Recent studies have shown that children sleep better if they have a regular good night time routine, which is best implemented when a baby is 6 to 8 weeks old.
The study conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine tested over 10,000 mothers from 14 countries. The age ranged from infants, to toddlers and children up to the age of 6. It was discovered that the children who had a consistent bedroom routine slept better than those who did not. They also didn’t wake up as much during the night and slept for longer.
Getting your child into a sleep routine can seem like a difficult task, and isn’t always easy, but establishing a soothing and predictable pattern will help your child settle down much easier at bedtime. It will also help him to develope good sleep patterns as he gets older.
A good night time routine can have quite a few activities. The key is that you do similar activities in roughly the same way each night, starting around 20 minutes before your child’s bedtime.
Most bedtime routines include pre-bed tasks like having a bath and brushing teeth, as well as quiet, enjoyable activities like reading a book or listening to a story. The aim is to keep the atmosphere calm and positive, using positive attention and praise.
Where to Start?
Choose a bedtime, this is often between 7 and 8pm but can be earlier if you prefer. If you’re dealing with settling problems, it’s best to start with the bedtime that’s closest to when your child naturally falls asleep. This increases the chance that the bedtime routine will become strongly linked to sleep time for your child. For example, if you find that your child finally falls asleep around 9 pm, start with this as a temporary bedtime.
About a week after you introduce the positive bedtime routine, you can start gradually making your child’s bedtime earlier.
This involves making bedtime about 15 minutes earlier every couple of days. You do this until you reach the ideal bedtime for your child.
Create a Restful Bedroom
Creating a sleep-friendly environment is a vital part of establishing a routine, so make sure the bedroom is set up to encourage snoozing. The room temperature shouldn’t be too hot or too cold, around 16-20°C. It should be quiet, too. If it’s a room that’s prone to noise from outside, or the rest of the house, try using a white noise machine.
Room darkening shades are also good, especially for daytime naps. The aim is to indicate it’s sleep time, so a dim light can help while getting ready for bed. When your baby nears bedtime his body will produce melatonin, the sleep hormone. A dim light helps encourage this and can ease him into bedtime slowly.
Simple Is Best
Start your good night time routine simply and build it up over time. A nice way to signal that it’s night-time and to start the bedtime routine is a bath. Afterwards, take your baby into the room where he sleeps, which should be warm, dimly lit and calm. Then you might like to give him a massage, sing a lullaby, dress him for bed, and either swaddle him if he is under 3 months old or put him in a sleeping bag if he’s older, before you start feeding him.
Adding a book as the final stage of the routine from an early age has lots of advantages. Reading makes for great bonding time for mum and dad, and it’s part of the routine that can be developed as your baby gets older, so start with a simple age-appropriate book. It also stops your baby developing an association with feeding and falling straight to sleep. You want to avoid this as much as possible, as a baby who needs certain conditions to fall asleep will need the same conditions to get back to sleep when he wakes during the night.
When your baby is around 6 weeks old, master the ‘drowsy drop-off’ by putting your baby down sleepy, but not asleep, so he gets used to settling in his cot. If you want to use a self-soothing technique, like the ‘cry it out’ method at about 5 to 6 months, then this can be incorporated into the bedtime routine after you have put your baby down for the night.
Cement the Routine
As your baby gets older your routine may change slightly, you may spend more time reading books or longer in the bath playing, but your routine should still retain the same elements so that it stays predictable.
A white noise machine can signal that it is time to go sleep. Find one here.