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Why do you need to create a bedtime routine?
There is one simple reason why you need to create a bedtime routine and that is to teach your little one how to sleep through the night. Sleep is such a precious thing for both parents and kids. Right from the first moment, we are blessed with our babies we lose a lot of desperately needed sleep. Newborn babies do not understand or have the ability to sleep through the night.
First-time moms learn this the hard way. If this is you, then I am sure you have constantly been told to enjoy your sleep while you still can. I hated hearing it, but once my first was born I couldn’t believe how true it was. It took me experiencing the first month with my newborn to truly understand the lack of sleep I would be getting.
So after the first week of barely getting any decent sleep, I set out to figure out how I could change that. Sadly I learned it would take time before I saw any results. But one thing I did gather from all my research was that I needed to set up a firm schedule right away for the baby.
And that is exactly what we did. We were already kind of doing it before, but we made a bigger effort once hearing that piece of advice from the multiple people on the internet.
The good news I can tell you is that it paid off beyond our expectations with both of our boys. With our bedtime routine set up now, we can get both boys in bed and asleep between 8:30 and 9:00 PM every day. They don’t fight to go to bed (unless they are sick) and it is really easy to get them to that point.
Before we go into how to create a bedtime routine, it helps to understand the reasons why babies don’t sleep through the night naturally.
Reason 1 – They are hungry.
During the first few months of your baby’s life, their only job is to grow. That is why they eat and sleep so much. All their energy is being used to grow and they go through that energy really fast. Hence why they have to eat constantly.
They need to eat constantly means that your baby will most likely wake up every 2-3 hours during that first month. It is a hard time to get through, but don’t worry you can do it. Remember that generations of mothers have done it and use that knowledge as your strength.
Something to note: if you are breastfeeding your baby then the time between feedings is usually shorter than those who choose to formula feed. This is because breastmilk is processed much quicker than formula.
Reason 2 – They have day/night confusion.
So this is a real and horrible thing. Your baby does not understand the concept of day and night. They don’t know that we are awake during the day and asleep at night.
To understand this a little better, think back to when you had your baby in your womb. Now think about the differences you felt in baby movement from when you were active and inactive.
When you were active and moving a lot, that movement would be you rocking your baby to sleep. And we typically do most of our movement during the day.
Compare that to when you were finally ready to go to sleep and you were laying down. I bet a lot of you moms felt those kicks start. For me, it would take anywhere between 5-10 minutes of laying in bed before both of my boys would start kicking. It was annoying. All I wanted to do was sleep.
So when your baby is born they are unfortunately unable to tell that they need to sleep at night. I know this is a frustration, but this is why it is so important to start your perfect bedtime routine as soon as possible.
These reasons mostly focus on babies, but if you did not start a bedtime routine right away your child might have problems falling asleep for different reasons.
The biggest factor would be that they don’t have a set schedule. Children seem to thrive when they have some kind of routine in their life. I know a couple whose kid goes to sleep at a different time each night. Sometimes at 8 PM and other times at 11 PM. This is hard on both the parents and kid.
If your child is older and does not have a bedtime routine, then this might be a little more difficult for you, but the results will change your life is you stick with it.
There are 4 awesome reasons to have a bedtime routine.
1. Children learn to sleep through the night with no troubles.
This is one of the steps you will need to take to help your little one learn to sleep through the night. A nightly bedtime routine creates subtle cues that help the brain know it is time to sleep. Think about how you go about getting ready for bed.
2. It sets up a time for parents to have for themselves.
This was really needed for my husband and me (especially with our first baby). We needed that time that didn’t include a baby to reconnect and just relax. Little kids require a lot of attention to make sure they are staying out of trouble and that is exhausting.
3. It can create beautiful memories.
Our bedtime routine involves reading and our toddler loves it so much. He loves to cuddle up and read so many books. And I love it too. These moments are so wonderful and give us parents the best opportunity to embrace it. They revive us after a long day and can fill us with such love. Sorry mushy, but I love bedtime with my boys.
4. They don’t fight when it is bedtime.
A constant routine means that this is their normal. So now when it is time to sleep you won’t have to constantly fight to get them into bed. Don’t get me wrong there will definitely be times when they won’t want to go to bed, but for the most part, they will enjoy it. Especially if you made bedtime something to look forward to.
When should you start the bedtime routine?
