How To Create A Bedtime Ritual (that will make your baby LOVE sleep)
Lots of parents want to know when they can start a routine with their baby, but routine is wasted on new babies, who aren’t time-bound and don’t understand schedules. In fact, trying a rigid routine before your baby is developmentally ready can cause untold stress for all involved, despite what some baby books might try to preach.
But having said that, babies love sequences of events, which is different to a routine. Whereas a routine tends to be time-specific, a sequence of events isn’t about watching the clock but about repeating the same set of events at roughly the same time each day, for example at bedtime.
When it comes to new babies, a predictable sequence of events at every sleep time, known as a Bedtime Ritual, can do wonders for preparing your bub for slumber and also offers the two of you some special quiet time together.
A good, concrete Bedtime Ritual can:
- Provide a reliable set of cues to help baby learn that it’s time for sleep
- Help baby calm down if he’s overtired or overstimulated
- Make bedtime pleasant and soothing for both of you
- Help the two of you reconnect if it’s been a long and hard day
- Set your baby up for healthy sleep habits in the future
- Be transportable – you can replicate the ritual anywhere
- Be long-lasting – children of all ages love a Bedtime Ritual, so you can modify yours as your child grows and keep enjoying the bedtime closeness.
You can start a beautiful Bedtime Ritual as soon as you’re ready. Just come up with a sequence of events you’d like to occur in the lead-up to bedtime that offer down-time and soothing for you and your baby. For me, it was always nappy change, swaddle or sleeping bag, last feed and a slow cuddle/dance around the room while I sang exactly the three same nursery rhymes every single time. I did this for every sleep, and to be honest, really enjoyed the ritual for my own sanity, as I found it hugely relaxing.
Remember, the Bedtime Ritual isn’t about getting a perfect sleeper but about helping your baby understand the cues for bedtime and come to enjoy the sequence of events leading up to it – which will promote good sleep down the track, even if your bub needs your help to fall asleep initially.
Here is an example of what you could include in your own Bedtime Ritual for your baby – just tweak it to make it work at your place.
1. Start your Bedtime Ritual about 20 minutes before baby’s day sleep is due, or 40 minutes before his night-time sleep, when you might give bub a bath or massage to differentiate the night from day sleeps.
2. Change baby’s nappy to make sure he’s clean and dry
3. Offer your baby a feed if you wish. Let your baby become drowsy on the breast, but if possible, pull him off before he falls asleep.
4. Swaddle your baby, ensuring that his hips and legs are free to move. If your baby is older, use a sleeping bag.
5. Cuddle your baby and sing your favourite lullaby (totally fine to make this a Coldplay track or a slow version of Baa Baa Black Sheep if that’s all you can come up with. Just enjoy it, because your baby LOVES to hear you sing)
6. Put on some white noise and whisper goodnight to your sleepy baby
7. Place your baby on his back in the bassinet and leave the room
Your baby might not fall asleep on his own, and that’s totally okay. The important thing is to set up your Bedtime Ritual and use the same sequence of events every single day, at roughly the same sort of time so that your baby comes to expect and look forward to the pattern. This forms excellent groundwork for good sleep down the track, when your baby is ready to fall asleep more independently.