Around 14 weeks of age is when your baby will have developed a cognitive ability that will enable them to benefit from a routine.
Why implement a bedtime routine?
Babies and children thrive on having routine, especially at bedtime. Implementing a bedtime routine can go a long way to making sure a child is as relaxed as possible in the lead up to sleep. Routine also helps a child to feel secure and safe.
When I build a plan for your child’s sleep, routine in the evening is a strong recommendation and I help you to build healthy sleep habits for your child. When you implement a bedtime routine your child’s brain and body start to associate those steps with a tone and a readiness for sleep.
A child that does not have a routine can suffer from anxiety, as they do not know what will happen next, which may set them up for a poor sleep.
I recommend that a bedtime routine once upstairs take no more than half an hour, any longer than this and they may get a ‘second wind’ and become over-tired and then sleep may become a battle.
Ideas for healthy habits and steps for a good bedtime routine
A good bedtime routine will start the melatonin production and lets the child’s body know that it is getting ready to sleep.
- Screen Time: I advise no screen time at least an hour before the bedtime routine commences. Blue light from screens has been shown to suppress melatonin production and effect a child’s circadian rhythm, screens are very visually stimulating for children especially children’s television.
- Sleepy Snack: When your child is established on solid food you can start the routine downstairs with a sleepy snack and some quiet play. These snacks are easy to digest and include bananas, wholemeal bread, lentils, turkey, dairy, low sugar cereals, pitted cherries, oatmeal and rice. These foods contain naturally occurring melatonin that aids the transition into sleepiness.
- Bath time or a wash: Introducing a bath into your bedtime routine is amazing. A bath can be a lovely way of engaging in some 1:1 time with your child. During our sleep body temperature falls by 1-2 degrees and then as wake up approaches it goes up again. A bath does a similar thing in that when a baby is in warm water (38 degrees Celsius) their body temperature goes up slightly and then when we take them out, body temperature goes down again, similar to when we sleep and so it prepares the body for sleep. Taking a baby or child out of a bath and wrapping them in a soft towel can also be a good excuse for a big cuddle whilst they drying giving them the safe, warm and secure place they need to be before bed.
- Teeth: Brush teeth or if the child has no teeth you could use a clean and cool wet muslin to wipe around their gums.
- Sleep environment: after the bathroom take your baby straight into their bedroom, pop their sleep wear on and make the room very dark, 10/10 for darkness, as it helps tremendously with the production of the ‘sleepy hormone’ melatonin. The only thing that simulates our ‘awake hormones’ better than a screen is sunlight. The bedroom should be a calm and relaxing space and the cot is empty of toys apart from one stuffed toy. We don’t want the cot to be associated with anything other than sleep. Also ensure their bedroom temperature is between 16-20 degrees Celsius. Follow this link, which sets out current guidance for safe sleep – https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Safer-sleep-for-babies- a-guide-for-parents-web.pdf
- Feed: Breastfeed or bottle-feed and try to keep them awake.
- Story or a song: stories and songs contribute toward brain development and enhance their communication skills. They also help to lower stress levels and when done as part of a routine will produce more of the ‘sleepy hormone’ melatonin. Be sure to keep them brief though as you don’t want to over stimulate your little one with lengthy exciting tales.
- Cot / Bed awake: lay them down in the cot awake.
By employing a consistent and predictable bedtime routine, you provide a child structure when your child needs to feel secure especially before they go to sleep and teaches them to fall asleep on their own.
If you have a bedtime routine but your little one still doesn’t sleep well please just get in touch! My sleep plans include a bedtime routine but a good bedtime routine won’t resolve sleep problems if your little one has not learned to sleep so book a free, no obligation, chat to talk about working together.