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Successful Bedtime Routines, Because Parents Need Sleep Too

Successful Bedtime Routines, Because Parents Need Sleep Too

Allison February 1, 2018

Part of having a happy and healthy life as a parent is getting enough sleep. It may seem like lack of sleep comes with the parenthood territory, but it doesn’t have to! Since my daughter was born in September 2016, we have been learning what works best to help her sleep through the night. The one thing that almost guarantees a great night of sleep is a successful bedtime routine. Here is what has worked for us from newborn through toddlerhood.

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Newborn Bedtime Routine

Ok, you probably won’t be sleeping through the night with a newborn. But there are things that you can do to help your baby sleep for as long as possible.


Your newborn baby enjoys feeling confined just like when they were in the womb. A swaddle mimics this feeling. Swaddle blankets don’t need to be anything fancy, in fact, the free ones from the hospital work great. They just need to be large enough to wrap your babe up properly. Our pediatrician even recommended wrapping several swaddles around our baby to make sure she stayed warm. He’s was very adamant that the number one reason babies wake up at night is that they’re too cold. With 40 years of experience, his advice is usually spot on.This tip was no exception. If you aren’t sure how to swaddle your baby check out this step-by-step guide with pictures.

White Noise

White noise saved our lives. I am slightly worried about Addie being addicted to sleeping with white noise as an adult, but it would be worth it for how many sleepless nights its saved us. The key with white noise is to play it as loud as possible, especially for newborns. Again, this mimics the sounds in the womb and provides comfort to your baby. If you don’t have a white noise machine, you can download an app on your phone, tune an old radio between stations, or even run the vacuum cleaner. This is our favorite white noise machine.

Rocking to Sleep

To help cue your newborn that it is time to sleep make sure you rock them. Rocking can be done in your arms, or in a cradle like the rock’n’play. We would put Adeline down for the night around 8 pm in the rock’n’play. Then when we were ready for bed around 10 pm I would breastfeed her and put her to sleep in her Halo Bassinet next to our bed. This gave her a chance to relax and get into sleep mode in the rock’n’play but still have a top-off of milk before we wanted her to sleep for a long stretch of time (when we were sleeping!). I could usually get Addie to sleep from 10 pm to 4 am using this method. Of course, this was after she was several weeks old and it was safe to let her sleep that long.

4-Months to 12-months Bedtime Routine

You may have heard of the dreaded 4-month sleep regression. Parent’s feel like they have finally hit a groove with their child’s sleep and then they turn 4-months and it feels like you are starting from scratch! It definitely happened to us. While it may be tough at the time, I promise you once it’s over you will hardly remember it (maybe due to the lack of sleep). These tips will help you breeze right through it though.

Swaddle Sacks and Magic Merlin Sleepsuit

At a certain point, you will realize that your little one can wiggle their arms out of even your tightest swaddle. Usually, this means their arms will swing around and wake them up. A swaddle sack is a great solution. One of our favorites was the Halo Swaddle Sack. We called it the baby straight jacket because the strong velcro straps kept her arms held tight to her body. However, some baby Houdini’s can even wiggle out of these sacks. For those babies, I would recommend trying out the Magic Merlin Sleepsuit. Not only will your baby look like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow (adorable) man but the thick arms and legs of the suit will keep them in place overnight. Make sure you use the sleepsack or sleepsuit every time you put your baby to bed in order to help them associate it with sleeping.

Sing a Lullaby

When my husband and I were trying to figure out what our bedtime routine would be with Adeline, I knew that I wanted singing to be part of it. Adeline has always seemed to connect with music, even when she was in my belly. Her favorite song was Rainbow Connection from the Muppet Movie. I made Colin memorize the words so that he could sing it to her too. We also introduced The Circle Game by Joni Mitchell, a classic I sang every summer as a camp counselor. Some nights we would only need to sing one, but other nights Addie would be more wound up and we would sing both songs. The goal is to get them sleepy but not totally asleep at this age. Put them down in their crib slightly awake so that they learn to put themselves to sleep. I recommend sticking to one or two songs and singing them every time. The repeated tune and words are a trigger for your baby that its sleepytime. If you really don’t like singing, you can also read the same book every night. I recommend The Going To Bed Book by Sandra Boynton. It was written specifically to help soothe your baby to sleep.

Toddler Bedtime Routine

At a certain point, Adeline told us she didn’t want us to sing to her anymore. She would get restless in the rocking chair and reach for her crib. While we thought it was great that she could put herself to sleep, we wanted to make sure that we had the right bedtime routine in place so that Adeline could start to wind down from the day and know what was coming next.

Sleep Sack

Once your baby rolls from back to belly and belly to back with no problem, then you shouldn’t be swaddling anymore. This does not mean you should give up on sleepsacks. Even for a toddler, sleep sacks are great because they stay in place. You won’t have to worry about your toddler kicking it off in the night and getting cold. It also helps hinder them from climbing out of the crib, which toddlers are known to do. I really love this sleep sack by The Milk and Honey Company because it grows with your child all the way up to size 3T! It may seem like a bit of an investment, but if you use it every night like I do after a few years it is definitely worth it! We have the wool one and it is great for all seasons and very easy to wash.

Our Bedtime Routine

  1. At around 6:40 pm we tell Adeline that it is time to put on her pajamas and go into her room to put a fresh diaper and PJs on.
  2. Next, we have Addie help us clean up all of her toys. She really loves to hand us things, so we have used this to our advantage. She has been picking up her toys every night since she was 12-months-old.
  3. Addie drinks some milk from a straw cup. We don’t give Addie milk throughout the day except for right when she wakes up, and just before bed. This helps fill her belly and the milk makes her sleepy.
  4. We help Addie brush her teeth. We want to instill healthy teeth habits with Addie from a young age, so this was important to include in her bedtime routine. Most dentists recommend that you start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as they have them! We use a soft toddler toothbrush with just water.
  5. We get her room set-up. Addie recently started requesting that her baby doll, unicorn, and water bottle sleep in her crib with her. She is 16-months-old so this is not dangerous. Make sure your child is old enough to roll around in the crib before you put anything in there with them. We also plug-in a night light and a cold air humidifier. This humidifier is great for keeping the air in Addie’s room moist even when we have the heater or air conditioner going during the night.
  6. We put Addie in her sleep sack. Turn on the white noise machine. Give her hugs and kisses and lay her in her crib.

Bedtime Routines vs. Sleep Training

Since starting this bedtime routine, Adeline has slept from 7 pm to 7 am 95% of nights. Feel free to change the routine up to best suit your child’s needs. The most important thing is to be consistent. The bedtime routine for a toddler should be 20-30 minutes. Long to give them time to relax and prepare themselves for bed.

This article is about setting up a successful bedtime routine for your child. There are many different methods for helping teach your child to sleep through the night. We used the Cry It Out method because our pediatrician encouraged it, but make sure to do what you feel comfortable with. Sleep training can be a touchy subject, so I am not recommending or discouraging it, but I do think that these bedtime routine tips will help your child learn to sleep faster and longer through the night.

What has worked for your child? Leave me a comment below. Also, don’t forget to share this article using the buttons to the left!



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