Bedtime routines 101

_english baby sleep bathing bedtime routines lullabies screen time sleep coaching sleep training Mar 01, 2021

My baby hates water - Does bathing have to be part of the bedtime routine? My baby falls asleep during breastfeeding and I cannot finish the rest of the bedtime routine – is that a problem? Can watching TV be part of the bedtime routine?

Today I give you a short chapter from my audiobook: The Baby Sleep Book – All-in-one sleep coaching solution for tired parents. I hope it answers all your bedtime routine related questions!


Hello, everyone. It's Anna. Thank you so much for tuning in today. You are listening to The Baby Sleep Project Show, the place to learn about baby sleep and sleep coaching.

I get a lot of questions about bedtime routines lately. So, I thought that instead of answering them one by one, I would make a short episode here about bedtime routines in general. For this, I will give you a short section from my audiobook for free, of course. And this section is about bedtime routines because I believe this chapter answers most of your questions about bedtime routines.

The questions I received were like, "My mother-in-law tells me that I have to bathe the baby before bed because it will calm him down, but my baby hates the water. What should I do?" Or, "My bedtime routine doesn't go as planned because my baby always falls asleep during breastfeeding and I cannot finish the rest of the routine. What now?" Or, "My toddler likes to watch some TV before bed. Is that okay?"

So I hope you will get the answer for your questions. And without further ado, let's listen to chapter eight from The Baby Sleep book.

Chapter eight: Design Your Baby's Bedtime Routine. "Why are bedtime routines important? The bedtime routine is a series of activities you do with your child before bed. A predictable bedtime routine is necessary for younger babies to clue them in that bedtime is coming, but it also works for toddlers because it gives them a feeling of competency if they know what comes next. "

"Bedtime routines also provide the time and opportunity for children to wind down after a busy day. They can be a great opportunity for bonding, too; your special time together, a part of the day that both parents and children enjoy. Bedtime routines also help in bringing the baby in a good mood for sleeping."

"Try to be calm yourself because the baby will feel if you are stressing out. If you are under a lot of stress or if your baby has nighttime fears, separation anxiety, or they associate their crib with bedtime struggles, it is especially important to lighten the mood."

"Make daytime playtime: the best thing against stress is laughing. Be silly, make jokes, play rough housing, and laugh a lot together during the day to release stress. If the baby already associates the crib with bedtime struggles, let them spend some quiet time in their crib every day in your presence so that they can get used to it and associate it with more pleasant things."

"Screen time: make sure that your children's screen time is as far from bedtime as possible. It should definitely not be part of the bedtime routine. Why do most experts say that it is best to switch off all screens at least an hour before bedtime? This goes for adults too, by the way. The answer is partly melatonin."

"Melatonin is a natural hormone that is released by the pineal gland and that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. In the evening, it promotes sleepiness and makes you fall asleep quicker. Its release is triggered by darkness. So it has very low levels during the day."

"Not only sunlight, but also blue light emitted by TVs, computer screens, or smartphones suppresses melatonin production. So if you or your child try to go to bed after watching a screen, it will be more difficult to fall asleep because your melatonin levels won't be at their natural high."

"What is included in a bedtime routine? It is completely up to you. For most parents, a bedtime routine usually involves feeding, bathing, nappy change, putting on PJ's or a sleep sack, or swaddling, reading the stories, singing lullabies, sub rocking or hugging, kissing good night, and lights out."

Try to find an order of these things that makes sense. For example, smaller babies often soil their diapers during or after breastfeeding. So there's no point in changing their diapers before that. Toddlers usually eat very messy. So it might make sense to bathe them after dinner. Many babies get drowsy while breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. So feeding should be the last thing you do."

"A good bedtime routine is sweet, short, and doable on most nights. Sweet means that you only do things that your baby likes. Never make a baby angry before bedtime. If they do not like baths, bathe them earlier during the day. If they always get fussy during feedings, make sure that you feed them at least half an hour before putting them to bed."

"The whole routine should not be longer than 20 minutes; shorter for younger babies. And it should be doable on most nights. If mommy is not available few nights a week, breastfeeding should not be part of the bedtime routine so that the baby doesn't demand breastfeeding on those nights. And dad can put them to bed easily, too."

"That said, some babies can get used to different bedtime routines with different caretakers. It takes some experimenting to see what works best for your family. If you share bedtime responsibilities, talk with your partner and discuss what feels good for both of you. If your partner is home most nights for bedtime, it is a good to divide the activities so that both of you have the opportunity to bond with your child. Dad can handle bath time and perhaps mom likes to sing lullabies."

"In many cultures, parents think of bathing as an obligatory part of the bedtime routine, but it doesn't have to be. Smaller children, especially newborns have very sensitive skin and it is actually not good for many of them to bathe too frequently. Even toddlers do not have to bathe every day if they are wrapped up in warm clothes all day long and they don't get dirty because their sweat is not smelly."

"On the other hand, during summertime, children tend to get very dirty playing outside. You might want to put them in the bathtub first thing when they enter the house. So it wouldn't be practical to wait when bathing until bedtime."

"Finally, even if common wisdom says that bathing is calming, bathing is not a good idea as part of the bedtime routine if your baby doesn't like it. Feeding should be always as close to bedtime as possible for smaller babies so that they can go longer stretches without waking up out of hunger. But if your baby gets upset during feeding or burping, you might want to include some soothing activities — rocking, singing — after that."

"Other babies become completely relaxed during feeding and may even fall asleep. It might be tempting to carefully put the sleeping baby to bed, but it is not a good idea after about three months because babies will associate sleeping with feeding and will not be able to fall asleep without it."

"If your baby falls asleep during feeding, try to wake them up just a little bit before putting them to bed. Maybe swaddle them or put their sleep sack on at this point, or just single lullaby and pat them before putting them to bed and say goodnight at a normal tone. That will be enough for your child to wake just a little and acknowledge their environment, but they will be too sleepy to wake entirely and will fall back asleep within seconds."

That said, try this, but if your baby protests a lot, leave this to next week because this is already sleep training territory. Bedtime stories, nursery rhymes, and lullabies are unquestionably the most favorite part of bedtime routine for most children and parents. You can start reading to your child from a very early age from picture books. Check out your members area for my favorite nursery rhymes and lullabies.

Once you have decided on what to include in your bedtime routine, be consistent and do everything more or less the same way every single night. Do a shorter version for nap time. Write down your bedtime routine and stick it on the wall so other caretakers can follow it too. If you have purchased the Personalized Sleep Coaching Quick Start Guide, you will find your printable bedtime routine in your members area.