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So how important are bedtime routines for babies? Do we really need one? Do they actually help? Thankfully, MyBump2Baby is home to sleep consultants throughout the UK, many of which suggest that bedtime routines for babies really help them understand the difference between daytime and night time and starting routines for babies at bedtime early can help with sleeping in the future.
We also recorded a podcast with one of our premium sleeping consultants, Lauren Peacock from Little Sleep Stars, the episode is about the perfect baby bedtime routine, you can listen to the perfect baby bedtime routine episode here.
So How do I create a bedtime routine for my baby?
Whether you’re expecting your first child or you’ve been through it before, creating a bedtime routine should be fairly easy. Often a bedtime routine consists of a bath then some calm moments before drifting off to sleep.
Having a bedtime routine for your baby is really important even for newborns and although we would never suggest leaving a newborn to sleep through the night, we would recommend getting a newborn baby used to the difference between night and day.
If we don’t show our little one that day time is lights on, awake time and loud noises and night time is calm for sleeping how would they ever know or understand?
At what age should I start my baby’s bedtime routine?
You can start having a bedtime routine for your little one at any age, it’s a good idea to start around 4 weeks if you want to start early, but if you keep repeating the same routine every day, a child of any age will eventually pick it up. The routine needs consistency and will help your baby fall asleep and go back to sleep in the future when they are at an age where they can safely sleep through the night.
The first 6 months….
For the first 6 months after your baby is born, they will probably be sleeping in the same room as you, so try to remember that you still need to show the difference between night and day so limit lights from electricals, noise, TV and lights during this time if possible.
How can I teach my baby that it’s bedtime?
Babies learn very fast, simple things such as always sending them to sleep in the same bedroom will help you with teaching your baby when it’s bedtime. When it’s daytime, you can ensure that all curtains are open, to ensure natural light is coming through. You can also make sure that you play with toys in a light room downstairs, where you don’t expect your baby to sleep. This will teach them that when they go downstairs in the morning, that’s where they can play in the day time.
At night time, you can make sure that the room is dark, you can use a small light if you think it will help your baby to sleep. You should also try to speak more softly, avoid eye contact and make sure you do not introduce any new toys, otherwise your baby will assume that it’s time to play.
During the bedtime feed, babies often start to doze off, so it might be a good idea to act quickly when this happens and let them go straight to sleep.A sign that your baby is tired is they may shake their head from side to side.
Make sure that your baby is dressed in their pyjamas and make sure their nappy has been changed before their feed, so that you don’t have to disrupt them if they are dozing off.
However, when they get older, you should try to keep them awake as you feed them, or they may wake up in the night and require feeding before they will sleep again.
What can I include in my baby’s bedtime routine?
A lot of parents choose to bath their baby before bed, this can help your baby to relax, recognise the signs that sleep time is imminent and then either before or after their bath, they will have some milk to before they fall assleep.
These actions can be done at any time that suits you and your family and in any order that works for you and your little one, once you’ve chosen an exact bedtime for your baby, things will become easier. Once you have decided on the order that you will complete these actions, the key is to remain consistent. This is a behaviour theory, that over time certain actions such as a bath will teach your baby that it’s nearly bedtime.
Some other activities that can be included when your baby is a bit older include:
- Reading stories
- Gentle singing
- Having a goodnight cuddle
Including activities like these is good for your baby’s development, in particular reading books before bedtime and it is also great for bonding with your little one.
How will my baby benefit from a bedtime routine?
Having a good quality bedtime routine means that your baby is less likely to be tired throughout the day and therefore their general mood should be more positive. Ensuring that your baby has good energy levels means that their brain can work properly to learn new skills and information.
Having a bedtime routine means that your baby will feel more soothed when going to sleep. Having a good routine from a baby means that your child is more likely to continue their good sleeping habits as they go through life.
As children get older, their routine can be altered to fit their age and lifestyle, but it’s a good idea to keep a routine in place throughout their childhood to ensure maximum learning throughout the day.
What can I do if my baby won’t sleep?
The first thing is not to worry if your baby won’t sleep. There is plenty of information available that can help you to get through this. It might just be that your baby requires less sleep than you first thought, which is fine, it will take some time to find a solid routine that you can follow.
It is also important to be kind to yourself if your little one is not sleeping, please remember that every baby is different and this is not a reflection on you or your parenting skills. Being a new parent can sometimes be a little competitive, please do not put pressure on yourself. Rest when you need it and work out a routine that helps both you and your partner.
You could try to follow some of the advice in this article and if things don’t improve, you can contact your GP for further advice and support.
The truth is that there is no perfect routine for sending your baby to sleep, it is totally dependent on your child and what works for you as a family. If you happen to hire a babysitter or have a grandparent over to put your baby in bed, ensure that they are familiar with the routine that you follow, or this could cause you some problems for a few weeks whilst you get your baby back on track.
We hope that this article has been useful on how to create a bedtime routine for your baby. Remember that it’s never too late to start implementing a routine.
Here are some reviews from mums that use a baby bedtime routine
Tracey “I was keen to get my newborn in a routine fairly early on, I didn’t with my first born and he didn’t sleep very well at all so I was keen to take a new approach and it worked wonders for me, baby sleep is vital for me in my line of work and I couldn’t bare the thought of having 2 babies that don’t sleep. I introduced the sleep routine during the first few months and i never looked back, Every night we have the same routine and since doing the same with my toddler her slept a lot better too. I start the routine around 7pm which is two hours after my toddlers dinner. We follow the same routine for both children and night time has been much better since. My toddlers sleep patterns still vary but he is much better than he was. He never used to understand the difference between day and night and I used to have to get up with him around 4am every morning but now after following a routine he goes back to sleep. My newborn is now 6 months old and sleeps like a dream, we follow the same sleep routine and i was a little worried about letter her nap throughout the day but after speaking with my sleep consultant she advised me that it is important not to let babies get over tired as that affects their sleep patterns at night.”
Amy “I followed lots of good advice from my local sleep consultant as lack of sleep plays havoc on my mental health. I introduced nighttime routines when my daughter was 12 months old after sleeping with a sleep consultant. I was so worried about my little one having naps I tried to stop them and it only made it so much worse. There is always time to make that change and take back some control by getting in a routine. I saw a huge change after 2 months of consistently following the same schedule every night.”
Laura “I used to fall asleep with my baby to get her to sleep which was fine but then i couldn’t go back, i had to do this every night as she wouldnt fall asleep without me, I was so worried to seek advice from sleep consultants because I was worried that i would have to leave her to cry but that didn’t happen.”
Hi, I'm Emma and I'm MyBump2aby's family law, protection and financial editor. I'm passionate about better-informing parents on their choices when it comes to family law and family protection and financial matters.