Updated: Jul 31, 2020
One of the most important parts of your child's evening is the bedtime routine. A consistent, well-timed, and calm-inducing transition from day to night can mean the difference between a happy sleeper and a wild Little Monster!
When the routine is done at the same time every evening (more or less), your child's body will be primed to relax when the routine begins - it knows what's coming!
The dinner-bath-bed pipeline is a great way to gradually shift from day to night. Their tummies will be full, they can get out their last wiggles while playing in the tub, and going from the warm bathroom back to room temperature is a natural sleep-inducer! (Of course, if your schedule or your child's skin can't handle a daily bath at this time, don't worry!)
After the bath, the rest of the routine should take place in their room. Once they go in there, they're not coming out until the appropriate time (make sure to do last call with toddlers and preschoolers!). If they share a room with a sibling who is already asleep, you can do it in another space that works for your family. Make sure you have a cozy sitting spot in whatever location you choose.
The routine should be done in dim light - lowering the lights a bit will help stimulate melatonin production.
If your child is still taking a last feeding before bed, do it at the very beginning of the routine, 20-30 minutes before getting into bed. We don't want a feed-to-sleep association after the newborn phase.
In general, the post-bath routine should take no longer than 20-30 minutes - just long enough for them to wind down, feel loved, and be relaxed enough to sleep. This includes diapering and PJs - let your toddler pick their pajamas (as long as it's safe, let them sleep in whatever TF will eliminate a power struggle).
Now comes the fun part - snuggles and sharing special moments! Reading chill, age-appropriate books at bedtime are a great way to bond and build early pre-literacy skills. You can get my booklist by signing up for my mailing list!
You can also add in massage, stretching, singing, prayer/meditation, music - just keep it relaxed and mellow and no screens, please!
Once their little body relaxes, into the crib or bed they go. Turn out the light, turn off any music, turn on the white noise, give hugs and kisses, and make your way to the door.
Since you've read this far, I'm going to give you one of my best tricks, for FREE! When you get to the door, say a "cue phrase" like "I love you, have a good night, I'll see you in the morning". This signals the end of interaction for the night. If you do have to make any night visits to your child, say it again when you leave the room those times too. And stick to it!
If you've got the routine on lock, but things are still going awry, check out my Facebook Live video on bedtime routines or sign up for your free 15 minute call. Let's get your family on the road to great sleep.