Spring clean your baby’s bedtime routine
By Cradlewise Staff
Spring clean your baby’s bedtime routine
By Cradlewise Staff
If you’ve ever found yourself in a seemingly endless loop of goodnight kisses, storybooks, and lullabies while putting your little one to bed, it might be time to spring clean your bedtime routine.
Don’t get us wrong — a consistent bedtime routine is good for babies and parents. Research shows starting a bedtime routine early in infancy has long-term benefits, including improved sleep quality and fewer overnight wake-ups.
According to the Sleep Foundation, a bedtime routine can also “lay the groundwork for working memory, attention, and other cognitive skills” while “foster[ing] parent-child bonding, and may help improve mood, stress levels, and behavior.” Not to mention the impact a happy and well-rested baby can have on your mood as parents. 😍
But when the bedtime routine takes up most of your night (“first we’ll snuggle, then it’s bathtime, then after an hour-long soak we do a 30-minute baby yoga routine, then it’s time for a nice infant massage…”), that’s too much of a good thing.
For all the bleary-eyed parents out there struggling to get through bedtime, you’re in the right place. Here are a few expert-backed tips for spring-cleaning your child’s bedtime routine.
1. Keep it short and sweet
A bedtime routine for babies or toddlers should consist of 3 to 4 brief, relaxing activities, for example, a warm bath, fresh pjs, a diaper change, and a bedtime book. For babies, you may want to include a bedtime feed, and for toddlers, a bedtime snack or milk.
Other activities suggested by the Sleep Foundation include:
- Teeth brushing and a bathroom visit (for toddlers)
- Infant massage
Finish with a kiss goodnight and turn off the lights. Experts recommend putting your child to bed while they’re drowsy but still awake so that they can learn to fall asleep on their own.
2. Make the steps consistent and predictable
Dr. Nilong Vyas MD, pediatrician at Sleepless in NOLA and Medical Review expert at SleepFoundation.org, advises parents to agree on a set, consistent bedtime routine that all caregivers can stick to, with as little deviation as possible: “It’s essential, especially for toddlers, for all caregivers to be on the same page about the routine and in what order it will occur.”
According to Dr.Craig Canapari, M.D., author of It’s Never Too Late to Sleep Train and the director of the Yale Pediatric Sleep Center, “You want a simple routine that one parent can do in a pinch, because the other parent may need to rest or do something else around the house.”
Dr. Nyas also notes that the longer the bedtime routine is, the harder it is to implement. You risk delays and an overtired baby or toddler, especially on nights when you’re strapped for time. Dr. Vyas recommends creating a bedtime checklist to keep in your child’s room.
Some tips for staying consistent with your child’s bedtime routine:
- Start at the same time every night
- Follow each activity in order
- Find a routine that works and stick to it
- Introduce changes gradually and one at a time
3. Avoid screen time
iPads, TVs, and phones at least an hour before bedtime are a no-go. Studies have shown that even for babies as young as 3 months old, screen time can impact their sleep by overstimulating them. Screen exposure before bed seriously degrades the quality of infant sleep, meaning they may wake up more often. It’s best to avoid all devices before bedtime.
4. Set the stage: Dark, cool, and quiet
Here are some ways to create the ideal sleep environment for your little one:
- Set the thermostat at 68 to 72°F. Our bodies naturally begin to cool off at night to improve sleep. At the right temperature, your baby will fall asleep faster and sleep deeper. Keeping the room slightly cool also reduces the risk of overheating.
If it’s too cold or too hot, your baby’s body will try to regulate their temperature which takes a lot of energy. They’ll have trouble falling asleep and won’t sleep as long or as deeply.
- Keep the room dark to avoid overstimulation at bedtime. Blackout curtains or blinds work wonders.
- Block out unwanted noise with a sound machine. White noise can help mask household sounds so you won’t have to tiptoe around at night. Carpets and thick curtains also work wonders to deflect sound and reduce noise.
Cradlewise comes with a built-in sound machine that can be used to create custom sleep tracks with white, pink, and brown noise, lullabies, and more.
5. Remember, all babies are different
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for the perfect bedtime routine, and what calms one baby might not work with another.
Maybe your baby prefers a little Taylor Swift to white noise. As a parent, you’ll eventually learn your baby’s cues and responses and can adjust their bedtime routine accordingly.
6. Stay strong and stick with it
Especially at first, you may struggle to stick to a bedtime routine with your baby. Newborn sleep is famously erratic because, for the first few weeks, they don’t have a set schedule and don’t yet know day from night. However, starting a bedtime routine from day one is recommended because your baby will eventually start to associate the routine with sleep.
Even after your bedtime routine is well-established, you can expect that there might still be some nights with tears or trips to your room, as your child goes through developmental changes and potential sleep regressions. Maintaining a consistent bedtime routine won’t always be easy — and that’s okay! It happens to all parents, and it doesn’t mean the routine’s not working.
As much as you can, keep your bedtime routine consistent, short, sweet, and supportive — that’s the way to establish healthy sleep habits for the whole family.
Bedtime don’ts from the Sleep Foundation:
- Avoid active play right before bedtime: Active play during the day is fine and even encouraged — and with springtime bringing longer, warmer days, there are plenty of ways to keep your baby engaged and occupied: Take them for a short stroll, let them splash around in a kiddie pool, blow bubbles with them, or enjoy a picnic in the sunshine.
However active your days may be, be sure to wind down several hours before bedtime: Attempts to “tire them out” with physical play will leave your little one too overstimulated to settle down to sleep.
- Don’t start the bedtime routine after they’re already sleepy: Time it right: If you start your bedtime routine after your child is overtired, they may be grumpy or hyper, and won’t fall asleep easily.
- No weekend lie-ins: Tempting as it sounds, letting your kids sleep in will make it more difficult to fall asleep at their usual time at night.
- Simplifying bedtime. 2022. Sleep Foundation. Bedtime routines for children.
- The benefits of a bedtime routine. 2022. Cleveland Clinic. Should your baby have a bedtime routine?
- How to make a nursery dark. Postpartum Party. Four ways to make your baby’s nursery dark.
- Soundproofing a nursery. Soundproofs. How to build a soundproof nursery.