Don’t hate me for saying this, but the best bedtime routine we’ve adopted for our baby is from Daniel Tiger.
(We have a love/hate relationship with that show. Our 4-year old daughter has loved it her whole life. It teaches some good lessons, and explains some difficult concepts for kids in a way that helps them understand. There are some strange and incredibly annoying things about the show as well, but I digress.)
Creating a routine is critical for babies to go to bed without a fuss, and a simple one that lets them anticipate what’s next and feel comfortable and relaxed before falling asleep is not difficult to achieve. It will take some getting used to, as do all changes and new routines. But once your baby knows what happens after dinner, knows what happens after bath time, knows what happens after their story, they will be ready for bed.
Okay, ready for it? Our simple, universal, Daniel Tiger-inspired bedtime routine is:
- Bath time. We bathe our kids every night, or almost every night. Even if it’s not a full-on bath, they know the wipe-down is coming because they always, inevitably make a mess at dinner. So whether it’s a legit bubble bath or just a clean-up after dinner, they know this is part of the routine, and that it’s leading to them being put in clean clothes.
- PJ’s. This also means clean, fresh diaper for the baby so he’s dry and clean for the night.
- Brush teeth. Even if they don’t have teeth, using a wet washrag or special gum brush is a good idea to get them in the habit of brushing their teeth, and will prepare them for good teeth hygiene once they come in.
- Story and song. Sing the same 2 or 3 songs every night. You’ll be surprised that at only a few months old, your baby will know the song. Here’s how you’ll know: start singing it differently. For example, I always sing “You are my Sunshine” to my babies. When my son was only 6 months old, I paused in the middle of singing it, and he started laughing. If that were the first time I sang it, he wouldn’t have laughed because he would’ve assumed that was how it went. I experimented with the 2 other songs I often sang and, sure enough, singing them with pauses here and there resulted in adorable baby laughs. I always read the story with the light on, then turned the light off and rocked them while I sang a song or two. Worked like a charm.
- Time for bed. Once the story and songs are done, it’s time to lay down for bed. Once my baby is laid in his crib, I slip the Owlet monitor on his foot while he’s tired and will hardly notice it, then close the door.
So there it is: Bath time, PJ’s, brush teeth, story and song, then time for bed.
But STOP! It works better when it’s an annoying song that gets stuck in your head for eternity, so go here and listen to the song, and then come back.
Now you might hate me because this song will be sung in your head every night for the rest of your life, but if it helps you adopt and maintain a bedtime routine then it’s worth it. That’s the whole love/hate thing with Daniel Tiger. So clever, so annoying.
The trick is to do this from the time they are born. Sticking to a consistent, calming routine will help your baby learn when it’s time to go to bed, and make connections between the events leading up to bedtime. They may fuss at first, but after a while, maybe even a few weeks, they will learn that once the story is done, they will be laid down in their crib where they will be expected to fall asleep. Your efforts at sleep-training, meaning how you handle night-time waking and crying once they are old enough to sleep through the night without feeding and changing, can be a lot easier or even nonexistent if a good bedtime routine is established and your baby has no health issues or other issues that could interrupt sleep.
The steps for the bedtime routine can also be used as calming mechanisms once your baby has associated them with winding down for the night. On a trip, after a doctor’s appointment, or after a long day, these activities can help calm and soothe your baby.
Would you add anything to the list? Is there anything specific that made your baby know it was time to go to bed?