A common thing that I’ve heard over and over again in regards to getting your baby to sleep is to ‘establish a bed time routine‘. I have to say that this did help me and my little one A LOT. So, if you haven’t done this yet, please do it today and then stick to it every night.
Babies and toddlers like routines. They find comfort in it because they know what to expect and what’s expected of them.
Because of this… they fight it less!
It may take some time or it may take just several days, as every child is different. Just stick to the schedule as much as possible. This means doing the same steps in the same order and around the same time each day.
A Bed Time Routine is a series of things that you decide to do with your baby before putting them down for a nap or for bed at night.
Take some time to think about your routine and what works best for you and your family. It’s not about how long the routine is or how many things you cram into it, it’s just a matter of trying to get them to wind down and know that it’s time to sleep.
Then, once you have the routine in place, stick to it every time.
The routine we follow:
- Read a book – We read 2, sometimes 3, short books
- Say good-night to everyone (including pictures of family on the wall)
- Lay her down (at first she slept in a pack n play next to our bed, then a swing, then a crib)
- Insert Pacifier
- Swaddle her (she didn’t seem to need this at first, but once she was able to move she couldn’t calm her arms without it)
- Put on white noise in the background
- Play lullaby from lovie or sound machine
- At night we would add these steps to the beginning of the routine
- Get pajamas on along with a nighttime diaper
- Brush teeth – I did this even before my little one had teeth. I would rub her gums with a wet washcloth.
A lot of parents also have a bath included in the night time routine but we decided not too. It was just too rushed to get everything in before bed time. My daughter also has a lot of hair (has since birth) and I don’t like her going to bed with her hair wet. I only work part time though so I have time during the day to give her a bath, so again it’s all about what works with your schedule.
Keeping a Routine On the Go
Granted, keeping a routine when you’re not at home is a little more challenging but try to stick to it as much as possible to give your little one a sense of comfort. If they know they are not in their normal surroundings they might have more anxiety and therefore have a harder time going to sleep.
Bring familiar books and music along with their pacifier, lovie, and blanket if they have one. This way they can still associate these things with it being time to sleep. Be understanding of their wants, but try to stick to the routine sleep times.
When my daughter would visit her grandparents she had a hard time going to sleep. She was excited and wanted to spend time with them… she didn’t want to miss out on anything! I would on occasion let her stay up later depending on what was going on, but I found that she was much moodier if she didn’t get her naps on schedule. That moodiness would then sometimes compound into an overtired state as she would fight going to sleep. Sticking to a routine as best I could was important and still is, but it’s easier now that she’s a little older and down to one nap a day.
Again, the routine is up to you but just try to avoid anything that gets your baby excited or over stimulated because they will have a harder time falling asleep. The goal is to get your little one to be calm and relaxed so that they can fall asleep easily.
We found that a pacifier and swaddle were absolutely necessary in order to calm our little one. Without those things she just wouldn’t relax. You may have the same experience or you may not. You’ll want to come up with a basic routine though, and stick with it for a few days. Then modify it slightly as needed as you see what works and what doesn’t. It’s important to make slight modifications though. As long as you keep most of it constant, your baby will still understand the routine and find comfort in it.
You’ll also find that things have to be tweaked as they get older. Just when you think you have something down pat… they enter into another phase!
Routines are super important though, not just at bed time.
Be sure to check out my Eat/Play/Sleep article that talks about a routine for the entire day. Trust me, it will make things so much easier.