Bedtime Routines That Work

Bedtime Routines That WorkWhomever told us or wherever I read about “bedtime routines”, I owe you a LOT. Seriously, this has been THE single best parenting advice that has guided my family for the last 4 years. Everyone says “don’t listen to what others say” or “you’ll figure out what works for you”.  While I agree with that about 99% of the time, the other 1% is on the bedtime routine and I happily share this with any new mama to be; or parents struggling with sleep for their kids.

Start it. Stick with it. You’ll be glad you did.

At 6 weeks, our son was sleeping in his crib. His routine has evolved and our daughter has her own routine. It’s been a critical step in getting us through a few moves, traveling (plane/car), and just staying over late at a friend’s house. No more rushing home to get the kids to bed. {Mommy and Daddy want to stay out!}

While we started routines from the beginning, it’s never too late to start.  It’s more discipline on the parents {or whomever is responsible for putting down the kids for bed}. It can’t happen sometimes. It has to happen all the time. At least in the beginning. The key is consistency. So as long as you’re committed, it’s not too late to give routines a try.

The whole concept is that whatever routine you’ve established, it becomes a signal to babies and toddlers that it’s time for bed. No matter what time it is. It’s the repeated nature of it that is critical in really making the routine work, especially when you need it most (like a late night out, when a babysitter is over, or after a delayed flight home).

The Routine

So what does “the routine” consist of? Here are some ideas to consider for your routine.

MoodSetting the mood of the room is basic. Think lighting, music, scent, and temperature. 

For a baby, you might want a very serene mood. Lullabies playing, dimmed light (perhaps a nightlight or table lamp as opposed to the bright, overhead lighting), and the fan on to ensure good air circulation in the room. Just setting those puts the baby (and you!) at ease to begin the bedtime routine.

ActivitiesDiaper change/potty, brush teeth, PJ’s, bottle/milk and read books.

These are the typical things you might expect for a bedtime routine. Clearly brushing teeth doesn’t apply for all ages, but at some point it’s one of those things that you might incorporate into your bedtime routine.

Books have been part of our routine from the beginning. Even as a baby. It might have been one short baby book, but it’s evolved as the kids have gotten older. Not only is this a part of the routine, but getting kids into the reading habit early has been a huge plus when it comes to reading as they get older. {The # of books depends on the parent. In my household, this working mama reads 2 books or maybe 3 – but only if they are short. My husband on the other hand will read 4-5.}

Other Ideas

Bath – Determine where this fits in. My doctor advised not bathing my baby daily, therefore it wasn’t part of the “official” nighttime routine. Now, my 4 year old likes to take showers in the am, so again, see what works for you and adapt as needed.

TV – Depending on age this might be part of your routine. Our oldest is so bound up with energy some nights that “watching his favorite show quietly” has become a way that we get him settled and ready for bed.

Your routine is just that- – yours. Do what works for you. No child is the same. If you’re trying to change bed times, doing the routine “earlier” can help adjust a child’s natural sleep pattern because they know what to expect.

Like I mentioned, we’ve traveled the country visiting family and moved a couple of times, which has landed us in hotel rooms and unfamiliar settings. But having a bedtime routine in place has truly helped our kids get to bed quickly and without resistance.

No matter what time it is. . . No matter where you’re at. . . Do. The. Routine.

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