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Baby Sleep Tips & Support


What does a good bedtime routine actually look like...

Updated: May 5, 2023

Well, the truth is, it can look however you would like and however works for you as a family, as long as it is consistent.

Bedtime routines play an important role in achieving a successful night’s sleep for little ones. They provide structure to an evening and enable the child to feel secure and calm before going to sleep. Babies thrive on routine and structure and having a consistent bedtime routine can really help a baby feel secure and content. When a baby knows what to expect and understands that sleep is coming soon, their body will naturally start to produce melatonin (the sleep hormone) to prepare for sleep.

Bedtime routines can include baths, massages, books, songs or even TV if this helps your little one to wind down. Bedtime routines do not have to be over-complicated and although it is important for them to follow the same structure you do not necessarily need to read the same story every night (unless you want to of course!). Here is an example of a simple bedtime routine:

milk —> bath time —> nappy/pyjamas —> top up feed —> bedtime story —> goodnight kiss and cuddle —> into cot or crib awake

The aim of the bedtime routine is that once completed, the baby will feel secure and loved before bedtime and prepared for sleep.

To help bedtime be as successful as possible, it is important that your baby has had the optimum wake window before the routine begins. These wake windows change as babies grow and start from as little as 60 - 90 minutes of awake time before bedtime for a 4 -10 week old and are closer to 4 - 5 hours for babies older than 14 months.

As mentioned above, there is no hard and fast rule for the perfect bedtime routine- the most important thing being consistency. Therefore bedtime routines which work for one family will not necessarily work for others. For example, if one child finishes nursery quite late and there is not a huge amount of time between nursery collection and bedtime a short bedtime routine will be required. However, if there are minimal time restrictions a longer bedtime may work better, perhaps allowing time for a massage with lotion to help the little one relax. As long as the same order of events are followed each night, the number of events is not significant.

The same principle around bedtime routines is true when there is more than one child. Adding another child into the mix can complicate the routine but it is important to ensure as much consistency as possible. Bedtime routines can be followed by siblings of different ages to some extent (depending on the age gap) and if there is a larger age gap it can work well for the older sibling to help get the younger sibling ready for bed as part of their bedtime routine. Again, consistency is the crucial and ensuring that bedtime routines are not too time consuming but achievable every day is the key to success.

Whilst the bedtime routine is paramount, it is also important to look at the wider picture and ensure the sleep environment is optimal. It is advised to avoid bright lights before bed time and if possible dim the lights or use a lamp to help signal to your baby that it is time for bed.

Hopefully this has helped dispel some of the myths of bedtime routines being overly complex and shows that they are achievable to all and when consistently followed go hand in hand with a good night’s sleep.


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