What is a bedtime routine and why is it important
A bedtime routine usually consists of similar activities we need to do in order to prepare ourselves for bed.
If adults cannot go straight to bed in evening before doing something relaxing which puts them into the sleepy mood, babies need this soothing time even more simply because they need more guidance.
A bedtime routine, also called a wind-down ritual, usually calms us down and prepares us physically and mentally for sleep. So it should include low stimulation activities, positive and calming attitude, a dim light and a cosy atmosphere – all of these in a repetitive, kind of boring tempo. This is what gives us the security and tranquillity we all instinctively need to go peacefully to sleep.
When to start a bedtime routine
Depending on the age, there are different types of bedtime routines.
For instance we should not prepare a specific bedtime routine for a newborn earlier than 6-8 weeks of age when their body starts producing melatonin (the sleep hormone) and they can make the difference between night and day.
Later on, as the baby turns into a toddler, the bedtime routine becomes a vital signal for sleep preparation. In other words, babies really need it if we want them to have a healthy restorative sleep.
Types of bedtime routines
At first, for a newborn, a bedtime routine is very short, consisting of a quick bath, a tiny massage with a delicate baby-oil, diaper change, milk-feed, burp, cuddle and possibly swaddling if baby is less than 3 months old.
For a 6 to 12 month old baby a bedtime routine could also include a playful warm bath with a nice massage, relaxing music, diaper change, milk-feed, burp, a simple book reading, a soft comfort toy and many gentle cuddles.
Why these activities
- A warm bath helps a baby sleep because after the bath, their body’s temperature drops with 0.5-1 degree, which is a prerequisite for falling sleep.
- A nice massage with calming baby oil boosts their blood circulation at first and activates some organs which make their body a bit “tired”, something like a siesta after lunch. This has a relaxing affect on their muscles at the same time, so babies are more open to sleep. There are also some yin yoga exercises for babies who can also help inducing their readiness for sleep.
- Relaxing music is the perfect environment to calm down and promote a strong bonding between the parent and the baby.
- A new clean diaper makes the baby feel well and comfortable to sleep as well.
- Milk is a sleep inductive nutrient especially for babies. It contains tryptophan which aids the production of the sleep-supporting transmitters like serotonin and melatonin. Moreover, the Calcium from milk is a natural muscle relaxant which has a calming effect on the central nervous system, both of help for a more restorative sleep.
- Burping is very important for babies who need to release the air which goes in when drinking milk (both breastfed or formula-fed) and reduce the risk of waking up later because of this or because of tummy aches.
- Babies older than 6 months old who are able to sit can find simple coloured books very interesting and part of their own journey of discovering the world.
- It goes without saying that cuddling, touching, singing and loving words from parents are like an anchor for their baby who thus finds the right bond to connect with them during the day and evening mostly and is not looking for this connection at night.
- What can also help to sleep better at this age is to introduce a “lovey“ with mom’s smell – a soft toy which could be a positive and reassuring association to encourage more independent sleep over time (this is safe, btw).
Bedtime ritual for a toddler is another story which could be very challenging for parents. Therefore I will write and dedicate a special post for this matter. So stay tuned!
Until then, remember that bedtime ritual is also a chance for parents to connect with their babies, to bond and spend quality time with them, reassuring them of their unconditional support and love over and over again.
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If you have more questions about bedtime rituals for babies, please feel free to leave a comment below and I will do my best to give you the right answer as soon as possible.
And if you need more support with helping your baby sleep better at night, I would be happy to connect.