"Get baby into a consistent bedtime routine." If you’re a new parent, you’ve probably heard this phrase a million times. But you might be asking why it’s so important, what benefits it has and just how exactly you can make this work. Well, continue reading to find out!
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What is a consistent bedtime routine?
This doesn’t have to be complicated. Basically, it’s the things you do before bed to get baby ready to go to sleep. You probably already do this for yourself (e.g. cup of tea, Netflix, shower, brush teeth, read, sleep) but you might not stick to a certain order at the same time each night. This is the trick for baby – same routine, same order, same time.
So, for example:
- 18:00 – bath time
- 18:15 – feed
- 18:30 – cuddles
- 18:40 – put baby in cot and story time
Of course, times and activities will vary depending on your family, but that’s an example of how simple it can be. It’s believed you can start getting them into a consistent routine at about 6-8 weeks - so definitely something you can start thinking about pretty early.
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What are the benefits of a consistent bedtime routine?
That’s the big question. If you’re used to mixing up the order you do things before baby goes to bed, and doing it at no set time, we actually don’t blame you – being a parent is difficult enough, and sometimes you just have to do what you can when you can. But you may actually be shooting yourself in the foot here – a consistent bedtime routine can actually help baby to sleep better, meaning you might be able to have more time to yourself and less stress in the long run.
A study of over 10,000 children age 0 – 5 from all around the world found that a consistent bedtime routine lead to:
- Earlier bedtimes
- Children falling asleep faster
- Less waking up in the night
- Children sleeping for longer
- Fewer daytime behaviour problems
- Fewer sleep problems for parents!
Now, if that isn’t enough to convince you, there’s lots more research on this. This study found that a consistent routine improved sleep problems for infants and toddlers and even improved parents’ mood. Another study (which looked at a load of studies on this together) found that routines don’t just improve sleep, but can help with baby’s mood and behaviour, language development, parent mood and even marital satisfaction – score!
And don’t worry if your baby’s a bit older and you want to introduce a consistent routine to them – this study looked at babies aged 8 – 18 months who didn’t have a consistent bedtime routine, gave them one, and found that sleep disturbances in infants and toddlers can be helped in just the first few days of a consistent routine. Incredible!
A consistent bedtime routine is also recommended by the NHS, the American Academy of Pediatrics, NCT and Sleep Foundation. Of course, it’s not going to be the magical solution for everything, but it’s definitely a little sprinkling of magic that can ease things a little bit.
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How can I help my baby get into a consistent bedtime routine?
Keep it simple
As we’ve said above, it really doesn’t need to be complicated. Bath, feed, story time, bed is absolutely fine. Of course, depending on your baby and the way your family works, it will be different – just figure out what works best for you.
Same order, same time, same place
Consistency is key. You want your little one to start associating things with sleep time which will help them know there aren’t any surprises coming so they can relax and settle. Starting their bedtime at the same time each night, keeping it in the same order and making sure they fall asleep in the same place (keep it the same for naps too) are all part of creating a ‘consistent’ bedtime routine to help them sleep better.
Keep pre-bed activity to a minimum
Stimulation for anyone before bed can make their brain buzz and keep them awake, and this is exactly the same for baby. Although it may be tempting, try to keep playing out of their bedtime routine. Instead, focus on quiet, calming activities like baby massage, quiet story time and/or soft music. This goes for both babies and toddlers!
Put baby down when drowsy but still awake
You’ve probably heard this one before. This is super helpful for night wakings – if baby falls asleep in your arms and then wakes up in their cot, they may be confused or worried and not be able to settle back to sleep easily. By putting them to sleep in their cot while still awake, they know where they are if they wake up again and will start to associate their cot with sleep.
Of course, life is unpredictable and babies will often fall asleep before they’re put to bed, but it’s just something to start getting into the habit of that may help them with sleep.
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Create a sleep sanctuary
We’ve all got our sleep preferences – fan on? Complete darkness? Earbuds in? Three pillows? Of course, some people are fussier than others, just like some babies are fussier than others! Some can fall asleep anywhere (we really do mean anywhere), while others will need a few particular things in place to help them drift off. If your little one’s having trouble falling asleep, look at:
- Room temperature – The Lullaby Trust recommend that baby’s room should be between 16-20°C. This is for safety reasons, to stop them from getting too cold or from overheating. It’s also something that can affect their sleep.
- Bedding – The Lullaby Trust also recommend keeping a clear cot to prevent risks of SIDS, but too much or too little bedding can affect baby’s temperature which can then affect their sleep. A mattress and firmly tucked in sheets and blankets that can be added and removed are all they need.
- Blackout blinds – can really help for daytime naps and early bedtimes.
- Noise level – too much noise may keep baby awake. Try to keep noise low around the rest of the house when baby is sleeping, and keep windows closed if there’s noise from outside.
- White noise – this can have a calming effect. It gives them something to focus on, and can simulate noises they heard in the womb.
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Let Bluebell help you
Did you know, many of the issues above can be helped with a Bluebell Smart baby monitor? As well as all the baby monitoring bits (breathing, temperature, etc. with real time alerts on these), parent tracking and other super smart features, the monitor is designed to help with sleep! It does this with:
- Routine tracking and planning, so you can create your baby’s consistent bedtime routine and get reminders on it through to your phone and Parent wristband. This means you don’t need to remember when to start their routine and what order to do it in – you’ll be reminded every day! And as multiple people can download the app and be added to your family, anyone who looks after baby can follow their routine and stop them from falling out of it.
- It has a gentle night light for night feeds and changes, free from blue light (which can affect sleep) – this means as little disturbance as possible.
- It has lullabies and white noise, which can be controlled from your phone. So, for example, you’ll be alerted if baby stirs and you may choose to turn the white noise on through your app to settle them to sleep. This means you don’t need to get out of bed, leading to less disturbances for both of you.
- Read more about how a baby monitor from Bluebell can help with your little one’s sleep environment.
Of course, every baby is different. Some of these might work, some might not, but these are the tried and tested ways that parents succeed in sorting out that bedtime routine and helping baby to sleep better.
We’d love to know if you’ve got any more ideas for this – share the knowledge!