All parents want their children to learn how to sleep at night, that’s why many techniques and guidelines help out. The truth is that there is no perfect technique since all babies and families are different, but it has been found that babies thrive on predictability. For this reason, experts recommend establishing a daily nighttime routine so babies can predict bedtime and feel secure.
Nighttime routine basics
To ensure security and create predictability, begin your baby’s routine 15 or 20 minutes before bedtime. Usually, this is 12 hours after your child usually awakens in the morning. You must keep the routine short and sweet; if your little one is sleepy, there’s no reason to entertain them longer.
This routine gently lets your child know that it is time to go to bed. It also provides an opportunity to relax and settle down before sleeping, while bonding and fostering language development.
Example of a bedtime routine
- Finish dinner.
- Go for a short walk to help with digestion (it’s not recommended to bathe your baby when they’re hungry or they just finished dinner).
- Have a peaceful and relaxing bath with background music.
- After the bath, pat them dry, gently massaging their skin. Then put their pajamas on.
- Bottle or breastfeed your little one while peacefully talking or singing to them.
- Brush their teeth if necessary.
- Read a bedtime story or sing a lullaby, so that your little one gets sleepy.
- Lay them down in their crib once they’re drowsy.
It is recommended that your baby’s nighttime routine includes different types of activities —like the ones in the example—, since it is proven that activities involving nutrition, hygiene, communication, and physical contact throughout the routine have positive developmental outcomes in babies. Nutrition activities promote good cognitive development and aspects of the baby’s health. Hygiene activities like a bath or brushing your baby’s teeth help to prevent illness and disease. Reading or singing lullabies help promote language development and cognitive development; and physical contact has positive outcomes in the mood and emotions of your baby, including behavioral regulation and attachment, as well as providing better sleep.
With this in mind, remember that there is no perfect or universal nighttime routine: the best one is the one that makes you, your family, and your baby happy! So feel free to choose a sequence that suits you including the activities you feel are better for your baby. The only requisite is to be consistent and learn to identify your baby’s cues so that you don’t start the routine when they are overtired or not tired at all.