When and How to Start a Bedtime Routine for Your Baby 

As a new mom, sleep is probably on your mind. You’ve likely heard about bedtime routines and may have questions about introducing a bedtime routine for your baby. Let’s answer some of those questions.

Sleep is a basic need; when a sleepless newborn is in the picture, our rest is often the first to go. Thankfully, that’s where baby sleep routines come in. These simple – but effective – routines can help your little one settle in for their sleep and improve it all together.

What are bedtime routines?

Bedtime routines are exactly what they sound like, routines that happen before it is time for bed. I also refer to these as sleep routines, which can occur before naps.

Research has found that consistent bedtime routines have been associated with better sleep, so they are a great thing to have for your baby (and yourself).

When to introduce a bedtime routine

You may wonder when you should start a bedtime routine with your baby. I’ve had parents ask if it is too soon to begin a routine, and the answer is no.

However old your baby is, it is not too soon to introduce a bedtime routine. You can start introducing bedtime routines as soon as your baby is born. 

If your baby is older and you don’t have a regular bedtime routine, know that it isn’t too late and that a bedtime routine can be introduced at any age.

As your baby grows, the bedtime routine will often shift along with your child, so it’s never too late to start a routine or change if it feels like it is no longer working.

baby sleeping on a white pillow in a white onesie

How to introduce a bedtime routine to your baby

If you don’t have a bedtime routine for your child, don’t worry. It can be easy to introduce one.

You most likely have some regular steps that you are doing before bedtime without even thinking about it. Being intentional and consistent with these steps will bring you to a bedtime routine.

With the bedtime routine, the idea is to complete the same steps in the same order every time before bed. This consistency is part of what helps your baby know that sleep is coming.

Your routine will be unique to your family and child. Different things work for other people. Think about what you want to be included in the routine.

Often the steps of the bedtime routine come from tasks we need to complete before sleep; these are usually tasks that you are already doing.

Common steps in a baby’s sleep routine include

  • Feed
  • Diaper change
  • Pajamas
  • Swaddling or sleep sack
  • Snuggles,
  • Say goodnight

We can build off the things we need to complete as part of the bedtime routine and add in some additional steps to give the routine a little more structure and to create more associations for your baby that sleep is coming.

Other things you can choose to have as part of the routine include songs, books, prayers, some baby massage, or anything else that makes sense for your child and family.

These all provide opportunities for connection with your baby before it is time for them to sleep. Whatever you choose to include in the bedtime routine, I suggest keeping it calming and peaceful. 

mom giving a newborn baby a bath in bedtime routine

Should a bath be a part of a baby’s bedtime routine?

We often think of having bath time as part of bedtime, but this doesn’t work for everyone.

Some babies don’t like bath time, or they find it to be stimulating. In these situations, it may work better to have bath time at a different time of the day. So know, it’s okay if your child’s bedtime routine looks different from your friend’s child.

How long should a bedtime routine be?

Also, know that bedtime routines can be short, especially with newborns. You may find that ten minutes is plenty of time for a bedtime routine with your newborn. If you include a bath as part of the routine, it will take longer.

Also, as your baby gets older, you can expect the bedtime routine to take a little longer, especially as your baby becomes more interactive and can participate in the routine.

baby drinking a bottle at bedtime

Final thoughts on introducing a bedtime routine for your baby

To recap, bedtime routines are a great thing to have in place for your family. They help get us ready for sleep and can even support better sleep.

Bedtime routines help us complete tasks we need to do before our child goes to sleep, provide opportunities to connect with our baby, and cue our baby that sleep is coming.

It is never too early or too late to introduce a bedtime routine. With that in mind, when introducing a bedtime routine for your baby, I suggest you start one yourself if you don’t already have a routine in place because you matter too.

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Nicole Gordon

Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant

Nicole is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and owner of Delightful Dreamers, LLC where she supports families with getting better sleep using a holistic approach and gentle, responsive strategies. She has worked with children and families her entire working career and is passionate about supporting families.

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