5 Steps For Baby Bedtime Routine That Works

baby sleep routine

Baby sleep can be tricky and you need a realistic bedtime routine. Busy parents can’t always devote a large chunk of time to getting a baby to bed. A complicated process might not be realistic or practical with busy lifestyles, two working parents, or older siblings are thrown into the mix. A consistent bedtime routine can help. 

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A good bedtime routine helps your baby get settled for the night faster, go to sleep easier and more peacefully, and snooze longer. This means more time for all the other things you want to accomplish in the evening and better rest for your baby. 

Sounds like good news, right? Let’s say goodbye to sleep deprivation and hello to a nighttime routine, quality sleep, and months of your baby getting the rest they need. 

Why a Baby Bedtime Routine is Important

Children of all ages crave consistency. This is especially true for young babies.  They generally have little control over what happens next, so giving them predictable routines is a great way to help them feel safe. A child’s bedtime routine also provides important sleepy cues that will help your child transition toward rest.

Bedtime routines, especially ones that help calm the mind and body, can also help children fall asleep faster and, therefore, get adequate sleep. Getting enough sleep has important health benefits for babies and children,, including a decreased chance of obesity, and improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health.

Another benefit of a consistent routine is the opportunity to create treasured traditions for the end of the day and a stronger bond with your baby or child.

How to Establish a Realistic Baby Bedtime Routine

Establishing a sleep routine that works for your baby, young children and your family takes a bit of planning. The first step in figuring out a baby sleep schedule is to determine how many hours of sleep would be ideal for your child. Here is  list of how much sleep babies need in a 24-hour period:

  • Babies 4-12 months: 12-16 hours (including nap time)
  • Ages 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (including naps)
  • Age 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
  • Age 13-18 years: 8-10 hour

Second, work backward from their usual awake time to determine the ideal bedtime. This is when the bedtime routine should be finished. For example: when my son was 18 months old he consistently woke up at 6 am.

After subtracting his one-hour nap, he should be getting 10-13 hours of night sleep. So, counting backward from 6 am he should have been going to bed at 7:00 pm if I wanted him to get 11 hours of night sleep. He needed an earlier bedtime. 

Third, take a look at what your family’s typical evening schedule looks like. Then decide how much time you have available to dedicate to a sleeping routine.

If it is 30 minutes, begin your bedtime routine 30 minutes before the time you just determined. You want to be able to get through the whole routine every night, not just part of the bedtime routine. Find that sweet spot.

Fourth, determine the elements of a bedtime routine that are most important to you. Decide, by priority, which ones fit into your available time period. Do you want baby to have a bath every day? That takes up to 15 minutes of your bedtime routine.

Add additional elements to round out the 30 minutes you have available for your bedtime routine. Perhaps that looks like 10 minutes for reading bedtime stories and 5 minutes for lullabies.

A realistic expectation of how much time you have available, and the activities you can fit, will decrease your frustration and help you mainted a solid bedtime routine.

5 Steps of Baby Bedtime Routine

Bedtime routines should be short, sweet, and create a calming environment. You’ve already determined how long your bedtime routine is going to be and what time baby needs to be in bed. Now, choose from the elements below and decide what fits into your schedule.

Every family’s bedtime routines will be different. There is no such thing as the perfect bedtime routine. We need this routine to work for mom, dad, and baby…and allow you time to be alone or with your partner in the evenings. 

When it’s time for baby to sleep:

  • Start your bedtime routine before baby is overtired (get to know your baby’s sleep cues
  • Bath time with warm water to calm your baby
  • Comfy pajamas and a sleep sack
  • Create a peaceful nursery environment (including white noise machine  and total darkness)
  • Put your baby to bed drowsy, but not asleep
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat

1: Start Your Bedtime Routine Before Baby is Overtired

Using the timing you determined above will lead to your baby going to bed before he or she is overtired. If your baby continues to show signs of being overtired after a week or so, you will have to rethink your schedule.

Signs of an overtired baby include: 

  • Yawning. Like us, babies yawn more when they’re tired.
  • Touching their face, rubbing eyes, tugging at ears
  • Becoming clingy
  • Lack of interest

As time goes on, it will get easier and easier to recognize your little one’s sleepy-time cues. Putting your baby down before she shows signs of being overtired and cranky will not only be easier for you, but it will also set her up to get the best sleep possible!

2: Bath Time Calms Babies

A nice warm bath is an opportunity for one-on-one interaction with you and relaxation for you both. Use some nice smelling lavender baby soap, soft washcloths, and finish with a warm hooded towel.

3: Comfortable Baby Pajamas and a Sleep Sack

I have always been super choosy about what my babies wear to bed. I want them to be comfortable and not too hot. I always chose cotton footie pajamas for my babies combined with this temperature-controlling sleep sack.

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4: Create a Peaceful Nursery Environment

A quiet and calm bedroom is essential for promoting sleep. Soft colors, warm rugs, and upholstered furniture all help to absorb and divert noise. The only good kind of sound to promote a sleeping child is white noise.

