To increase baby’s sense of security and ease their anxiety, it is important to set up a bedtime routine that will allow your little one to recognize the stages of the day and to associate the actions that you put in place to bedtime. Here is a quick tour of a routine that really works and that can be adapted over the years!
What is a bedtime routine?
A bedtime routine is a series of small, simple actions that, when performed daily at bedtime, will help your child recognize the time of day and anticipate what’s coming next. Whether it is short or long, simple or complex, a bedtime routine reassures the child through repetition. But don’t worry, length and complexity don’t make a bedtime routine more effective… All it takes is a few actions—and about 15 minutes … and that’s it!
At what age should I start a routine?
The first three months of baby’s life require a great deal of adaptability within the family, as everyone strives to find balance. However, from the age of 3 months, you can start to establish a little bedtime routine. Of course, this routine will evolve over the months and years, but it will already help reassure your child at bedtime.
An evolving routine
Here are a few examples of bedtime routines depending on your child’s age:
The newborn routine
- Bath time. A quiet bath will help baby relax before bedtime.
- Pajamas. Put on pajamas that are appropriate for the room temperature—be careful not to overdress baby so that they don’t wake up in a sweat in the middle of the night!
- Darkness. Dim the lights and retreat to baby’s quarters to make the environment familiar.
- Feeding. Breastfeed or bottle feed baby in a dark, quiet area.
- Swaddling. If your child likes to be swaddled, you can wrap them tightly before rocking them gently while singing a song.
- Song. Gently sing a song to baby—ideally the same one every night. While singing the song, you can gently rock baby (standing or in a rocking chair), stroke their forehead (from the top of his forehead to the bridge of his nose), or rub their back gently clockwise. You can also cuddle your baby with their ear pressed against your heart—your heartbeat will remind them of mom’s belly and soothe them. And if you don’t like to sing, you can also play a little music box.
- Kissing. Give your baby a little kiss on their forehead and try to put them down in their bed when they’re still awake. By doing this, you’re teaching them to fall asleep on their own and you’re sending them a simple, yet important message: that they don’t have to be afraid of being alone!
The toddler routine (1 to 4 years)
- A notice. When your child starts to assert his character, flirt with “no” or negotiate fiercely, a small notice before bedtime can work wonders! Give your child one or two warnings (at 10 and 5 minutes before you start the bedtime routine, for example), to prevent a crisis :).
- Bath time. With older children, bath time can quickly become a time for play and laughter—but if possible, try to keep a calm atmosphere to get them in the mood for bed.
- Brushing teeth. Once your child has had his bath, you can make brushing his teeth part of his routine! Start by brushing his teeth well, then if he wants, let him have a go too. You can even sing a little song while brushing to make sure you’ve brushed forward, backward … and long enough!
- Pajamas. Put on the pajamas… Your child can gradually start putting on the pants by themselves first—then even the top!
- Story time. A little story like the Curious George books or Peppa Pig are great—they’re short and predictable… And there’s a whole bunch of them to vary a bit (although you’ll probably read the same story over 200 times, let’s face it!)
- A sip of water and pee time. Yep—by thinking ahead, you limit the reasons to get up after you’ve said “good night”!
- La chasse aux monstres. Si votre enfant est un peu peureux, vous pouvez prendre quelques secondes pour chasser les monstres avec lui avant de tamiser les lumières ! Avec votre enfant, regardez sous le lit et dans le garde-robe en prononçant une formule magique ou en vaporisant du chasse-monstre à l’aide d’un
- Monster hunting. If your child is a little skittish, you can take a few seconds to hunt for monsters with them before dimming the lights! With your child, look under the bed and in the closet while saying a magic spell or spraying monster repellent with a spray bottle filled with water and a few drops of lavender essential oil. The smell of lavender will quickly become associated with bedtime!
- Darkness. Make sure to dim the lights before kissing your child good night.
- The kiss. Last but not least: a kiss good night… And you can even add a wish, like “see you in dreamland,” or “sweet dreams”!
The big-kid routine (5 years and up)
- Bath time. By now, your child should be able to wash himself, maybe with the exception of his hair. But keep an eye on them and re-wash them if you need to!
- Brushing teeth. As for teeth, your child can now brush on his own—but it may be a good idea to do a little re-brushing to make sure you scrub the back teeth well!
- Pajamas. Your child can go put on his pajamas by himself and wait for you in his bed.
- Reading time. Depending on your preference, reading time can become a time when your child “reads” alone in bed before you come to bed. Learning to relax alone can be beneficial. You can also read a few pages of a novel, a book of tales or other stories. At this age, it may be a good idea to read a longer book in instalments, so he can anticipate what’s coming next and remember what happened the night before!
- Darkness and kissing. Keeping the routine short and simple will always help your child learn to fall asleep on his own. And, if fears or anxieties arise as he grows, staying firm and reassuring without giving in will help build his confidence!
The key to success
It’s very important to create a calm atmosphere before and during the bedtime routine! If your child is very agitated before going to bed, you may find it very difficult to spend a relaxing and soothing moment with him. So, before starting the routine, suggest calm activities and avoid teasing, making him laugh or overexciting him.
It’s important to maintain a comfortable temperature in your child’s room—not too hot, not too cold (around 20 degrees). Without being overdressed, your child will fall asleep more easily with a comforting source of heat.
A hot-water bottle, such as the Béké-Bobo therapeutic teddy bear, will help your child relax and fall asleep. If your child suffers from colic, the moist heat will also magically relieve his abdominal pain, allowing his little body to relax completely. Plus, the teddy bear can be used as a bedtime companion, because it’s super cute!
Don’t skip nights—even when you’re tired! And always practise the little routine in your child’s safe environment (put him to sleep in his bed, read the story in his room, etc.). Also, try to do this little routine at approximately the same time every night, this will help to establish a sense of security in your child.
Adapt the routine (each in their own way: mom, dad, the babysitter or the grandparents). Moreover, if you have the possibility, try to vary the person who puts baby to bed regularly, this will avoid a crisis when you have to (or want to!) go away. Even if it doesn’t go as well. Yes, yes—even if you can do it better than others :).
Don’t give up, even when you feel that “it’s not working.” Mind you, this doesn’t mean that you should mindlessly repeat actions that don’t work—you can totally rethink the sleeping routine and make adjustments, but avoid giving up and bringing baby to sleep with you or driving around the block!
Does your baby start crying again as soon as you drop them off or leave the room? Take a few deep breaths and wait a few minutes to see if your child goes back to sleep on their own. You’ll be surprised to find that most babies find a way to comfort themselves!
Incredible, but true.
A less tired baby falls asleep more easily than an exhausted one!
Skipping nap time will not make your child sleep better at night… Children need a nap until they are about 3 years old! Extreme tiredness will make your child even more irritable and putting them to sleep will be even more complicated… We promise you: structuring your child’s day well will help them sleep better. So don’t deprive them of a nap!
A babbling baby learns autonomy
Letting your child sing, talk or even cry a little won’t hurt them. It’s even a way for them to become familiar with their alone time and have fun while waiting for sleep to come! Encourage them to develop his autonomy from the very first months… The whole family will benefit from it!