Whether it is meditating, reading a book before bed, or listening to calm music, you probably have a bedtime ritual that helps you drift off to dreamland. Babies and toddlers are no different. Parents should create a consistent bedtime routine to be used before both naps and nights that will help their little ones wind down and sleep soundly through the night.
Benefits of a Bedtime Routine:
-A consistent bedtime routine creates positive sleep associations that our babies’ brains recognize as specific cues for sleep. When the sleep sack zips up and the sound machine turns on, our babies know that sleep time is approaching!
-Familiarity of that routine sets expectations and boundaries. Children need this type of structure to feel safe and secure and to know what to expect next.
Short, but Sweet:
-A bedtime routine does not need to be long (10-15 minutes) and a modified version will work perfectly for naptime. The specifics are less important than making sure there is a predictable pattern. Reading a book before bed may be part of the routine yet it is not necessary to read the same book each time.
-As your babies get older and more verbal, be careful not to fall into the trap of “one more book” and “one more hug.” Before you realize what has happened, your 15-minute routine can suddenly stretch into 30 minutes!
-A bedtime routine should be a pleasurable, calm, relaxing, and bonding experience for both baby and Mom and Dad. Here are a few suggestions to help achieve an ideal routine:
*Calm music (to be turned off before Mom and Dad leave the room)
*Sound machine (static; not ocean sound)
*Familiar and consistent phrase “Goodnight; sleep tight. I’ll see you in the morning.”
-Try turning off the lights in the room before your bedtime routine ends so that your little one has a few minutes to get used to the darkness before Mom and Dad leave the room.
Tips for Success:
-Allow your child to begin to unwind before your bedtime routine even begins. Decrease the activity and noise in your home and dim the lights to help your little one start to calm down.
-Keep screen time out of the bedtime routine. In fact, it is recommended that all screens be turned off 90 minutes before bedtime.
-Keep your final goodnight brief.
-When done with your routine, put your little one in his bed drowsy but awake.
-It’s never too early to start a bedtime routine. Once a few weeks old, your infant will look forward to this calm time before sleep and, soon enough, will begin to make the connection between her bedtime routine and time to blissfully nod off to dreamland.