It’s never too early for setting a bedtime routine for your baby. In the first few weeks, bedtime may be a different time every night. When your baby reaches about three months of age, they may begin to settle into a preferred bedtime.
A regular evening routine will help your baby to settle more quickly and can reduce the number of times they wake in the night as they get older.
How to set a bedtime routine
Consistency is everything when it comes to bedtimes and sleeping routines. Following a similar pattern before lights out will help your little one get sufficient sleep. Here are some ideas of activities to add to your baby’s bedtime routine:
- Give a bath. An evening bath gives a useful signal to your baby that bedtime is coming soon.
- Clean "teeth". Rub gums gently with a clean, wet washcloth from birth until your baby's first tooth comes through. Once their first tooth appears (timing can vary but many babies grow their first tooth around six months of age), clean their teeth twice a day with a soft, small toothbrush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice.
- Offer a baby massage. The ultimate way to unwind and connect with your baby - as long as they're not too ticklish!
- Change into pajamas. Even during the early weeks when days and nights blur together, a simple 'hands and face' wash along with a change of clothes at the end of the day will show your baby that it's time for their longer (hopefully!) nighttime sleep.
- Sing a lullaby. Repeat the same calming tune every night so it's soothing, not overly exciting. You may want to use a crib mobile.
- Share story time. Bond over a book. Your baby will love to hear your voice and enjoy the calm time spent together.
- Give kisses and cuddles. Show your baby plenty of love, with lots of kisses and snuggles. It’s okay to rock your baby until they are drowsy. Remember to put your baby on their back when you place them in their crib.
- Swaddle. Babies can feel warm, safe, and secure when swaddled. It can also keep her from startling themself awake. Ask your healthcare provider for advice and if necessary, a demonstration. Once they learn to roll over, however, they may not like the constraints of being swaddled.
- Awake to sleep. Put your baby in their crib, on their back, when they are sleepy but still awake. Learning to fall asleep by themself will help them to develop self-soothing techniques.
Remember to aim for bedtime at the same time every night. Consistency is key to establishing a bedtime routine.
When to start your baby’s bedtime routine
Just like you, a bedtime routine can help babies learn the right cues for when it’s time to fall asleep. Starting a consistent bedtime routine from birth can help your little one develop good sleep habits.
Benefits of a bedtime routine
The benefits of an early bedtime and a regular bedtime sleep routine go far beyond ensuring that your toddler gets enough sleep. Research shows that having a consistent bedtime routine is linked to healthy sleep in young children. For example, toddlers who follow the same routine every night tend to:
- Have earlier bedtimes
- Fall asleep faster
- Wake up fewer times in the night
However, the advantages may not stop there.
Research also shows that children with bedtime routines have:
- Better sleep quality
- Better working memory, attention, and cognitive skills
- Improved mood, stress levels, and behaviour
- Improved readiness for school, academic performance, and social skills
Bedtime routines also foster stronger parent-child bonds.
Following a regular bedtime routine at the same time every night—for example giving your toddler a bath, getting them into their pajamas, helping to brush their teeth, and reading a story together—is also linked to improved overall health and well-being. So, if you haven’t already implemented a bedtime sleep routine, now is the time to do so.
Once your baby is more active during the day, they may need time to ease into bedtime. Gradually shift from stimulating activities to a quiet, relaxing routine that leads to sleep.
Canadian Paediatric Society. Healthy sleep for your baby and child. 2018. Healthy sleep for your baby and child | Caring for kids (cps.ca) Accessed August 2023.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Getting Your Baby to Sleep. 2022. Getting Your Baby to Sleep - HealthyChildren.org Accessed August 2023.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Baby’s First Tooth: 7 Facts Parents Should Know. 2022. Baby’s First Tooth: 7 Facts Parents Should Know - HealthyChildren.org Accessed August 2023.
Bedtime Routines for Children. 2023. Perfecting Your Child’s Bedtime Routine | Sleep Foundation. Accessed August 2023.
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