In general, this is mostly up to you and/or your significant other. The most important factor to consider is your schedule. Try to work the bedtime routine around your schedule. Don’t only think about when you want to put your baby to bed, but also think about when they will wake up.
This is more of a concern for working parents compared to stay at home parents. There have been many times that I have hated waking my kids up around 6 AM so that all of us can get to daycare and work on time. I really wish I could let them sleep in, but those are unfortunately the demands of a job.
My husband and I personally start the bedtime routine around 8:00 PM. This works perfectly for us. It gives us enough time to spend with the kids before bedtime but is also early enough for my husband and me to enjoy some alone time together (mostly on the weekends).
If you work a late-night shift or early morning job, then that suggested bedtime probably won’t work for you. I have a friend whose kid used to go to bed at 6:00 PM because she needed to be at work at 3:00 AM.
So take a moment and think about your significant other and your schedules. Think about who will be responsible for the bedtime and wake-up shifts. You want to choose a bedtime that will work for everyone.
How to create the perfect bedtime routine?
There are a lot of options for creating a bedtime routine that will work for your baby. Please be aware that while one bedtime routine worked great on one baby, it does not guarantee it will on another baby.
Each baby is different and you will want to adjust the bedtime routine to fit your baby. I know this from hands-on experience with my two boys. While we are able to keep most of it the same with each of them, like bath time, we do have to adjust a couple of things for our second son. My second baby prefers to fall asleep in the dark compared to my first baby who loved to listen to books before bed.
Be as flexible as you can. If you find a bedtime routine is not working for your baby, then try to adjust it or change it. The only thing that should stay consistent is the time that you decide to start the bedtime routine. That creates a great internal clock to let your baby know it is time to sleep.
Possible elements to include in your bedtime routine:
Here is a great list of ideas for what you can include in your baby’s bedtime routine.
Now let’s dig into how you can use each element as part of your bedtime routine:
Having a bath is a great way to relax and unwind from a busy day. It’s true for us as parents, so why not your little one. Make sure the water is a comfortable temperature for them. You want it to be warm. Not hot or cold.
When they are under 3 months old they won’t need to be in the bath very long. As your children get older, bath time can get a little longer. That’s okay as long as they are having fun.
We usually did somewhere between 5-10 minutes. The timing was mostly decided on how the boys reacted. If they were having fun splashing, then we let them enjoy bathtime for a little longer.
You don’t need to wash their hair every night, but we usually would do a quick body wash every bath time. Kids are always finding new ways to get messy. It’s amazing…haha.
CHANGE INTO NIGHTTIME DIAPER
I know this one is a given, but it definitely an essential with a bedtime routine. This is just another step to your child knowing it is time for bed. A fresh and clean diaper is so much easier for your little one to fall asleep in.
If your baby is starting to sleep through the night in larger chunks, then I definitely recommend switching to nighttime diapers. These diapers are specifically made to last at least 12 hours.
I recommend nighttime diapers to every mom, even the ones who choose to use cloth diapers. You will have fewer leaks, which means fewer chances of your baby waking up and less changing the sheets.
These are the brand of nighttime diapers we have used:
CHANGE INTO PAJAMAS
Having specific clothes that are meant for bedtime is another subtle cue to your child that it is time for bed. When choosing a nighttime outfit make sure it is appropriate for the season.
By this, I mean you want to choose heavier pajamas for the cooler seasons and lighter ones for the warmer seasons.
Remember that you don’t want to put a blanket or anything in your baby’s crib until they are at least one year old. Objects in your baby’s crib can become a safety concern.
If you are worried your baby won’t be warm enough, choose fleece pajamas or a sleep sack. Another option is to adjust the temperature in your home.
Mom Tip: Experts recommend keeping the temperature in your home between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit (20 and 22 degrees Celsius).
SWADDLE OR SLEEP SACK
This is definitely geared towards babies and will go hand in hand with pajamas. It is once again a specific item that is telling your baby it is time to sleep.
A great option for a swaddle is the SwaddleMe! We used these with both our babies. They are great for parents who suck at swaddling (that is me) or need a tight swaddle that won’t come loose. Here is a similar style to what we used.
Important Safety Note: once your baby can roll over, you need to IMMEDIATELY stop swaddling your baby. That is when the sleep sack comes in.
