Ahh bedtime. The time of day that conjures up images of quiet time, cuddles and bedtime stories; however, for many parents this isn’t the case. Playfully referred to as “the witching hour”, it often involves tantrums, hysteria and utter chaos. By this time of the day babies and children are over tired, over stimulated and in some cases very emotional. This is where the bedtime routine comes in. Not only does it help to calm them down, it signals the end of the day meaning your little one will soon understand that it's time to wind down. So, love them or hate them, an established routine is the quickest way to a harmonious evening for all.
Why Implement a Bedtime Routine?
When it comes to introducing a bedtime routine, one of the most important things to remember is consistency, after all, they don’t call it a routine for nothing. So, whether you are introducing a routine for the first time, or you have a toddler who thinks bedtime is play time, we are here to help.
A bedtime routine is not only beneficial to your bundle of joy, but without realising, it benefits you too, who knew! It gives you some much needed respite, time with your partner or time to prepare for the next day. OK, so packing tomorrow’s changing bag, lunch boxes or P.E kit isn’t the most glamorous of tasks, but you’ll thank me in the morning, I promise. By having this “alone” time, you are able to think more freely, plus you never know, you might even manage a hot, yes hot cup of tea! So don’t feel guilty, it’s not selfish, they need their rest and so do you.
When to Implement a Bedtime Routine?
For new parents this is the million dollar question, when to start a bedtime routine? And while there is no hard and fast answer, my advice would be when you feel your baby is ready, usually around 4 months when feeding becomes more established. Anything before then would be too demanding, plus this leaves you free to enjoy your new baby in those first precious months.
If this is your first baby or you are now juggling multiple bedtime routines with siblings in tow, then don’t worry if you aren’t religiously bathing your baby by 6.20pm every night at exactly 4 months, life happens. The key to remember here is that you are beginning a new routine and timing will come, after all you are still adjusting to life as parents yourself so don’t be too hard on yourself, it will soon become second nature.
How To Implement a Bedtime Routine?
If you find yourself guilty of not wanting to give up the newborn cuddles, you let your toddler fall asleep on you, or you’re just not sure where to begin then don’t worry, we’ll show you how with our tried and tested tips below.
Whether its is bath, bottle, bed or bath, brush teeth, story, bed, try not to deviate where possible. That way your little one will soon get the hang of it by associating the bath with a bottle, then the bottle with sleep.
Try your best to resist the temptation of giving in, I promise it gets easier. You don’t have to be regimented with it, but by being consistent, the whole family will benefit.
If you find yourself battling with a pint sized protester then give them control. . or so they think. Let them choose their favourite bath toy to play with, books to read or pjs to wear, that way everyone's a winner, they feel empowered and you get a nice clean tot, ready for bed!
Don’t think of bath time as a chore, use it to reflect on the day by asking questions they’ll love to answer (if they can speak of course). For example, ask them if anything funny happened that day, what they enjoyed playing with the most, or what they would like to do at the weekend. This helps you to engage with your child rather than asking closed questions such as: what did you do at school today, or did you have a nice day? Which will likely be answered with yes, no, or the classic can’t remember. Alternatively, in the early days use bath time to sing songs, get used to the water or begin to teach shapes and colours.
When bath time is over, it’s time to turn things down a notch. A lamp rather than a main light and a cosy story rather than a loud game are great examples.
The right room temperature, a snuggly blanket or their favourite comforter can go a long way toward a positive bedtime so have these things to hand.
Whether you begin your routine at 6pm or 7pm, it’s entirely up to you, you know your family best so make it work for you.
The more you follow a bedtime routine, the more you will discover what works so don’t worry if your friends baby has cold milk, but yours likes warm milk, we are all working towards the same goal of a stress free bedtime, however we get there.
Where possible, put them down awake, this helps them to self soothe by falling asleep on their own, making them less reliant on you (but don’t worry if this doesn’t happen straight away, it’s not for everyone so don't feel pressured, the most important thing is for them to feel calm and relaxed therefore self-soothing can be something to work towards).
Yes it may be challenging at times but a bedtime routine is there to help us rest and recharge for the following day, so why not enjoy a little down time together.