By Kathryn Trudeau
Bedtime routines help prepare your child for sleep — both mentally and physically. Each step in the bedtime routine helps to calm and soothe your child so he or she is ready for sleep. Bedtime routines also help your child develop good sleep habits now and for the future. Bedtime routines also provide the perfect opportunity for parent-child bonding at the end of a long day.
But how do you know if or when your bedtime routine needs a bit of a makeover?
You might consider sprucing up your baby’s bedtime routine if:
- Your baby is crying when you put him or her down to sleep
- It takes 45 minutes (or more!) for your baby to fall asleep
- Your toddler wakes up and cries frequently throughout the night
- Your baby is restless
The occasional illness, for example, can make it hard for your child to sleep. Bad sleep environments, the moro reflex being triggered, and improper sleepwear can also contribute to poor sleep.
Below, we’ll cover several creative ways to spruce up your bedtime routine so your baby can catch those Zzz’s again.
Create a Happy, Soothing Sleep Environment
Your baby’s sleep environment plays a big role in how easily your baby falls asleep and how well s/he sleeps throughout the night.
Since so much of your bedtime routine occurs inside your child’s bedroom, sprucing up your bedtime routine starts by looking at the environment itself.
1. Use blackout shades
The National Sleep Foundation recommends sleeping in a dark room, which is why many curtains now feature blackout fabric.
But what if you love your nursery as is? You don’t have to go out and buy new shades. With one creative trick, you can keep your beautiful nursery shades while keeping out the daylight.
Here’s the trick: Line your nursery’s existing drapery panels with blackout fabric. This way, you can reap the benefits of blackout curtains without sacrificing the aesthetics of the curtains you already have. This tip works for Roman shades too.
2. Use cozy lighting
Cozy lighting doesn’t just look nice, but it can also help your child sleep better. Warm, amber-colored lights don’t stimulate your child’s circadian rhythm. (Blue lights from TV, tablets, and phones can stimulate and wake up your child.)
There are many ways to incorporate cozy lighting into your bedtime routine. You can hang warm-colored twinkle lights from the ceiling — perfect lighting for reading bedtime stories. You can also replace the lightbulbs in any lamps you already have. Just look for the amber colored light bulbs. As soon as it is bedtime, turn the lamp on and — voila — instant cozy lighting!
You can also place a salt lamp in your child’s room too. These lamps can also double as a nightlight.
3. Repaint the walls
Have you been yearning to repaint the nursery? Your paint choice can add to the ambiance of your baby’s sleep environment. Consider opting for a darker shade of paint, which helps to create a calming atmosphere.
Charcoals, midnight blue, and forestry greens can be very calming. There are many creative ways to make a darker hue inviting for a nursery. You can create textures to make the darker shades more interesting. You can paint stripes (use matte and high gloss of the same color to create the pattern) or you can use glazes.
4. Declutter the bedroom
If your baby or toddler is easily distracted during bedtime routines, consider decluttering the room. Seeing his or her favorite toys strewn on the floor might remind your baby that he wants to play. Clearing out the clutter and picking up the toys can help remove the temptation to play.
Tip: Pick up all toys before dinner so this task is already done when it’s time to get ready for bed.
5. Creating a reading space
Looking at books can be a relaxing, quiet activity. Set up a nook in your child’s room so he or she can have a cozy nook for reading. For older babies and toddlers, you can join them and read to your child, while older children can read on their own until you’re ready to join in.
6. Add a white noise machine
White noise machines are growing in popularity, and many parents are even adding them to their baby shower registries. You don’t have to sacrifice aesthetics though. There are many designs available, including noise machines designed to look like animals or stars as well as noise machines that double as a night light.
Tip: Turn on your noise machine as soon as you start getting ready for bed, while you’re reading, etc.
Make Pajama Time Fun
Now that your baby’s sleep environment has been given a makeover, it’s time to take a look at your baby’s sleepwear.
Many parents choose to swaddle their babies, which provides a warm, womb-like environment that soothes babies and helps them sleep longer. But if your baby is outgrowing the swaddle, you don’t need to jump straight away to regular pajamas.
Depending on your baby’s age, you may need:
- A swaddle
- A swaddle transition such as the Classic Zipadee-Zip
If your child fights to put on pajamas, use these tips to make getting ready for bed fun:
- Let your toddler choose which color pajamas s/he wants to wear
- Sing a silly song about pajamas while dressing your baby
- Make sure the room is a comfortable temperature; some children dislike changing because they get cold
- When changing your baby, apply a child-safe scented bedtime lotion to help incorporate the senses and soothe your baby
- Tell your toddler a story while changing, making every step of the bedtime routine a chance to bond
Focus on the Five Senses During Bedtime
Here are a few ways to add sensory experiences to your baby’s bedtime routine:
- Use scented lotions and bubble bath designed for bedtime use
- Diffuse baby- and child-safe essential oils designed for bedtime usage
- Read touch-and-feel books to incorporate the sense of touch during reading time
- Play lullabies or calming music in the backroom (some nightlights have this feature included)
- Use aromatherapy stuffed animals (unless your baby is in a crib, in which case, no lovies or pillows should be in the crib)
What Is Your Tried-And-True Bedtime Tip?
We’d love to hear!
Kathryn is a self-proclaimed book nerd who has a passion for natural parenting and writing. As a homeschooling mother of two, Kathryn understands the dynamics of a busy family life. She is the founder of the Cor Domum movement, a mission that guides families through life so that they can parent with joy. Read more at www.katietrudeau.com