Why do we love routine? Routines help our brains conserve energy and minimize risks. Routines promote health, reduce anxiety and boost our cognitive function. As adults, we thrive on routine, so why would we think that our children?
As parents, for first time parents or fourth time parents, those early days are TOUGH. We constantly think, we just need to make it one more hour, just need to make it to lunch, just need to make it to dinner, just need to make it to bed. Once you start coming out of the newborn haze, you realize you CAN do this!
To take the stress off our brains, we can start a bedtime routine with our baby so we know what to expect, but also so our babies can start to learn what to expect.
After my third was born, I knew newborn sleep shaping was imperative. I had a newly-turned 4 year old and an almost-2 year old at home full time, we had recently moved out of state away from family and friends. I started a bedtime routine with her from day 1 home from the hospital. It involved a lot of help from my husband as I was recovering from a c-section and exclusively pumping. BUT I was determined to sleep in bed for a few hours each night.
For a baby under 1, who still chest feeds or takes a bottle, here is a sample bedtime routine:
Bath (this does not have to be nightly; whatever works for your family)
Go into your room or their room, where ever they sleep
Give their last feeding
Brush their gums / teeth
Dim the lights and put the sound machine on
Read a book or sing a song
Swaddle* or Sleep Sack
Place them in their crib, calm and awake
*Swaddle should only be for newborns under 4 months or a baby who shows signs of rolling - whichever comes first
This is just a sample schedule. Sometimes, if they have older siblings, it can be helpful to include them in the bedtime routine to consolidate your evening as well.
For a toddler, here is a sample bedtime routine:
Bath (this can be nightly or not; whatever works for your family)
Brush Teeth + Go Potty (if toilet training/trained)
Story Time - Read 1-3 books
Talk about their day
Sleep sack (if they are still sleeping in their crib)
Lights out + Sound Machine On
Put them in bed (or crib)
This is just a sample schedule, but can be worked in a way that works for your family. If starting a routine is new to your toddler, you can roll play during the day for a few days so they know what to expect at bedtime. You can also give them choices, within your boundaries, so they feel in charge. Give them a choice of bath toys, choice of pajamas, choice of books for story time. Another option for toddlers is to create a visual bedtime chart. This will help them learn what is happening now and what is coming next.
Whether you start a bedtime routine from day 1 or you want to start a routine with your 4 year old, you are doing an awesome job as a parent!
If you are still struggling and need help, click here to schedule a free 20 minute consultation to chat about your sleep struggles, your sleep goals and how my 5 step program will help your house! Let's make your house, a Restful Haus.
Wishing you restful sleep,
About Danielle: Danielle is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Coach and founder of The Restful Haus, where she helps families 1:1 with their children ages 0-6 years old. She is a New Jersey native and currently resides in Colorado with her husband and 4 daughters (ranging from 18 months to 6 years old). She enjoys spending time with her family, the Jersey Shore, music, traveling with her husband + kiddos and on the rare occasion, sitting down to read a murder mystery book.