Every child’s sleep plan starts with a good routine. There are several reasons for this. For the child, it gives them a sense of predictability. Babies and children love routine, and they thrive knowing what to expect at certain points of the day. This applies especially at bedtime! Another reason is that it allows them to slowly wind down at the end of the day. They are not in a situation where they are playing with toys one minute and expected to fall asleep the next minute. Lastly, it usually involves some enjoyable time between parent and child, slowing down and reconnecting before bedtime.
Below is my idea of a good routine:
- Bath. Sure, babies don’t need to be bathed every night. But I find most babies love water, and who doesn’t feel relaxed after a nice warm bath? Also, I really cannot resist the smell of freshly washed baby hair!
- Bottle or nursing. It’s important to put the last feeding of the night towards the beginning of the routine. The reason for this is that many babies become reliant on nursing or drinking their bottle as a sleep prop and often fall asleep while eating. You want to avoid this, so that they can fall asleep independently and do not depend on eating to fall asleep either at bedtime or over and over throughout the night.
- Jammies. Whether you use cloth or disposable, be sure you are using an absorbent diaper to prevent leaks that may make your little uncomfortable during the night. Dress them in comfortable jammies that are appropriate for the temperature and a sleep sack.
- Book or song. Sit down to snuggle and read a short book or sing a song. I sit in the rocking chair with my son and say prayers with him and then sing “Baby Beluga.”
- Bedtime phrase. Finally, when baby is nice and sleepy, lay them down drowsy but awake and say your bedtime phrase. This can be “night night, Jacob!” or “I love you, Ava, it’s time for bed!” Make it consistent so it is a signal to them each night that it’s time to sleep.
Make your bedtime routine consistent, enjoyable, and no longer than 20-30 minutes from start to finish. Once you institute your routine you will have an important building block of your sleep plan in place and you will be on your way to happy healthy sleep!