Calm and happy bedtime routines for all the family
A calm and consistent bedtime routine can be the key to “good sleep hygiene”. A consistent and predictable sequence of events that happens at the same time each evening can help your little one learn to understand that sleep is coming.
Claire Holness – founder of Sweetbeginnings Babycare gives us some great advice on the subject
Each family is unique and therefore will have different dynamics and rituals that they set in place at bedtime. This is completely fine as bedtime needs to work for each member of the family.
A bedtime routine helps to bridge the gap between wakefulness and sleep. In essence it helps to prepare our bodies and mind for sleep.
When we create bedtime rituals that are calm and consistent each night it is a great sleep cue for your little one.
Babies love consistency and to feel safe and cared for, anticipating that it is time for sleep can help them to feel safe and trust in you too.
Sleep in itself is a separation between parent and child, and of course your new-born baby will feel most safe and secure with you in the beginning.
A bedtime routine set within positive associations can help your little one to associate bedtime positively.
As your baby grows separation anxiety can mean bedtime battles and in essence bed dread for the parent.
Bedtime routines can begin from as early as 6 weeks beginning with introducing a sleepy phrase or song and doing a mini routine. This will progress as your child grows as being so little doing too much can overstimulate them, however follow your little one’s lead.
Top tips for creating calm and blissful bedtime routines
Maintain a calm sleep environment
Before implementing any routine we would look at the sleep space to ensure it is sleep inducing and for your little one to establish positive associations with it.
Pre 6 months the safest place for your baby to sleep is in the same room as you. Please check with lullabytrust.org.uk with regards to the “Safe to Sleep” campaign.
However you can still make this space sleep inducing.
Firstly make sure it is adequately dark, blackout blinds can be great particularly in the summer.
If you need to use a light for feeding etc. use a dim red or orange light as this doesn’t interfere with our sleep.
Consider any distractions in the room, try to see it from your child’s perspective. An open cupboard door, reflection from a mirror, hanging toys or mobiles can be quite distracting and can hinder sleep.
Watch the temperature in the room, your baby will like to feel comfortable and being too hot or cold can mean they won’t sleep too well. The temperature recommendation is between 16-20 degrees.
Consider also how you dress baby to sleep this will of course be season dependent. Use a sleeping bag this can be a great sleep cue.
Quietening the house an hour before bedtime.
Turn off electronics and spend quality one to one time with your child this can help them wind down from the day.
You could do puzzles, draw and colour and chat with them.
Some incorporate a massage at bath time however a bath and massage together can be just a little too over stimulating for some babies, so choose one or the other. You know your baby best so do what works for them.
A soothing bath can be done, however some children may not like a bath every evening, this is fine just do a hands and face wash instead.
You can still keep it calm and relaxing. Playing some relaxing music, dim the lights and spray some lavender.
A bath is a great bonding experience.
Once they have been in the bathroom then carry out the rest of the routine in the bedroom.
Once in the bedroom dim the lights. Going straight to the bedroom can help those positive associations develop.
You can use white noise in the background as this helps to relax some babies and replicates being in the womb hearing your heartbeat. If you are using it for sleep use it all night or switch off just before sleep.
Put them into their sleeping bag and pjs if you haven’t already.
Then feed and cuddles keeping it relaxing, warm, cosy and quiet.
Whilst getting them ready for bed you could sing a particular song. Or if you prefer use a rhyme or a sleepy phrase “Night night Fred, it’s sleep time now”. All of these will be unique to your family.
They are a great cue to your little ones sleep association and these can be used at nap times too.
Introducing a bedtime story has a world of benefits and creates such a wonderful connection between you. You can read a story in a way that can help them drift off to sleep. Use a melodic tone, alongside cuddles and eye contact can help switch them from being alert to sleepy.
Depending on your little one they may like you to stay and support them whilst they fall asleep. This will be very typical in the early months as they learn the skill of sleeping. This will develop with your child.
Always end your routine with a certain phrase, ‘I love you to the moon and back’ or whatever fits for you.
This signals the end of the routine and the start of your child going to sleep
My final tip, is to find ways for you too to be calm and instil a calming bedtime routine for you. Switching off your busy mind. Try breathing & stretching this can help you unwind for sleep too.
Claire Holness is the founder of Sweetbeginnings Babycare, and The Nurturing Hearts Hub, where she is a gentle and holistic sleep coach, a baby massage and yoga expert and an early years educator.
With over 16 years’ experience working with families in various roles, being a mum of 5 boys, experiencing postnatal mental health challenges, Claire recognises the need to nurture and empower families within the early years of their parenting journey.
She has taken it as her mission to ensure no other mum felt as alone as she did in her darkest days, when she actually considered taking her own life.
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