Setting Up A Sleep Routine For Your Child
“In the great green room there was a telephone…” How many times have you read that line? I can recite that book with my eyes closed while standing upside down on one hand. I must have read that book a quadrillion times for my boys; over and over and over again…. Why does your little one want you to read the same book every night?
Familiarity. Routine. Knowing what to expect. Children need routine--they need to know what to expect and when because it gives them a sense of security. Having their meals, play time, nap time, and bed time structured really helps the child understand time. This eases the transition from one activity to the next.
Same thing applies to their sleep. Your little one will need her day sleep (up until around the age of 4), and setting up her nap times according to her circadian rhythm will really help her understand what is coming. It will also help her body wind down and sleep better. While I do suggest a routine, make sure you allow some flexibility if needed. It’s the consistency that is reassuring for your child.
When to begin?
I always suggest parents begin shaping these routines as early as day one. For newborns, make sure you are feeding your child on her regular hour schedule. If you need to wake your newborn during the day to feed, go ahead and do so. You don’t want her missing those nutritional feedings during the day, then looking for them at night instead. Also, newborns have a limited time that they can be awake, so make sure your baby sleeps every 1-1.5 hours, since her little body can’t be up longer than that.
Once your baby is roughly 3-4 weeks old, start implementing a bedtime routine. While it is very unlikely that your little one will sleep through the night at this age, you still want to begin establishing a routine so she begins to understand those external sleep cues. She will begin familiarizing herself with this routine, which will be part of her bedtime process for the years to come.
What to do?
I like the 4 B’s; Bath. Bottle/Breast. Book. Bed. Some like to add a massage after the bath; that’s OK. Use this as a guide and adjust it depending on age. For those newborn babies, by the time you’ve hit books your baby might already be sleeping. And for a 5 month old, she may just try to eat the book. But for an 8 month old, sitting and reading a short hard-covered book is fun! For your toddler who no longer drinks a bottle/breast, I would replace this with a Brushing of the teeth.
Once you have set a routine that’s a good fit for you and your baby, begin the routine 30 minutes before bedtime, and 10 minutes before her naptime. Her naptime routine should be the same as her bedtime one, but a shorter version.