Blog Tips and Advice

Our Baby & Toddler Bedtime Routine

HANDS DOWN the topic that I see the most moms talking about is getting a child to sleep. Not only is sleep important because it gives parents a much needed break to finish up other things around the house or have some down time, but good sleep is critical for a baby and toddler to grow and function normally. I would say that the vast majority of Parker’s “bad” days are driven by interrupted sleep or a lack of sleep. So I thought that I would share with you the routines we put in place to help get Parker to sleep at night (usually relatively easily). Having a set routine helps children know what to expect and ultimately relax and fall asleep more easily so that you don’t have to fight a battle every single night. I’ll start off with what we did when she was younger as a baby, and then go into what we changed as she got older (hint, it really is not much of a difference). So let’s jump into it…

First things first, the number one thing that we did was establish a bed time and stuck to it. I know, I am no fun at all, but it makes such a difference. Sure, sometimes life does get in the way, and you adjust accordingly; however, 9 times out of 10, she is in her crib at her established bedtime. As an infant, her bedtime was 7pm, and now as a toddler, we have stretched that out to 8pm. Typically she will sleep from her bedtime until 7am, sometimes longer (like when she was teething and woke up a lot during the night), sometimes less. My preference is to let her sleep until she wakes up, unless we HAVE to get her up to go somewhere. Depending on your routine and schedule and how your child reacts, that may mean you need to adjust your child’s bedtime accordingly. If I had to get Parker up at 6am still every morning, I would still have her in bed by 7pm. Each child is unique, so experiment and adjust accordingly to find what works for you and your child.

Next, we established a routine that we did each night before she went to sleep. Generally it goes like this: We go upstairs to her room, usually 45 mins to an hour before her bedtime. If it is a bath night, I give her a bath (If not, just skip this step and wipe her face and neck with a damp wash cloth), brush her teeth (after they came in), apply lotion, get her changed into her PJs, and brush her hair. If there is time, I like to just do a wind-down time. Especially since I work during the day, it’s time for us to spend together during which I do my best to give her my undivided attention. When she was a baby, I would do some quick tummy time, show her toys, and interact and play with her. These days as a toddler, we will do something like coloring in her coloring book, or building blocks together. I try not to pick anything that will get her too amped up, and generally we do the activity in her bedroom. This is a part of the routine that I cut out completely on nights where we are crunched for time, so it’s totally optional, but it’s some of my favorite time together with her.

Then when it’s closer to her bedtime, I begin our actual routine. As a baby, this entailed changing her into a fresh sleep diaper and putting her into her sleep sack. With her in her sleep sack, I read her a few books in the rocking chair. After I finish reading her a few books, I move on to feeding her. Usually she dozes off at the end of the feeding, and I stand up, sing her a lullaby and then lay her down in the crib. Generally speaking, the idea is to put your baby down drowsy but not fully asleep so that they learn to fall asleep on their own. I am not going to wake her back up to accomplish this though, so I just roll with it if she is already sound asleep at this point. I always say the same thing when I put her into her crib each night to say goodnight:

“I love you more than all the stars in the sky, and more than all the fish in the sea. I love you to the moon and back. Forever and for always. Sweet dreams my love. Nighty night. I will see you in the morning”.

Obviously, you could adapt this to something more suited to your own personal style. I think what matters is saying the same thing (to develop consistency and routine, that way you child knows what to expect) and reassuring them that you will be back in the morning. I read a parenting book recently that called out bedtime as a time of separation. I had not thought about it before, but it definitely is (unless you co-sleep). So I  like the idea of acknowledging that for your child and reassuring them you will be there when they wake up in the morning.

Now that Parker is a toddler, the vast majority of that routine is the same. 4F42DDF6-E0E7-44B8-A8B7-B25A9E6B97FAThe main difference is there is no feeding, although I will let her have water while we are reading bedtime stories if she wants it. I also don’t change her diaper or put her in her sleep sack until right before I put sing her a lullaby and put her in bed (so the bedtime stories come first). ¬†Additionally, I let her know when I get to the last book before bed, so she knows what to expect. Finally, I let her turn on her sound machine (Mr. Owl) and turn off the light. It makes her happy, so why not? DF95C6F8-8025-44B3-812F-CD48163CDECBOnce she got old enough, I tried to see if she would sleep with a stuffed animal or lovey for comfort, but to this day she gets mad and throws them over the edge of the crib if I put them in there…so I stopped doing that so she wouldn’t get frustrated. Lastly, there are those days when she is super wound up, and I usually try to let her get some of her energy out beforehand we even begin our nighttime routine if I can just tell she isn’t ready for bed by dancing inside or running around outside if I can.

Usually, I can do this routine, lay her down, and walk out of the room. No fuss. No tears. No drama. When I check on her monitor, she’s usually sound asleep within a couple of minutes. If she is teething or upset after I walk out, I will come in and repeat a shortened version of the routine, singing or rocking her until she relaxes and try to walk out again. One thing I did learn is that if she wakes up in the middle of the night, is that I don’t need to disturb her and try to get her back to sleep. If she isn’t actually crying, I let her fall back asleep on her own. Otherwise, it will just wake her up more. Obviously, if something seems wrong, I do go in and comfort her and check on her.

We established this routine once Parker moved out of our room, where she slept in a bassinet as a newborn and into sleeping in her crib in her own room. We made that transition at about 6 weeks old. I’d say all in all it’s gone very smoothly, and we are lucky to have a toddler who sleeps pretty well most nights on our hands. Let me know in the comments what your routine looks like and what your experience have been. Thanks for stopping by!

Katie

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