These are considered to be wearable blankets and are perfect to keep your baby warm. They come in a variety of styles for every time of the year. Fleece for winter and thin, breathable for summer. Here are the two styles that I have used.
This is, in general, a great habit to get your little one into. Other than being another bedtime cue, it is also important to clean their mouth from eating all day.
Make sure you purchase a toothbrush and toothpaste that is age-appropriate for your baby. Look at the box or package to find this information.
Another piece of information to look for is if the toothpaste is safe to swallow. While I know babies like to spit up, they don’t seem to do it when you want them to.
READ A BOOK(S)
Here is my personal favorite thing to do with our little ones. There are so many ways you can go about this one. You could read age-appropriate books to them or you could read an adult novel.
With us, we started reading adult books to our first baby, like Eragon or Redwall. As he grew older, he has gotten into picking out the books he wants to read, like Dr. Seuss or Goodnight Moon.
The closer your child gets to that one-year-old mark, the more they start to like books with pictures or fun rhymes. One thing you can do is have fun with the character’s voices.
At some point, your little one will get to the age where they want to pick their bedtime books. While you may sometimes hate it (because you are now reading “Go, Dog, Go” for the 3rd time in a row), it is a small little way they can have some independence. Plus it is really cute to see what books they fall in love with.
For my family, here is how reading at bedtime works:
We let our oldest choose 4 books to read before it is time for bed. Before we begin each book, we tell him that “this is book #1 and you have 3 books left”. This gives you a sense of control because if they had their way they would read all night long.
Taking time to read with your child is super important. It not only helps with language and comprehension development, but it is also a great way to spend some quality time together.
Another thing my husband and I do with reading at bedtime is we alternate who reads each night. This allows each parent to bond with their child.
Need some awesome books to read with your baby or toddler? Check out this post with The Best Board Books for Babies and Toddlers!
There is something special about singing a song to your kid. Not only does it form a special bond, but it also creates special memories. You can do this when you are rocking them to sleep or feeding them a bottle. My toddler has recently liked being sung one song while being rocked before going to bed.
We did a lot more singing with our first son than our second. That is because our second son didn’t take to singing like our first. It is a great reminder that each child is different and not every bedtime routine element will work for your baby.
PLAY SOOTHING MUSIC
Playing soft and soothing music is a great alternative to those who don’t like to sing or don’t want to sing. The music can either have words or just be instrumental. It will all depend on what your baby responds to best.
SOUND MACHINE OR WHITE NOISE
Soft and simple background noise can help soothe your baby and keep them asleep. Many parents have found success with using a sound machine. Most sound machines come with a variety of noise options to choose from. Amazon has a lot of options to choose from and you can read the reviews to find the one that you like best.
If you don’t want to use a sound machine, find something that could be used as white noise. The basic definition of white noise is that it is a background sound that is consistent and soothing. Some examples of white noise are a fan, air conditioning, or a humidifier.
BREASTFEED OR GIVE A BOTTLE
With a newborn, this is a pretty standard bedtime routine. Most of the time, your baby will fall asleep when eating.
I recommend feeding them in a rocking chair so you have both the support for your body and the swaying motion to lull your baby to sleep. I know there are a lot of sleep training posts about not rocking your baby to sleep, but it is one of my favorite moments with both of my kids as babies.
If you are bottle-feeding your baby you and your significant other can each take turns. Feeding your baby is a very special way to bond and bottle feeding allows your significant other the chance to be a part of it.
Super Mom Hack: Warm some of the water you will use to make your baby’s bottle so that you have an instantly ready bottle to feed your baby. If you want to learn more about this Super Mom Hack, then check out my post on the Best Bottle Hack for Formula Fed Babies! This hack has changed our lives and will help save you so much time in preparing the bottle for a hungry baby.
SPEND TIME CUDDLING OR ROCKING TOGETHER
I absolutely love rocking with both of my boys. It is just this sweet moment that we enjoy together. As you are rocking your baby you can feed them and/or read to them.
What my husband and I did with our first baby is that one person would rock and feed the baby and the other person would read. This bedtime routine still continues with our toddler, but there are some minor changes.
With our toddler, we don’t feed him a bottle. He can have a little bit of water if he wants to. Then he sits on our lap to either read the book to us or have us read to him.
I definitely recommend investing in a good quality rocking chair. Initially try them out at a furniture store or at a baby store, like BuyBuyBaby.
