Are you ready? Because I’m about to tell you something that should cause you to breathe a huge sigh of relief. Your baby’s bedtime routine doesn’t have to be elaborate (or long!) in order to encourage your child to sleep well.
Before I go further, I should point out that this article will be especially useful to those who have already sleep trained. If you are still assisting your child to sleep in any way, your bedtime routine won’t have any influence on your child’s sleep. This is because the only thing they truly need in order to fall asleep is that assistance. (Assisted sleep means anything from giving them a paci, to co-sleeping, and everything in between.) Maybe you have taken the plunge and trained your little one to go down fully awake, and fall asleep 100% on their own in a crib. If this is you, let me shed a little light on what truly makes a difference in your baby’s bedtime routine. Ready?
Baby’s Bedtime Routine Steps
#1 – Final Feeding First
How should we start baby’s bedtime routine? Make sure that your child’s final milk feeding is the very first part of their bedtime routine. Ideally this feeding should be done in a well-lit room. And, your child should stay entirely awake from the moment they start to feed until the moment they finish. It’s not sufficient to “wake them up a bit” at the end of their feed if they become drowsy while eating. They need to stay entirely awake from the start to the end of their feeding.
#2 – Keep It Short
Next, aim to have your baby’s bedtime routine (including feeding) take as close to 30 minutes or less as possible. If your routine is taking too much longer than that, it may be time to look into what you can jettison from your bedtime routine. Maybe you enjoy your longer bedtime routine? Know that it won’t harm your child in any way to have a lengthy routine. However, it may be a better idea to feed your child, then put them to bed quickly so as to not draw out bedtime any later than it needs to be. You’ll thank me for this when your baby is a toddler!
#3 – Keep It Simple
Know that all your child truly needs in their bedtime routine is:
- a feeding
- a clean diaper + jammies
- a little love
- and to be put right to bed
Books, songs, massages, and long cuddles are great! But they won’t make much difference in helping your baby sleep well. Also, don’t feel like it’s necessary to have quiet play time or low lights in an effort to “wind down” before bedtime. As long as the final feeding takes place within 30 minutes of bedtime, and you undertake the normal, soothing parts of bedtime (mentioned above), that will be more than enough for your child to go down easily. Remember, baby’s bedtime routine should be simple.
#4 – “5-Minute Soothing Technique”
This is a special Baby Sleep Trainer step to do right before you put baby in bed. You’ll want to aim to spend about five minutes or less (not more) getting your child to be calm and relaxed. Not sleepy or drowsy. Ideally you’d want your little one to go down calm and awake. Avoid any rocking or swaying movements you know will make your child go to sleep. Focus instead on calming and soothing movements that will help relax them.
If you’re ready to take your child’s sleep to the next level, check out my online training program!
Hi Natalie! Thanks for the post! Very interesting about not needing to wind down. You mention 5 minutes of holding the baby before putting them down – what if the baby cries?
Hi Natalia! Thank YOU for reading! I would love to answer this question in depth during one of my Facebook lives (which I do twice a month on 1st and 3rd Tuesday nights at 7pm PST) – come and join http://www.facebook.com/babysleeptrainer!
Great article! Is bath included in the bed routine? Is this something that should be done before the feeding, clean diaper, etc?
Hi! I have a 2 month old, she’s been on a bedtime routine since 6 months old. It’s going very well. She feeds on demand so her routine doesn’t always start or end with a bottle. For an example, last night she had a bottle around 5:00, her routine started about 7:00ish and slept 6 hours straight afterwards (which is her usual) sometimes her routine will end with a bottle. Does it matter if there’s a bottle in the routine? She seems fine with it the way it is. Also she still sleeps around the clock so her routine starts anywhere between 6:00-7:00. Her routines aren’t on an exact time, but they start and end around the same time frame. Is that okay as long as she’s doing good with the routine? She sleeps good and only wakes up once for a feed which follows around the same time (12:00-2:00Am)
Since she’s a newborn, no it doesn’t matter that her routine doesn’t include a bottle (assuming she’s getting enough to eat overall). Once/if you sleep train her, that’s when you’ll include a bottle in her routine.
Thank you for the useful post. I have an 18 months girl. She’s sleeping between my arms and refusing to sleep at her crib. When I put her in bed close to mine. She wakes and come to check if i am close to her or not
Can you help me in this please?
Yes! She just needs to be sleep trained.
This post will explain more.