Establishing healthy routines early on is a great way to help your child understand when bedtime is coming. It is important for children to know what to expect each day when it comes to their routines. This daily expectation is also incredibly important for toddlers. While toddlers tend to resist (just about everything), without consistency and expectations, they often feel insecure and that adds fuel to the bedtime fight.
Despite what we experience daily with out children, they truly crave routines and consistency!
Ok, getting back to bedtime routine. In the first three months, your child hasn’t yet learned the difference between day and night. But, around four months their internal clocks begin to adjust to circadian rhythms and they start to have an understanding of day versus night. If we can start incorporating a bedtime routine into their schedule, we are helping them to understand that night time is coming.
The good news is that the ingredients for a great bedtime routine are actually quite simple! A bedtime routine doesn’t have to or shouldn’t be complicated. Some of my favorites are:
- BATH. A bath is a great way to kick off a bedtime routine as a bath is a big indicator for little ones that a long sleep is coming. A bath alone is not enough for a child to learn to sleep independently, but the start of this routine is important in establishing great routines. Depending on the child’s age and daytime experience (aka how dirty they are during the day), bath isn’t just about hygiene, bath can just be warm water (especially if your little one has skin sensitivity), it can include soap or without, toys, or just water play, etc. A nice warm bath starts allowing your little one to unwind from their day.
- MASSAGE OR LOTION. Before we put on those cute pajamas, many families then incorporate a baby massage or lotion rub down. This also helps your little one to relax.
- PAJAMAS. After a fresh diaper or pair of underwear, into pajamas they go! This can be a classic one piece footed pajamas, a onesie, or even a two piece set. It’s important for your child to be in something comfortable when they sleep.
- FEED. Depending on the child’s age, most commonly under the age of 12 months, a Feed is a normal part of a bedtime routine. When I work with families, I assess on where in the routine a feed should be.
- READING or SONGS. No matter the age, adding a book or two, or three into a bedtime routine is a great wrap up. For the families that prefer to sing a bedtime song, sing away Mama! I’m always in support of a good bedtime song.
- Honorable Mentions: I have worked with many families that have prayers, meditation, or even lists of gratitude as a part of bedtime routine. I always love this. So, if this is your family, these additions are great and absolutely can be a part of the routine.
Other things to consider:
It’s all about consistency with kids. We want to utilize bedtime routine to allow them to unwind from their day and get ready for bed. I recommend that bedtime routine isn’t interrupted by play or TV time. These are activities that can exist in their day, but right before bed tends to be too stimulating and can cause bedtime resistance.
How long should a bedtime routine be? Not too long. This is important to remember because as bedtime gets too lengthy, children tend to become overtired. I would cap bedtime routine to no more than 40 minutes, 30 tends to be more realistic for children over the age of 12 months when a feed is no longer a part of their routine.