How to implement a baby bedtime routine for better sleep. Why your baby needs a bedtime routine and how to implement one.
When should you start a bedtime routine for your baby? How long should a baby bedtime routine take? What should I do during my baby’s bedtime routine? This post can help!
Night time sleep is important for development and recharging at any age. That is why establishing a bedtime routine that sticks is important and can be used for many years to come.
Starting a bedtime routine very early on was something that helped all my children sleep longer stretches at night. A simple bedtime routine can signal to your baby that it’s time to wind down and get ready for bed. It is teaching your that the sleep that follows this routine is different than a nap and it tells their body nighttime sleep is coming.
You might also like these related posts:
When to Start a Bedtime Routine for Baby
Most babies can benefit from a bedtime routine starting around 4-8 weeks (I always start around 4-6 weeks with my babies). Don’t worry if your baby is older than this and you are just starting to implement a routine, you can start at any time, it’s never too late! If your baby is one year or older you might like this post on our Easy Toddler Bedtime Routine as well.
Sleep pressure for babies is generally highest around 7-8 pm so this can be a great time to start your bedtime routine. This allow allows your baby 11-12 scheduled hours of night time sleep, if your desired wake up time is between 7-8 am. This can of course be adjusted to meet your family’s needs if bedtime or wake time needs to be earlier or later, but generally 11-12 hours of overnight sleep is appropriate for babies.
Here is our sample baby bedtime routine that helps baby wind down for the night.
How Long Should a Baby Bedtime Routine Take
Your baby’s bedtime routine should be fairly short and sweet (between 20-40 minutes, or possibly a little longer if you include a feeding). This means you should plan out and time your bedtime routine and start that routine early enough to lay your baby down at your desired bedtime.
Starting your baby’s bedtime routine at approximately the same time every night is important for regulating their internal clock and also making sure they don’t get overtired before bed. Below is a chart showing approximately how long your baby should be awake before bed to ensure enough sleep pressure, without being overtired.
|Awake Time Before Bed
|Variable, 45-80 minutes
To see our full schedules by age, please see our schedule post series:
- 2 month old schedule + how to get started with a schedule
- 4 month old schedule
- 6 month old schedule
- 8-10 month old schedule
- 1 year old sample schedule
Sample Baby Bedtime Routine for Better Sleep
Your baby’s schedule may vary greatly depending on how old they are, but their bedtime routine can remain relatively the same. Here is a quick breakdown of our baby bedtime schedule that we use for the first year of our baby’s lives (this is actually pretty similar to their toddler schedule as well).
Keeping the routine the same every day helps your baby’s brain understand that nighttime sleep is coming. Even if your baby seems wide awake, we recommend starting the bedtime routine on-time based on their age appropriate wake times (you want to avoid having your baby get overtired or they will not sleep well).
- 6:50 pm – Bath
- 7:00 pm – Bottle or Nursing
- 7:20 pm – Quiet story time, cuddles
- 7:25 pm – Dressed in swaddle or sleep sack, sound machine on
- 7:30 pm – Down for the night (aim for a wake time 11-12 hours after bedtime)
Your baby will likely still need to eat one or multiple times throughout the 11-12 hours stretch of nighttime sleep. By implementing this routine and other sleep training methods, my babies were always able to drop their night feeds completely by about 4 months old.
All babies are different and some may want or need to keep their night feeds until they are older than this, but in general most babies will physically be able to sleep through the night 11-12 hours by the time they are 4-6 months old.
Below are some specific tips for implementing this baby bedtime routine.
Baby Bedtime Tip #1: Separating Feeding from Sleeping
The most important aspect of our bedtime routine and for getting your baby sleeping longer at night is separating feeding from sleeping.
By putting some awake time and stimulation in between the last feeding and bed, it teaches your baby not to associate feeding with sleeping and will start to teach them independent sleep skills needed for sleeping longer stretches at night.
If your baby is used to nursing to sleep, try stopping the nursing or feeding moments before they fall asleep. They will be extremely drowsy, but not asleep. Lie them down to sleep drowsy but awake. Continue with this process by stopping the feed earlier and earlier every few nights so that your baby is more and more awake (less and less drowsy) each time.
Note: If you are struggling with your baby falling asleep while eating, try moving the bath after the bedtime feeding session.
We like to keep the last feed within 30 minutes of bedtime (this is especially true for younger babies, babies older than 9 months will likely be able to go longer). This ensures that your baby is full before going to bed and is able to sleep longer stretches before waking out of hunger.
It also encourages you to keep the bedtime routine short and simple. A bedtime routine that is too long can confuse your baby if they can’t identify that the bedtime routine is taking place.
Bedtime Routine Tip #2: Alternates to a Bath
We do a bath just about every night. A bath can help your baby relax at night. It also slightly raises their body temperature. The drop in body temperature that occurs after a bath can help your baby (and older children and adults too) fall asleep quick and sleep better at night.
Some families may choose not to do a bath every night because it can dry out your baby’s skin, or because you simply don’t have time or energy at the end of the day. If you are not able to or choose not to give a bath every night, fill the space with an alternative that also queues your baby that it’s time to start the bedtime routine. Consider a lotion massage, sponge bath, or quick wipe down in the bathroom with a wet washcloth.
Baby Bedtime Tip #3: Preparing for Bed
Before laying our babies down for bed, we always put them in a swaddle or sleep sack and turn on a white noise sound machine. This is another part of our bedtime routine and also helps them sleep better during the night (we also do these tings for nap time too). Here are some of our favorite products:
Swaddles (before 8-12 weeks, drop once your baby shows signs of rolling)