I spend a lot of time in nurseries and children’s bedrooms with my work as a baby sleep guru. So I think it’s timely that I looked at the bedtime routine.
Routines create security and reduce the stress hormone cortisol
It helps your baby and child know what is coming next. It’s important to stick to the same order and do things at the same time whilst responding to individual tired signs.
Reading a book as part of a bedtime routine is really important
Reading helps the wind down process. It’s a transition from a busy day to the land of nod. And as we know routines reduce cortisol, the stress hormone and increase endorphins, the feel good hormone. Reading a book before sleep has also been shown to consolidate learning. http://www.bbc.com/news/health-30776745
Reading books helps teach your baby about patterns, sequences and maths! Yes, it’s bigger than just words on a page and we way underestimate it! When you’re reading a book it’s important to point underneath the words you’re reading. It teaches your baby these are words and helps them connect spoken words to the written word. Then point to things on the page and let your baby/child know what is happening on the page.
Babies appreciate a bedtime story from 6 weeks to 3 months old onwards. Read my blog on ‘How to choose a good bedtime book for baby’: https://nurtureparenting.com.au/bedtime-books-for-babies/
It’s also good to think about your bedtime routine and what it should look like.
Maybe a bath, massage and a milk feed? Try and do most of it in the same order and keep away from the TV as this interferes with the neurotransmitter, melatonin helping your baby get to sleep and stay asleep.
Not sure what’s involved in baby massage? Watch my ebook trailer to get a glimpse of how simple and easy it is to include it in baby’s routine : https://www.facebook.com/pg/NurtureParenting.BabySleepGuru/videos/?ref=page_internal
It’s good to think about introducing a routine to a baby at around 3 months old.
Keep it simple with a bath, a story, a milk feed (breast or formula) and bed at around 7pm. Always put baby down to bed awake in the cot to prevent a sleep association of being fed or held to sleep. A baby who goes down awake in the cot can then re-settle throughout the night and not need you to help them back to sleep. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2661995/The-price-rocking-baby-sleep-Infants-note-going-drop-want-thing.html
If you do this before 4 months old you’ll almost certainly NOT get a 4 month sleep regression. I never had any in England and we taught babies to self settle from a young age (2-8 weeks old). I talk in more detail about these techniques for the early weeks in my blog on Baby Sleep Learning, where I outline how getting it right from the start can avoid the need for sleep training entirely later on: https://nurtureparenting.com.au/baby-sleep-learning/
For older babies, 6 months plus this is my preferred routine
For older babies, 6 months plus, my preferred bedtime routine is evening meal at 5pm, bath at 5:30-6pm. I also have a blog on a suggested flexible plan for the entire day and can be found here: https://nurtureparenting.com.au/the-6-12-month-old-flexible-day-plan/
I like to do the milk feed and story in a quiet, dimmed bedroom. This helps your baby wind down and process their day. Bringing them back into the front room is too over stimulating and creates big issues with older babies. It is too light and TV may be on. This is all disastrous for triggering melatonin.
One story, milk feed (breast or formula) and then a second storybook and down to sleep sometime around 6:30pm but responding to tired signs. I find a book just before bed separates out the feeding and sleeping and reduces the chance of baby falling to sleep before being put in the cot.
Tell your baby ‘night night it’s time to sleep now,’ a little kiss and a cuddle and down awake in the cot and off to the land of nod. Sleeping like a baby.
More info on bedtime environment for baby & toddler sleep
Do night lights help babies and toddlers sleep?
How much white noise is safe for baby’s sleep?
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