Make bedtimes stress free: our 6 step bed time routine
When we had our first baby (‘Ted’ who is now 3yo) we had absolutely no idea how hard the sleep deprivation was going to be. My partner and I both love our sleep so waking up every couple of hours was a huge shock to the system.
Naturally we couldn’t believe our luck when Ted began sleeping through the night at 3 months old. Everything was sunshine and roses! For a few months at least.
Just before his first birthday sleep regression hit.
Ted would fall asleep around 7:30/8 as before but he would only sleep for about 10 minutes before waking up bursting with energy. He didn’t want milk, he didn’t want cuddles, he just wanted to play. No matter what we tried, be it cutting out afternoon naps, putting him down in his cot, rocking him to sleep; nothing worked. Even the advice from the professionals didn’t help! Some nights he would be awake until 1am. It was exhausting. sometimes it would affect him the next day too.
It was a vicious cycle and it was all the harder to break because you cant stop a baby from napping, They will literally fall asleep stood up.
It was not long after he turned one when we decided to set a bedtime routine and stick to it.The routine listed below is the one we follow now but It has barely altered since then. It’s important to remember though that these things don’t happen over night, it took a few weeks of consistency before Ted started to adjust to his bedtime routine!
1. Tea (Dinner)
Tea (or dinner depending on what you call it!) is the event that signals the start of our night time routine. Our 3yo knows that once he has had tea we normally start to settle down for the night.
2. Half an hour free time.
Depending on how tired he his, Ted then spends half an hour playing to allow his stomach to settle before..
3. Bath time!
We normally get all the boring stuff such as hair washing and scrubbing out the way first, then Ted has some time splashing and playing with his favourite bath toys to burn off that last bit of energy.
4. Dry hair, get into pyjamas and brush teeth
Ted usually picks out which pyjamas he wants to wear, it saves fuss and also gives him a more positive attitude towards going to bed.
If your child still has a bottle of milk, it might be a good idea to give it to them before they brush their teeth. But of course all babies are different and some may require their bottle in order to go to sleep, just try to avoid prolonged sucking of bottle teats!
In order to make sure teeth are squeaky clean, tooth brushing should last at least two minutes. We use a three minute toothbrush timer to make toothbrushing more fun, Ted loves watching all the sand drop to the bottom and it really helped us get him excited about brushing his teeth – something which used to be a total nightmare.
5. Toilet trip or nappy change and then into bed with a bottle of water for cuddles and stories
A toilet trip at this point is great for preventing accidents during the night if little one is using the toilet, its also a great time to sit potty training children on the potty to get them used to the routine.
It’s always a good idea to give your child a bottle of water for bed but especially so in hot weather. we use the munchkin miracle 360 sippy cup, you drink from it just like a cup but it’s completely no spill so Ted can just keep it next to his pillow.
Once in bed, Ted normally chooses either one big story or two small stories. It’s important to set a limit. Ted used to con me into reading 6 stories a night! Eventually I realised that this was just to prolong the time before he had to go to sleep and it was making him tired and cranky the next day.
Remember, stories aren’t just for bedtime, so it’s ok to pop them aside to read the next day. Once we’ve read our stories we normally have a big cuddle, I kiss him and say goodnight then I get off of his bed.
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6. Light off, night light on and Time for sleep
When Ted was younger he was always nervous about being left alone in his bedroom, so I would sit in his room with a book and read whilst he settled down. He would of course try chatting to keep himself awake (sometimes even with his eyes closed!). But I would tell him it was time to get some sleep and to lie down. At first it would take him 20-30 minutes to get to sleep but that soon dropped down to ten.
Now that he’s a bit bigger he likes to be left alone at bedtime, he doesn’t usually have toys in his bed but he normally keeps his books to flick through until he falls asleep.
I never thought we would get to a set bedtime routine with Ted, but with some time, patience and by working together we’ve got to a much calmer place. Ted is so settled with his bedtime routine that it doesn’t matter if were out late for a day or two. He’s happy to jump straight back in to his routine the next day.
Having a set routine has really helped to settle him. He now sleeps 7pm – 7am and is so much happier and calmer in himself.