You’re a parent, and it’s 2016. These two facts almost undoubtedly and immediately imply that you have read upwards of three hundred articles, blogs, and books about babies’ sleep. And, while much of the information you’ve consumed might have been filled with frustrating contradictions, there is one rule of thumb that has probably weaved its way into just about every piece of advice you’ve read: Do a consistent bedtime routine. Every. Single. Night.
So, why, of all the sleep advice, is this the piece that always seems to stick? It is for one (rather simple) reason: babies and toddlers LOVE consistency. Children thrive on familiar, predictable routines and environments, and feel most loved, safe, and comfortable when these atmospheres are created for them.
A consistent, daily bedtime routine may sound simple, but there are a couple of key ingredients that cannot be overlooked if your end goal is positive, healthy sleep skills for your little one.
Here are some examples of sleep routines done right:
Babies (under 12 months)
- Sleepsack (or a swaddle, if your little one is under four months and not yet rolling)
- Into crib awake
Notice anything different about this, compared to your own routine? If it’s Step # 7 that’s really got you wondering, then yes, it really does say “Into crib AWAKE.” In order for your child to learn to fall asleep on his own, it is very important that at no stage during the bedtime routine does he fall asleep or get super drowsy for even a second! The goal is to avoid starting your child’s sleep journey for him and, instead, giving him the chance to learn to fall asleep on his own so that he can develop the skills necessary to sleep through the night.
Some small changes will be required to your bedtime routine once your child reaches toddler and preschooler years, and is able to better communicate and reaches certain other milestones.
- PJs (offer two pairs and let your child pick one – toddlers LOVE being given choices!)
- Stories (offer four and let your child pick two – did I mention that toddlers love making decisions?!)
- Into bed awake
Ensure any snacks or last sips of milk are done prior to staring the bedtime routine, and try to avoid sugar at this time. Also, no matter your child’s age, keep your whole bedtime routine – from start to finish! – to a maximum of 45 minutes. We don’t want to lose the “sleep momentum” and have your little lady catch a second wind because you missed her sleep window! Your child may try some additional stalling tactics at bedtime to keep you engaged after she is in bed. She may say she needs more water, or another kiss from dad or mom, etc. She may even ask you some very clever questions about the meaning of life!
Stick with your consistent routine and try not to give in to your little one’s extra demands, and you will maintain fantastic, easy bedtime routine and wonderful, healthy sleep habits for your whole family.
My team and I provide loads of free sleep advice on our Facebook page. We welcome you to follow our tribe of sleep-passionate (or deprived) parents around the globe as we share tips, stories and the straight goods on sleep at WeeSleep and follow me on Instagram and Twitter so we can rock this #sleeprevolution together!
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