A white noise machine does a great job of drowning out unwanted sounds so your baby can sleep peacefully at night. Baby sleep expert Cara from Taking Cara Babies says that a sound machine replicates the sound of the womb and makes baby feel at “home.” “Silence is bizarre to babies because they are used to the noise inside the womb,” she says.

Make the room as dark as possible. Invest in high-quality black-out curtains that not only blackout the light in the evenings but in the early mornings as well. Black-out curtains will also help maintain a consistent temperature in the room, especially if you have drafty windows. 

For a quiet and calm nursery try these:

A room with a cooler temperature is much better for sleeping, just make sure your baby is dressed properly to prevent them from feeling cold. I loved this sleep sack for both of my babies. It’s made of merino wool which can help regulate body temperature which means you can use it year-round and it fits baby from 2 months-2 years. Definitely worth every penny.

5: Put Your Baby to Bed Drowsy, But Not Asleep

This is the hard part of creating good sleep habits for your baby. You must put your baby to bed drowsy and not asleep. This way, your child will learn to fall asleep on their own and they won’t rely on mom, dad, nursing, or being completely rocked to sleep in order to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own. This is how you get your evening back. 

And, if your baby learns to drift off to sleep in the evening, he or she will be much more likely to fall back to sleep on their own in the middle of the night – because they have the skills to do so.

Example Baby Bed Time Routine for 3 Month Old

6:30 PM: Start winding down the day by transitioning from stimulating activities to more calming ones. Dim the lights in the nursery or wherever you spend bedtime to signal to your baby that it’s time to relax. You can also play soft music or use a white noise machine to create a peaceful environment.

6:45 PM: Give your baby a warm bath. Use a mild baby soap and warm water to gently wash their body. Bath time can be a soothing and enjoyable experience for your baby, helping them relax and unwind from the day’s activities.

7:00 PM: After the bath, dress your baby in comfortable pajamas. Choose clothing that is soft and cozy, suitable for sleep. If your baby enjoys being swaddled, you can wrap them snugly in a swaddle blanket to provide a sense of security and comfort.

7:15 PM: It’s feeding time! Whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby, use this time to cuddle and bond with them. Breastfeeding provides not only nourishment but also comfort and closeness for both you and your baby. If you’re bottle-feeding, hold your baby close and make eye contact while feeding to foster a strong connection.

7:30 PM: After feeding, spend some quiet time together to help your baby wind down further. You can rock your baby gently in your arms, sing lullabies, or read a bedtime story. These calming activities can help your baby relax and prepare for sleep.

7:45 PM: When your baby is feeling drowsy but still awake, it’s time to put them down to sleep. Place your baby in their crib or bassinet while they are still slightly awake, allowing them to learn to fall asleep independently. This helps prevent your baby from becoming dependent on being rocked or held to sleep.

8:00 PM: Say goodnight to your baby and leave the room. Keep the lights dim and the room quiet to encourage your baby to drift off to sleep. You can say a simple phrase like “Goodnight, sweetheart. I love you” to reassure your baby before leaving the room.

Throughout the night: Be prepared for nighttime feedings and diaper changes. Your baby may wake up several times during the night to eat or have their diaper changed. Respond to your baby’s needs promptly and with love, helping them settle back to sleep after each waking.

Remember, consistency is key when it comes to establishing a bedtime routine for your baby. Over time, your baby will come to associate these calming activities with sleep and bedtime, making it easier for them to settle down and sleep through the night.

Consistency is key when it comes to a bedtime routine for your baby. 

You must follow the same order of events, keep the stimulation as low as possible and create the most peaceful, and soothing environment that you can – every night. This means that both parents, any caregivers, or grandparents must follow the same routine as well in order for your bedtime routine to be successful.

Keep at it and your baby will learn the cues that it is time to go to sleep. Singing “Twinkle, Twinkle” has always been part of my daughter’s bedtime routine, and even at 6-years-old, singing it still makes her sleepy!

When your routine gets off track – maybe you started late or missed a step, older siblings overstimulated the baby or you took a phone call in the middle of bath time – whatever it may be, sometimes the best thing to do when you notice your baby won’t fall asleep on their own is to start your routine over.

Yes, start completely over.

Instead of struggling to put your baby to sleep, letting them cry, or getting frustrated, start all over with bath time and go through the entire routine again. We’ve had to do this several times with our youngest but going through the routine a second time often does the trick!

In the long run, this will get your baby used to the routine and will make it easier over time.

And If Your Baby Still Won’t Sleep

Sometimes we try our best and baby still won’t sleep consistently. You’ve created a serene environment, bought all the best-smelling baby soap, and have been consistent over time – and your baby still isn’t sleeping.

Related Post: When Baby Just Won’t Sleep – Hire a Baby Sleep Coach

For more in-depth help I want to recommend the Sleep Sense Program by Dana Obleman. Dana’s been a full-time sleep consultant since 2003 and offers a step-by-step formula to help parents solve their child’s sleep problems – and can get your child sleeping straight through the night!

Dana will make recommendations based on your baby’s age, personality, and sleeping habits, so the best way to get started is by telling her a little about your son or daughter through a six-question quiz. After you complete it you’ll get a free sleep assessment specific to your baby. Get **The Sleep Sense Program** Here

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