I learned the hard way about not investing in a good rocking chair. Once we bought a nice rocking chair, it made a huge difference, especially during those late-night feedings. The best kind of chair I recommend investing in is one that is both super comfortable and can support you while holding your baby. Make sure it has a good amount of padding for your bottom.
Remember your body is going to be recovering for giving birth to a baby and that means it will be in a lot of pain.
Here are some styles of rocking chairs that are similar to what we have.
GIVE A MASSAGE
So there are a lot of youtube videos and guides to show you how to give your baby a massage safely. If you want the benefit of a hands-on instructor, then check out some local classes. A good source would be either the maternity ward at a hospital or a baby store like BuyBuyBaby.
I didn’t do this initially with my first son, but our second one has had an issue with dry skin. So either each night or every other night I take some baby lotion and gently rub it into his skin.
Mom’s with a newborn baby should read this giving before using baby lotion:
For moms with newborn babies please avoid putting lotion on your baby (at least for the first month). Most do not need a moisturizer until they are a little older. It is normal for your baby to have some peeling skin or for the skin to be a little dry.
If it seems like the dry skin is becoming a problem, then I recommend consulting your pediatrician. Look for these signs as a good indicator that you should speak with your pediatrician:
- Red areas of skin during your baby’s first few months
- Your baby’s skin is cracking on the arms, legs, or behind their knees
- You notice red bumps on your baby’s skin. These can look like pimples as well.
- They are uncomfortable and irritated due to a strong itch
HAVE A SMALL AND SWEET TALK
While as a baby they won’t be able to talk back to you, taking a small moment to talk about the day is a great way to unwind for both of you. The perfect time to have this talk with your baby is as you are feeding or putting them in their pajamas. As your child gets older they will be able to participate in the conversation.
You can start a little tradition of saying what was good about the day or if you are religious you can use this time to pray as a family.
SAY GOODNIGHT TO EVERYONE (PEOPLE AND OBJECTS)
In the beginning, since your baby doesn’t have an attachment to objects or the concept of goodnight, you can keep it very simple by just saying goodnight to your baby. There are a couple of ways that you can integrate this into your bedtime routine. You can do this right before you feed your baby the bottle or as you are putting them in bed.
As your little one gets older you can include saying goodnight to objects or toys in the room. When it is time to put our 11-month old to put, we have our toddler say goodnight to him. Sometimes our toddler will do it automatically, which is pretty cool.
PUT TOYS AWAY
Of course, this one won’t work right away when you have a newborn. But this is a great one to start doing once they are mobile. It doesn’t have to be any intense.
Keep it simple since most babies and toddlers see toys as a time to play. If possible try to make a game out of it. Maybe they only put away a couple of objects. With our toddler, this can be a hit or miss. That game of putting the balls away then turns into a let’s dump the balls as soon as we put them in their bucket.
Have some patience and realize this will take some time, but you are working on developing skills.
If you need some great storage items for your toys then check out my post about the Best Products to Keep Your Home Tidy with Little Kids.
HUG AND/OR KISS EVERYONE GOODNIGHT
This is a sweet element to add to a bedtime routine. It is a great way to signify it is time to sleep and let your children feel loved.
After we finish reading the bedtime books, we give our toddler a big hug and then tuck him into bed. I will usually give him a little kiss on his head and wish him the sweetest dreams.
TURN OFF THE LIGHTS
This bedtime routine can be implemented once your little one has the motor control to turn the lights on and off. Our first loved doing this for quite a long time. We would turn off all the lights as we headed to his bedroom.
Also, having a dark room will signal to the brain it is time to sleep. If you want to have a nightlight in the room for either your kids or yourself (so you can check on them easily enough) then I recommend purchasing a nightlight that has a soft glow to it.
Here are some cute night lights for your little one’s room:
Now it is time to create the perfect bedtime routine for you and your baby!
You want the routine to take about 30 minutes. This allows enough time for your little one to get rid of any excess energy they might have. Be aware that some days that bedtime routine might become 45 minutes because they are being stubborn or they might be having a lot of fun with you.
Try to have a natural flow from one step to the next. In general, the bedtime routine you create will be similar to your own. It will just cater to your baby or toddler’s specific needs.
