Goodnight Moon is always a win) in a quiet, calm voice. Although your baby may not be able to understand everything you are saying, reading a book will help boost their cognitive development and language skills. Reading a book provides a quiet and slow activity that’s perfect for helping the brain calm down and is something both of you can look forward to every evening!
White Noise or Sound Machine
Babies find comfort in white noise or a musical mobile at bedtime because it is similar to the sounds heard while they were in the uterus. Just think go all of the breathing and other noises going on inside for 9 months! Therefore, entering a quiet world where everyone uses a soft voice around you might discourage the baby to stay asleep. A sound machine will provide consistent sounds to block out things like a barking dog, doorbell, or car engine. Additionally, it allows for a recognizable environment that is similar to the womb. Be sure to turn on the sound machine as part of your nighttime routine to help calm your little one and ease them to sleep.
A Soft Lullaby and Good Night
Save the silly games and tickles for earlier in the day. Singing a song or lullaby is a great tool for setting the stage for sleep. It also helps promote the bond between you and your baby. Studies have shown that lullabies comfort both the parent and baby, and can also benefit a baby’s cognitive development. Babies might not understand the words you are saying, but they LOVE the sound of your voice! Keep it short and sweet and as one of the last steps in the bedtime routine.
Keep it Simple
Once you find the routine that works for you and your baby, it’s important to stick to it. Following the steps in your routine in the same order every night will eventually teach your baby to expect sleep from the very first step. Always remember - if the baby’s awake, everyone is awake. Establishing a solid bedtime routine will make nighttime peaceful for the entire family so everyone feels refreshed the next morning. Find a short and simple routine that works well for everyone. A bedtime routine will look different from family to family, and you should follow the one that works for yours.