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A bedtime routine is an essential part of healthy baby and toddler sleep habits! A consistent bedtime routine will prepare your baby or toddler to the fact that bedtime is approaching; it can also serve to relax your child and help your baby or toddler fall asleep quickly and calmly. But how can you craft the perfect baby or toddler bedtime routine? I share my top tips below!
Start winding down before you start the bedtime routine
This is a big one for toddlers. By the way Toddler Beds are a great way to inculcate a bedtime routine. Toddler beds encourage independence and safety. Talking of a bedtime routine, about 20-30 minutes before bedtime, start shifting towards a quieter, more relaxing activity; this will help the bedtime routine go smoothly.
Your baby or toddler’s age and temperament should dictate the length of your bedtime routine
Newborns and young infants need relatively short bedtime routines (5 minutes can be enough), while toddlers may need longer bedtime routines, since they’ll need more wind-down time. High-energy children may need a longer bedtime routine as well. Here again, toddler beds can come to your rescue.
Your bedtime routine should start at about the same time each night
You don’t have to time this down to the minute, but ensure that you’re doing the bedtime routine at roughly the same time each night. After all, it’s only “routine” if it’s consistent from one night to the next! To select a great bedtime, check out my blog on, Why reading aloud to children is a good idea.
A bath isn’t always a good element in a bedtime routine
This is a bit surprising, but it’s true. While some children may find a warm bath relaxing, others may actually get more wound up by a bath, which obviously defeats the purpose. If your child finds a bath too stimulating for bedtime, try offering bath time during a point in the day when you want your child to be awake and alert.
Offering a snack before bed can work well for high-energy toddlers
If your baby or toddler tends to wake up hungry in the night, try offering more food during the day and a snack before bed. Just be sure it’s a healthy snack that’s low in sugar – and be sure your toddler brushes her teeth before getting in to bed!
For toddlers, give a warning before you start the routine
Instituting a bedtime count down can be great for toddlers, and can combat bedtime resistance. Alert your toddler when it’s 10 minutes until bedtime, then 5 minutes, and then 1 minute, etc. You can even let a kitchen timer, or your phone’s timer, do the counting down for you!
Dress your child appropriately for bed
Many of us tend to overdress our little ones for fear they’ll get cold at night, but in reality, one light layer of PJs plus a blanket or sleeping bag is usually enough. And here’s another Nani's tip – if you have a PJ-resisting toddler on your hands, let your toddler participate in the routine by choosing his own PJs each night.
Read a few bedtime stories with your child
The bedtime routine provides an excellent opportunity for you to settle in and read to your child (something that every family should do together). Just be sure that you’re picking bedtime friendly books that support sleep training - a book that has your toddler shouting and stomping around won’t work at all!
If you haven’t already, introduce a lovey
Loveys, or attachment objects, are great tools to help your baby or toddler learn to self-soothe. When your child has an object other than you that can provide comfort and soothing, it goes a long way towards helping your child feel calm at bedtime, and they have an easier time falling back to sleep when they wake at night.
Give your routine a definite end – otherwise, it may feel like it lasts all night!
It’s crucial that you end your routine the same way each night. You could say a certain phrase, sing a special song, play a lull-a-bye, turn on a special nightlight, etc. Then, after this special ending, leave the room. Over time, your child will learn that your phrase/song/nightlight moment means it’s time to settle in and fall asleep.
We hope you’ve been able to resonate with some, if not all of the above, tips.