Just like you or I, a child can’t switch from moments of high activity to sleep without some transition. To help them get into sleep mode, you should create a predictable routine that you perform just before bed. The sooner you establish a bedtime routine, the happier (and healthier) your whole family will be. Over time, your child will begin to show signs of drowsiness when you begin the routine.
The details of the routine will change a bit as your child grows, and routines vary between families, but the basics will remain. Here’s how you can set a bedtime routine.
Pick a Time
I’m sure you’ve noticed that if you fall asleep at ten one evening, you’re sleepy the next night at the same time. Children are the same. Their bodies adjust to the schedules they keep. Exploit this so they follow a regular pattern and fall asleep without protest.
Keep it Routine
Naturally, the most important part of a bedtime routine is consistency. Once you find one that works, stick to it at all costs. Once you set the path, not only do children conform to it, they eventually prefer it. The bedtime procedure should stay the same all through the week, even on weekends. If your family visits Grandma for the holidays, maintain the routine as best you can at her house.
Provide a Transitional Object
Separation from you can be hard on many children. It’s helpful to create a transitional object that stands as a substitute for mom or dad when it’s time to go to sleep. This helps them cope with the anxiety of your absence. This object is often a stuffed animal with a personalized name.
Designate a Sleep Environment
Create a space that welcomes comfort and sleep. Keep distractions out of this room if possible. Play should happen in another room so your child doesn’t subconsciously associate the bedroom with activity and energy. Most importantly, your child should sleep in this place consistently so he or she becomes used to it.
Popular Bedtime Routine Steps
Offer a Light Snack – If meal time was a while back, offer something with carbohydrates and protein. The carbs induce sleepiness and the protein maintains blood sugar until the next meal.
Give a Warning – At a young age, your child won’t understand “ten minutes to bedtime,” but it helps build an association that the day is winding down. This will give them some time to mentally prepare themselves for the change.
Play Calmly – After-dinner play shouldn’t involve a lot of movement or activity. Play calmly with toys in a seated position. Keep your voice low and the lights dim.
Give a Warm Bath – By raising your child’s body temperature slightly, you’ll make him or her more prone to sleep. It’s also a way to play in a calm manner. Since you your child can’t crawl or move around much, they won’t excite themselves. (If your baby doesn’t enjoy baths or gets too excited during them, leave this off your routine.)
Ritual Grooming – Go through the typical end-of-day tasks that anyone else would: brushing teeth and gums, washing hands and face, change of diaper/use potty, etc.
Dress for Bed – Choose non-binding, comfortable clothes. Let your child choose so they feel a sense of “ownership” over the process.
Read a Storybook – Stories are the perfect activity just before bedtime because everyone is still, sitting comfortably in bed, and your voice will lull your child to sleep.
Say Goodnight Briefly – Say goodnight, tell your child you love him or her and then exit the room. Don’t rush back in at the first noise (unless of course you believe you hear distress).
Guest Blog by Joanna von Yurt, Co-Founder and CEO of Swanling Innovations Inc.
Joanna von Yurt is the mother of three intelligent, sensitive, and compassionate girls (who all want to be mommies when they grow up). She is first AND foremost a mom! Professionally, however, she is an accountant, controller and serial entrepreneur.
Joanna has a degree in Psychology from Harvard University with an emphasis in child psychology. She worked as an infant caregiver for 12 years and interned as a Child Life Specialist, family/social therapist, and assisted in clinical studies involving children’s personality and social psychology.
Joanna has a lifelong passion for childcare and child safety. She enjoys sharing her experiences with other parents about sleep routines, attachment parenting, safe sleep guidelines, and children’s natural sleep patterns. Her company, Swanling Innovations, is committed to producing modern, safe and innovative products that meet the expectations of discerning parents. The Slumber Sleeper™ is a 4-in 1 safe sleep solution (mattress protector, flat sheet, fitted sheet and sleep sack all in one) designed to help keep your baby safe, warm and centered.
Joanna always says that a well-rested child and well-rested parents add up to a happy family!
Visit www.swanling.com for more information.
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