Expert Opinion

Creating an ideal bedtime routine

Little people really are creatures of habit. They want to know what’s happening before it happens, helping them adjust to the many transitions they’re going through in the early years.

One important routine they’ll complete each day is their evening routine, which will set them up for a good night’s sleep – for both bub, and parents. When setting a routine, I always encourage parents to create a series of predictable events to give babies and toddlers a sense of security and comfort in knowing they are going to bed. When doing this, it’s important to remember a few things:

Keep it simple. Stick to four or five things that happen each night that can be relied upon. An evening routine has to work for your family, keeping in mind lifestyle factors such as work, fitness and family events. It should be about spending time together to fill your little one’s ‘attention cup’ so they can head into bedtime feeling emotionally satisfied. A rushed bedtime is stressful for everyone and can lead to bedtime refusal and crying (which no one wants).

For dinner, try to allow ample time for digestion – eating around two hours before bedtime. In the period of time after dinner and before bedtime, I love to encourage parents to engage in one-on-one playtime that stimulates lots of laughter, and will strengthen the connection and fill your child’s ’love cup.’ 

Bathtime should be scheduled after playtime, with bathing still acting as a fun and upbeat activity! However, after bath time, ensure you’re starting to encourage your child to wind down and settle in for the evening.

After a bath, change your little one straight into their pajamas (little babies might even have a massage after their bath) and then milk – whichever is age appropriate for your child. I do like to leave a bit of time after a feed, allowing time to burp your baby and for toddlers to brush their teeth.

From here, it’s time for a cuddle! Who doesn’t love to snuggle into their parent’s arms for a nice bedtime story or two? I like to try a bedtime song and a cuddle before going down to bed for the night, with the room dimly lit, curtains closed, doona on, and white noise playing. It’s like a baby day spa – PERFECT!

Above all, remember that this is an ‘ideal situation’ nighttime routine. Some things like the bath may only happen every other day, and if your child is feeling super tired, you may not have time to include every step of the routine. Take it easy – you don’t need to rush through it. Communicate what is coming up next each night so your little one is forewarned, and create a consistent pattern that your little one can rely on. From here, everything else will fall into place, and your little one will be sleeping in no time. Bliss!

About the author

Lisa is the founder of Cherish Your Sleep, Co-Regional Director (Australia/Pacific) of The Association of Professional Sleep Consultants, an experienced certified baby/child sleep consultant and a mother to 3 young children.
She has always loved children and has worked in the industry for over 20 years as a qualified child care worker, working primarily with children aged 0 – 3yrs.
A successful outcome is not only good for the parents and children, but also giver Lisa a sense of satisfaction and happiness – there’s nothing better than hearing from a parent who finally got their first full night sleep since having a child.
Becoming a mum and meeting and seeing other mums struggle with their babies and children’s sleep made Lisa really want to reach out and help. She doesn’t see that there is a one size fits all to helping families – sleep is almost like a Puzzle – you need all the pieces in place to achieve the full picture and those pieces are what she shares with families.
Lisa uses a holistic approach to sleep, focusing on emotional wellbeing of families and ensuring the parent child connection in not only maintained, but enhanced. She knows how easy it is to become overwhelmed and frustrated, so it’s her passion to help find solutions that will work for you, your baby and the rest of your family.
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk  from Pexels