bedtime routines for babies
Why a bedtime routine can be the key to a good night's sleep
Your baby will be more relaxed if she knows what's coming next. The more relaxed she is, the more likely it will be that she'll go to bed easily and fall asleep quickly.
When your baby is as young as six or eight weeks old, you can start to follow a set pattern every night. Your baby will quickly come to appreciate the consistency and predictability. It will help her learn sleep habits that will stand you both in good stead for the future.
What you include in your routine is up to you. There's the standard bath routine, putting on pyjamas, reading a story, having a cuddle, or playing a quiet game. Just make sure you choose something that helps to calm your baby. And while you can certainly start your routine in the bathroom or the living room, make sure you end it in your baby's bedroom.
It's important that your baby's room is a nice place to be, not just somewhere that she's left at bedtime. Making bedtime a pleasurable event, with time, attention and plenty of cuddles, means that your baby will love the whole process. If she gets upset as she sees you leave after you tuck her in, tell her you'll be back to check on her in a few minutes. She'll probably be fast asleep by the time you return.
Let off steam
Sometimes it helps to let your baby get any pent-up energy out of her system before you settle her down for the night. Play a game with her or let her have a good kickabout, but make sure you follow it up with a calm activity, such as a bath and bedtime story.
Give her a bath
Sitting in warm water is soothing and a bath is a wonderful way for your partner to spend some special time with your baby, especially if you're breastfeeding and he can't help as much with meals.
If your baby gets excited during baths or doesn't enjoy them, then leave them out of the routine. Instead, have a quiet cuddle or read a story. And don't forget to take a look at our tips on bathroom safety.
Have a wash and brush-up
Your baby's routine can include washing her face and hands, wiping her gums or brushing her teeth, changing her nappy and putting on her pyjamas. It's important to start the habit of teeth brushing at a young age so your baby gets used to it.
Have a chat
Bedtime is a great opportunity for you to spend time talking to your baby. If you're not sure what to say at first, start by talking about what she's done that day. Your voice will soothe and comfort your baby.
Many babies enjoy the ritual of being carried around the room or the house before bed to say goodnight to family members, pets, favourite toys and other objects.
Read a bedtime story
Your baby will love snuggling down for a story with you. And it'll help her learn to recognise new words. Studies have shown that your baby's language skills can benefit from exposure to a large vocabulary.
Sing a song
Singing a lullaby is a time-honoured way to help your baby drift off. She loves hearing her favourite sound, your voice, and the soft, soothing melody can calm her. If you can't remember the words or tune to your favourite ditties, turn to our lullaby lyrics and lullaby podcasts for a refresher course.
Starting a CD or tape of lullabies, classical music, or other children's favourites while you settle your baby to sleep - and then leaving it on after you leave - can help ease her transition from being awake to falling asleep. Gentle music has the added benefit of drowning out other noise.
Stick to your usual routine as much as you can, even when you're not at home. It can make it easier for your baby to settle down in unfamiliar surroundings.
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