Establishing a consistent bedtime and sleep routine early plays a key roll in helping your child learn how to become a great sleeper. The sleep routine provides a cue to your baby or child that sleep is coming. It is also an excellent way of spending some wonderful quality time with your little one after the busyness of the day.
Establish a routine that you do in the same way each and every night. Consistency is the key, as your child will begin to know what happens next. I generally suggest starting the bedtime routine approximately 30 minutes before bedtime. You would also do a shortened version of the routine for nap time and aim to start it 15 minutes beforehand.
If you have a newborn baby, it is best to start the sleep routine at about 6 to 8 weeks old. Babies at this age are starting to be able to make connections. It is especially important to ensure your routine is one that promotes self-soothing.
The routine need not be elaborate; as long as it is something your family can achieve every night. It could include something like a bath, getting dressed, a book or lullaby, a key phrase (e.g. “night, night” or “time to sleep”) and then lights out. This routine cues your child in that sleep is coming and helps your child’s brain get ready for sleep. It is important to always ensure that the bedtime routine starts before their bedtime, not at the time they go to bed and aim to have your child laying down and attempting to fall asleep at their designated bedtime. Always try to put your child to bed awake. As a little baby (birth to 4 months) this is not always possible, so drowsy but awake is always the aim.
The sleep routine you create is likely to change as your child grows. As a little baby you may choose to sing a lullaby but as they get older including a book might be more appropriate. In older children, it is also important to start slowing down activity approximately 1 hour prior to bedtime. Start quieting the house – turn off the TV, music and stop any screen time. Turn off all unnecessary lights and do quiet play.
When establishing your sleep routine, don’t feel you have to force something as part of the routine that your child isn’t interested in. For example, books are a wonderful part of a sleep routine but at different ages and stages this might not interest your child, so feel free to take that out until they are more receptive again.
Determining the appropriate bedtime for your baby or child can change from day to day as it is based on the quality of naps, daily activity, and your child’s general behavior and demeanor in the late afternoon.
Enjoy these quiet moments as you prepare your little one for sleep each night. This routine you have created will be a special moment you share and enjoy for years to come.
If you need help with solving your child’s sleep problems, please feel free to contact Mylee at Little Big Dreamers today. Or you can schedule an appointment here. Have you had a chance to join my free community where parents come together to discuss child sleep issues? Join here! I look forward to helping you improve your child’s sleep!