Bedtime Routine for Babies and Toddlers
How to Create A Consistent Bedtime Routine for Your Baby and Toddler
Imagine this: Your toddler is quickly approaching “overtired o’clock” and you’re rushed to get her to bed. You quickly head to the bedroom and get her pajamas on and get in bed, but she asks for another story, maybe another hug and kiss or perhaps she absolutely needs a drink of water?! Things can quickly go into a downward spiral, resulting in tears and tantrums and the next thing you know, it’s been an hour long struggle by the time your child has finally fallen asleep.
If you’re nodding your head at the computer screen, then here’s a very simple answer to fix your bedtime battles. Your child needs a consistent and predictable bedtime routine. Yes, it’s that simple. The same exact routine every single night. It does not matter if your child is 6 months old or 6 years old, children thrive on routine. This simple fix can be the answer that turns bedtime battles into a fun, loving and relaxing evening before bed.
How Does a Bedtime Routine Help with Falling Asleep?
Before diving into exactly what your child’s bedtime routine should look like, let’s talk about how a consistent routine actually helps with the bedtime process.
When your child knows what comes next, she’s less likely to be upset about it.
Bedtime routines help trigger the production of melatonin, the sleepy hormone that helps us sleep.
When children have the same routine in their bedroom every night, they learn to associate their bedroom and bedtime with a calming, safe and secure place.
When your child knows that all of her needs are met, she is more likely to be calm and ready to sleep. There will be no tantrums or demands for a drink of water because she already quenched her thirst before getting into bed.
What Should Our Bedtime Routine Look Like?
In short, your child’s bedtime routine will differ from your neighbor’s child’s bedtime routine and your toddler’s bedtime routine will differ from your baby’s bedtime routine. Every family is different and every child is different. Catering to your child’s individual needs is going to help your bedtime routine be more successful.
For younger babies, you’re going to want a bedtime routine around 15 minutes to ensure enough time to calm down and prepare her body for sleep. Make your routine a soothing time where you can really bond with your baby. Here are some ideas of thing to incorporate into your baby’s bedtime routine:
Nursery rhymes and lullabies
Face to face conversations together about your day
Skin to skin time
Rocking and cuddling before falling asleep
Swaddling (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends to stop swaddling at 8 weeks old)
Toddlers love to feel like they’re in control. A good tip for bedtime with toddlers is to allow them to make as many choices as possible, while still giving them limits. Here are some examples:
Do you want to use the upstairs potty or the downstairs potty before bed?
Do you want me to brush your teeth first or do you want to brush before I do?
Which pajamas would you like to wear tonight?
Pick out 2 stories that you would like to read together.
Pick 3 songs you would like to sing together. After we sing, I’m going to hug you and kiss you then go downstairs to fold the laundry.
Toddlers should have a bedtime routine that lasts 20-30 minutes. This does not include bath time, since every child doesn’t take a bath every single night.
How to Keep the Bedtime Routine Consistent
So now you have your bedtime routine laid out. The most important thing is to keep your routine consistent every single night. Having a visual chart in your child’s room can help your child see what is coming next so there are never any surprises or changes in the routine. If you’re interested in my bedtime (and morning) routine cards, check them out! Having your routine printed out and on display can also help caregivers and babysitters with keeping consistency.
A Few Quick Tips:
Always give your child a warning before bedtime. Although they may not be old enough to tell time, they are still learning the concept that playtime is coming to an end and the day is winding down. An initial 10 minute warning is a good place to start, then a 5 minute warning followed by a 1 minute warning. Some families have success with setting a timer once they give the 10 minute warning.
There should be no screen time 1-2 hours before bed. The TV, iPad, Phones, etc. are too stimulating to our brains and suppresses the release of melatonin. The artificial blue-light produced by the screens can cause trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night.
If you have a child that still takes naps, use the same bedtime routine for naps, except cut the amount of time spent on the routine down to 5-10 minutes. If you read 2 books to your toddler before bed, try just reading one book before naps. Keep your nap routine as consistent as you keep your bedtime routine.
If you have any questions about your child’s bedtime routine, please reach out for help! You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond within 48 hours.
Irene here. I’m so excited to have Missy share her expertise and knowledge today! A bedtime routine can be so important but so can your energy during that bedtime routine as the parent. Head over to my latest blog (as a guest of Missy’s ~ see how we did that:-) where I chat about feeling calm and the importance of your energy when setting a routine. Check it out here.
Missy Yandow was born and raised in Rochester, NY. Missy has always been passionate about early childhood education. At the age of 12, she started assisting toddler dance classes and that sparked opportunities to continue teaching dance and is currently still teaching music and movement classes in the Rochester area. In 2008, Missy became a preschool classroom teacher and taught at a private school in Rochester until her first son was born in 2013. Missy’s passion for helping families with improving sleep began shortly after her son was born and she is on a mission to help sleepless families find the right solution that fits their needs. No child is exactly the same, no family is exactly the same, so every sleep consultation is conducted on an individual basis. If you’re interested in learning more about my services, check out My Goodnight Train or follow along on Instagram and Facebook.I look forward to meeting you!