By Maggie Moore
Struggling to find the best routine for nap and bedtime for your little one? Wondering when is the best time to implement a routine into your baby’s life? Don’t fret, we’ve got you covered!
Research (like this study published on the AASM) shows that a consistent bedtime routine is associated with better sleep outcomes, including earlier bedtimes, shorter sleep onset latency, reduced night wakings, and increased sleep duration.
Children thrive on routine and boundaries, which is why it is so important that we begin to establish a routine around both nap and bedtime as young as six to eight weeks of age.
For the past three years I have been reading the same book to my son every night before bed... I now have it memorized by heart! For just as long, I have been singing the same song to him before his naps. These are great cues to let him know what is coming next – nap or bedtime. Establishing routines such as these also helps with separation anxiety as the baby gets older. If from the very beginning we establish what the baby should expect at nap and bedtimes, they will feel safe and secure in knowing what is to come when they lay down to sleep.
Children thrive on routine and boundaries, which is why it is so important that we begin to establish a routine around both nap and bedtimes as young as six to eight weeks of age.
What to Expect When Helping Your Baby Sleep With a Routine
First of all, it’s important to understand that without a routine, you take the risk of making your baby’s sleep irregular and less deep. This means you will need to establish some recognizable “triggers” for your baby, to make them understand that it’s time to sleep. With a solid nap or bedtime routine, you can expect your little one to fall asleep faster, and decrease the risk of them waking up after a few minutes, as those routines are made to prepare your baby for a deeper sleep.
Ok, now let’s jump into practice!
How to Help Your Baby Sleep: Nap Routine Checklist
Don’t think of naps as something to take lightly just because they are shorter than your normal baby’s night sleep. This is why we prepared a list of actions specific for napping that you can take to make your baby comfortable and ready to take that sweet nap!
Here’s what you should do:
Dim The Lights
10 to 15 minutes before nap time, go to your little one’s room and dim the lights. This will help them with the natural and spontaneous association between dark and sleep time.
Discomfort can be one of the main reasons your baby cannot sleep, make sure your baby is clean and comfortable.
Choose The Right Sounds
Turn on white noise and make sure the curtains are shut. Some example of white noises that might help you are:
Rock Your Baby
Sway, rock, or bounce your little one next to their crib or bed. This, together with the sounds listed above, will help the baby to associate the surroundings with the more familiar womb environment.
Sing a Song
If you want to create an even stronger connection with the baby, you should try to sing them a song. You can do it while the white noises are playing in the background. You should consider singing the same song each nap time (one to two times), to increase your baby’s sense of safety and familiarity.
Lay Your Baby Down
Lay little one down in their crib or bassinet. Even for short naps, be sure to follow the rules of the ABC of safe sleep, to prevent the risks of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
If from the beginning we establish what the baby should expect at nap and bedtimes, they will feel safe and secure.
How to Help Your Baby Sleep: Bedtime Routine Checklist
You’ll find some similarities between the nap and bedtime routines, but we wanted to divide them into 2 checklists, because preparing a baby for a few minutes nap, compared to an 8-16 hours sleep, requires a different level of effort.
Start Preparing Early
Begin your bedtime routine at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Be sure you are relaxed and ready to put your baby to sleep. If you are stressed by a long day and need a few minutes to calm down, just take your time to avoid projecting any negativity or stress during the time you’ll spend with your baby.
Have a “Sleep-Only” Room
For a short nap, any room of the house that can offer your baby the right sleep environment can be enough, but when it comes to a long sleep, having a dedicated room is essential.
Try to feed your baby outside of their room to further separate the feeding and sleep association. It’s important (for adults as well!) to have a room that is like a “Temple of Sleep” where we know we have only one thing to do there: close our eyes and get that much-needed rest.
Bathe The Baby
Bathing is another great cue to add into the routine to help distinguish between a nap and bedtime schedule. A bath with tepid water can be extremely soothing for your baby. Also this will also ensure your little one is wearing a fresh diaper before sleep.
Read Them a Book
Similarly to singing your baby a song, reading a book can be great to build stronger bonds between you and your baby. Your little one will recognize your voice and will feel safer, which is key for quickly falling asleep.
Lay Your Baby Down
Laying your baby down in the right way is essential to guarantee not just quality sleep, but also safety. We prepared for you an in-depth guide about safe baby sleep and how to lay your baby down the right way. Click below to learn more!
What To Do If The Bedtime Routine Doesn’t Work?
All the points of the two checklists above are valid for the vast majority of babies, but consider that all babies are unique, with their own preferences, and it’s impossible to find a “one fits all” solution, even when it comes to something as natural as sleeping. You will probably need some trial and error to find a perfect formula. Maybe your baby prefers relaxing lullabies compared to natural sounds, or maybe it’s time to switch from having white noises to absolute silence for their sleep. You will have to figure out their preferences, so don’t give up if the first routine you try out doesn't work as you expected.
Consider the fact that babies grow up fast and their needs also change. When your little one grows up, the amount of sleep hours they’ll need will vary, and with time you will also need to detach yourself and ease off the routine to allow your little one to develop independent sleep.
Every detail counts when it comes to baby sleep. Together with all the tips listed in this article, be sure the room your baby is sleeping in has the right temperature and your little one is wearing the right clothing for the season. If you are looking for a cozy and easy to use swaddle, designed specifically to fit our routine tips above, and to make your sleep life easier, take a look at our Zippy Swaddle collection!
Maggie Moore is the Founder and Head Sleeper at Moore Sleep. She is a certified pediatric sleep consultant through the Family Sleep Institute, which means her sole focus and objective is getting your baby on a healthy sleep schedule so the whole family can get the sleep they need.
Like many parents, Maggie and her husband struggled with getting their son on a healthy sleep schedule and he was unable to fall asleep independently. As a result, her family was losing precious sleep every night.
Maggie became a firm believer when, shortly after hiring a certified pediatric sleep consultant, her son began sleeping independently at bed and nap times. It was a turning point that resulted in not only restful nights, but waking up fully rested with the energy to face the day. Maggie knew right away she wanted to become a certified consultant herself so she could help other families struggling to get the sleep they need.
Maggie and her family reside in Southern Indiana (near Louisville, KY). She received her bachelors in Journalism and a second concentration in Communications & Culture from Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. Follow Maggie on Facebook and Instagram.