So here is our perfect bedtime routine:
8 Bedtime Routine Tips For When Your Baby Is Now A Toddler
It is both wonderful and a little bit sad to see our baby grow into a toddler. As they transition from one age to the next, so do their needs at bedtime. Here are some tips I have learned with my toddler:
1. Let them choose a bedtime book.
This allows them to have a little bit of independence and control in their life, which is what toddlers want so badly.
2. Limit the number of books they get for bedtime.
Limiting the number of books allows you to have some control. While it is wonderful letting our toddler choose a book to read, if we did not have a limit he would want to read all night long. So we let our toddler choose up to four books. I love to encourage his desire to read and I love it when he is able to participate.
3. At some point he may want to read a book by himself…let him.
It was a magical moment for me when our toddler just suddenly started reading a book. I think my heart melted instantly.
To keep the night from going too long reading a book, let your toddler know that this book counts as one of his books he is allowed that night.
4. Don’t take away the reading bedtime books as a punishment.
A bedtime routine is meant to be a bonding experience. Reading books together is a special time for you and your toddler, so don’t make it into something that can be easily taken away. They are little kids who are still growing.
If your toddler is having a bad night (throwing tantrums and such) then I recommend putting them into time out until they have calmed down. I know this means a long night for you, but time out is a great place for them to deal with the consequences and work through their emotions.
Remember that toddlers are not logical like us and so we have to teach them how to work through those emotions. When they have calmed down enough, take the time to sit with them and explain why they are in time out.
For us, at the end of each time out, we have our son apologize to the person(s) affected by the tantrum and give them a hug. Use whatever discipline method that works for you.
But once the discipline period is over, read a book together so that you both end the day on a good note.
5. Transitioning from milk to water.
We fed our first son a bottle each night before he went to bed until he was a year old. To make the transition away from the bottle we got a sippy cup and filled it with ice-cold water.
This ended up working great because he doesn’t usually drink most of his water. When we get to the point of potty training, this will make things so much easier.
As an added bonus it also encourages your little one to drink water.
If they are fighting this transition, I recommend just sticking with it. After a few nights, your toddler will become adjusted to the new change. Here is the style of sippy cup that we used.
6. Introduce a blanket and/or stuffed animals when they are a year old.
This is another great signal that it is time to sleep. By wrapping them in a special blanket that is specifically for going to sleep you are creating another association in their mind that it is time for bed.
Make sure the blanket is appropriate for the time of the year. Heavier blankets for winter and a lighter blanket for summer.
Important Note: Do not a blanket or stuffed animals until your baby has reached the one-year-old mark. This is a safety concern for SIDS. Items in a crib can become a potential suffocation problem.
7. Introduce a pillow around the 2-3-year-old mark.
Same as the blankets and stuffed animals, a pillow is another great signal to the brain that it is time for bed.
Please note that you should wait till your child is around 2-3 years old to add a pillow to their bed. This is once again a safety concern for suffocation and SIDS.
The best time to introduce a pillow is when they are transitioning to a toddler bed or for when your toddler starts to show interest in having their own pillow. Toddler pillows are hard to find in your normal stores like Walmart or Target. Amazon has a lot of great options. The one below comes with a cute pillowcase.
That is everything you need to know about creating the perfect baby bedtime routine.
Once you have figured out exactly what your bedtime routine is to bed, then stick with it.
If possible, start the routine as soon as your baby is born. This will save you so many sleepless nights trying to get your baby to sleep. Getting your baby on a bedtime routine is so important for both the parents and the baby. Trust me, you will be so happy you did.
Did this help you with creating the perfect bedtime routine for your little one? Did you do something different? What is your bedtime routine and what is your favorite part? I’m sure you all can guess that mine is reading together. Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!
Did you like this post? Check out some similar ones:
- The Best Board Books for Babies and Toddlers
- The Best Products to Help Keep Your Home Tidy with Kids
- The 15+ Most Useless Baby Products Parents Should Avoid
- The Best Bottle Hack For Formula Fed Babies
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Hi, I'm CaitieJ!
Welcome to Blogging Through Life. I am a lifestyle mom blogger who writes to help the busy modern mom. Being a mom is no easy task, so let me help whether it is in motherhood or building your career!
A little about me: I am married to the love of my life and together we have two amazing little boys. I love to travel, anything Disney, enjoy a rainy day and drink a soothing cup of tea. Click my picture if you want to read more about who I am and what my blog is about.