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How to Establish a Baby Bedtime Routine

If there is one thing most baby, sleep and baby sleep experts tend to agree on, it’s the importance of establishing a baby bedtime routine. Helping your little one to create associations with sleep is an important step on the path to longer and more restorative rest for the whole household. Establishing routines can take some time and (a lot of) patience, but here’s why it’s worth the effort.


Why is a baby bedtime routine important?

  • A routine can reinforce your baby’s natural circadian rhythms
  • Helps to create positive sleep habits by providing sleep cues
  • A routine may help during sleep regressions
  • Routine can help improve settling problems
  • The daily ritual can be relaxing for parent/caregiver and provide a nice bonding experience
  • Bedtime routines can lessen the need for sleep aids over time


When should you start a bedtime routine for your baby?

There’s no need to put pressure on yourself to establish a newborn bedtime routine. In the first 6-8 weeks, your baby needs some time develop and become acquainted with life on the outside. There is no harm in offering associations to sleep during this time, however there is no pressure to do so. Around 6-8 weeks is a good time to begin to introduce a routine for sleep.


What time should your baby go to bed?

When creating a baby sleep routine, your little one should go to bed at a consistent time each night. It should be a time that fits with your feeding schedule and family schedule. Around 7:00-8:00pm is a good place to start.


What is a positive bedtime routine for your baby?

It’s important to create a bedtime baby routine that can be accommodated into your family schedule and that can be easily done each night. Your routine doesn’t need to be elaborate or long, it just needs to be consistent. Think about sensory cues that will help your baby build associations to bedtime. Here’s an example of a simple and positive sleep routine:

1. Bathe baby

Give baby a warm, relaxing bath. You could also consider using some calming scents like lavender or mandarin, if you feel to. Smell can provide an additional sleep association.

2. Massage

Give baby a gentle massage for a few minutes after bath. Or if you prefer the express version, a little massage for the hands or feet.

3. Dress baby in a comfortable sleepsuit or bodysuit

Make sure you dress your baby in a breathable, temperature appropriate sleepsuit or bodysuit.

4. Swaddle your baby

Nothing could be quite as cosy as being wrapped up snuggly in a swaddle or swaddle up before drifting off the land of slumber. The swaddle provides your baby with a sense of security and helps calm any sudden reflexes during sleep.

5. Read your baby a story or sing them a short song

The comfort of your voice, whether reading or singing a favourite tune, is another great way to create a relaxed, calming and familiar environment.

6. Feed baby

Feeding your baby before bed will help them to sleep longer. If they are well fed it will be easier for them to feel satisfied enough to nod off for their night time sleep.

7. Put baby down in bassinet or cot

Putting baby down to bed in the same place each night, signals it is bedtime and provides familiarity.

8. Turn out the lights

Darkening the room signals to baby it’s time to sleep.

Daytime naps can also benefit from routine. Whilst it’s not entirely practical to repeat the night-time routine for day naps, a basic, abridged routine for during the day can also be helpful.


Common baby bedtime routine FAQ’s from parents      

Many parents and caregivers encounter the same confusion when creating a bedtime routine. Some common issues are covered below.


Should babies nap before bedtime?

It’s best not to schedule a nap just before your baby’s bedtime. If your baby needs to nap before the bedtime you’ve chosen, you may need to adjust their routine slightly. If baby has just taken a nap, they will need some awake time before they can fall back to sleep again.

If your little one is overtired (for example, they missed out on some sleep at daycare) then they may need to take a nap. Life is full of interruptions. You can adjust bedtime slightly to suit these interruptions, but aim for consistency wherever possible.


Does putting my baby to bed earlier help them sleep longer?

Some research suggests that on average, babies that go to bed earlier, tend to sleep longer. The theory that putting baby to bed later will help them wake up later (in-line with you) isn’t necessarily sound. Your baby’s body clock is established early and there is evidence to suggest that babies that have earlier bedtimes enjoy better quality sleep.

An early bedtime is an age appropriate bedtime, normally around 7:00pm-8:00pm.


Should feeding be a part of my baby’s bedtime routine?

Feeding can definitely be a part of a bedtime routine, after all babies that are well fed tend to be able to sleep for longer periods. Feeding baby just before they go to bed can be incorporated into the bedtime routine.


Should I bathe my baby each night before bed?

Bathing can be a fantastic part of a bedtime routine. If you can spare the time each night, it’s a calming, soothing activity that is bonding for parent/carer and baby. It’s the ideal opportunity to clean your baby and dress them in a comfortable sleepsuit or bodysuit for the evening.

If you get stuck with implementing a baby bedtime routine, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Above all, keep your bedtime routine simple, achievable and as regular as possible.


At Love To Dream™, we know that every child is different, and we’re committed to helping you to find the right solution for your family. With you at every step, Love To Dream™ believes today’s little dreamers are the shapers of tomorrow. For further advice from our experts, visit our sleep library.