If you have ever met me or asked me any kind of question, you know that one of the first things I’m going to ask you is “What does your bedtime routine look like?” Why do I ask this? Because it’s, in my opinion, one of the most important things that you can do for your child to promote good, healthy sleep.
A good bedtime routine doesn’t have to be this super complex, drawn out event. In all honesty, our bedtime routine has been in place for so long that now, our entire routine is about 20-30 minutes (depending on how many books we read). It consists of (sometimes) a bath, lotion, pajamas, brush teeth, read a book or five, and then goodnight kisses. We’ve been at this so long that my daughter who is almost 2 knows exactly what to expect and when to expect it. Sometimes when it gets time for bedtime, she’ll even head to her room before we tell her to. Her internal body clock just knows that it’s time for bed. This is honestly the ultimate goal. We want our little ones’ bodies to know when it’s time to get ready for bed and start winding themselves down.
Often when I ask a parent what their bedtime routine looks like, I’ll get either a super long drawn down routine with WAY too many steps or something as short as “I nurse her then put her down”. We want to find a good happy medium. Typically when you start implementing a bedtime routine, I like to see it last 45 minutes - 1 hour. This usually includes bath time. Once you get it down and your little one knows when bedtime is coming, you can shorten it down. Obviously I know not everyone can be home an hour before bedtime every night. You have to live your life, too. But what should be in your bedtime routine? What are the necessary steps to take?
Baths aren’t absolutely, 100% necessary, but I LOVE having them as a part of your routine. Baths help regulate our bodies and set them into a relaxation mode. Even if bathtime gets crazy and wild, like most do, it’s still great. The warm bath water sends a signal to your little one’s body to “reset”. Baths may not necessarily make your little one tired, but they do tell your child’s body to stop and listen.
Once your little one’s body clock has set where it knows when it’s time to go to bed, you can begin to eliminate the bath from the bedtime routine. We have reached the point with my daughter that we no longer need a bath every night.
This might be weird to some people, but this is an excellent way to connect with your little one! Every night after bath, we put on lotion and spend time talking and playing. This is a great time to teach your child anatomy, make up fun songs, and just connect with that skin to skin time. Plus, the long smooth strokes of putting the lotion on or massaging will help your little one’s body to calm down for bedtime. Just imagine how relaxed you are after a massage. This is what we’re hoping for.
#3 READ A BOOK
This is 100% my daughter’s favorite part of bedtime. It’s often a struggle of how many books we’re going to read each night. Most nights we settle somewhere between 1-7. (My husband is a champ because he’s usually the one who reads them!) Reading is so important for young children as it gives them exposure to more words as well as giving you one more opportunity to connect with them and spend that intentional time together. Let your child “read” the book, too. Usually after we read the book, my daughter will take her turn reading it. This just means that she turns the pages and jabbers to us. It gives her one more opportunity to practice the skills that she is learning and to get out all that evening excitement.
Always always always snuggle before bed. I don’t really have a scientific reasoning behind this (although I’m sure there is something out there somewhere), but I just love to get those nighttime snuggles in before bed. We usually snuggle and sing a song before putting my daughter down in bed.
While there are a lot of factors that go into a good night’s sleep, the main thing I KNOW that works is a solid bedtime routine. Don’t forget: bath, lotion, book, and snuggle. Like I said, it doesn’t have to be some big dramatic thing every night. Just something simple and easy that your little can learn that will cue bedtime for them. If you have an older toddler who is still struggling with bedtime or you find yourself in that “one more thing” routine, you need the bedtime pass! It’s a ticket that your child can cash in for one more thing. It’s fantastic! Download it here!
What does your bedtime routine look like?