Whether you are following a sleep training technique or just going with the flow, having a bedtime routine will be key to ensuring your child gets their best sleep possible. Babies and children love routine, so here are some practical tips which will help you to have a calm bedtime routine, and hopefully a calm night!
Repetition, repetition, repetition
Firstly, establishing a bedtime routine that can be easily replicated is key. Babies are comforted by routine, so carry out your standard activities in the same order, such as bathtime and bedtime story. Your baby will then know what to expect, with a calm ‘laying down in bed’ being the final stage. You could try using the same language when you talk to your baby, such as having a last goodnight phrase.
Get the right conditions
If you are going to be using any music or white noise when your baby is falling asleep, make sure that it runs all night or is motion activated. When babies wake from their sleep cycle, if the environment around them is different, it can be unsettling and cause them to awaken more. The same applies for the light levels in their room, so you could try a blackout blind to keep the room dark throughout the night.
The temperature of the room your baby is sleeping in should be between 16-20oC. It can sometimes be difficult to accurately judge the temperature yourself so use a thermometer. If the room is too hot, open windows if you can or use a fan to cool things down, but don’t place the fan too near your child. You can also vary the bedding and clothes that your child wears to sleep if you need to warm them up or cool them down.
Your baby is very likely to be napping at least once during the day, so ensuring that naptimes stay consistent and sufficient will help night time sleep. If your baby is sleeping too much, too little, or too late in the day it can cause more night wakings or a later bedtime. It can be tempting to keep your baby awake during the day to prompt an earlier bedtime, but invariably this backfires! Your child will need less daytime sleep as they grow, but it can be that they do need a nap until the age of 3 or 4. If your baby goes to nursery or pre-school, ensure that they are following the same nap schedule as you do at home.
Make it work for you
Overall, however you structure your baby’s bedtime routine should work for you and your family. Whilst it can be comforting to follow a manual, if the approach isn’t practical for you it won’t be successful. Also, don’t be afraid to try out a different approach or routine if things aren’t working for you. Be aware that things like illnesses, teething, weaning and growth spurts can affect your baby’s sleep so don’t give up too easily!
Establishing a bedtime routine should be one of your priorities when you have a baby. It’s not going to guarantee that they sleep though the night, but having consistency will pay off in the long term.