Learn How to Develop Good Bedtime Rituals for Your Kids
Establishing bedtime rituals is an important part of nighttime parenting. Use these techniques to teach your baby how to go to sleep each night:
Create a set routine and stick to it
Pay attention to his natural sleep/wake patterns and adjust bed time as necessary
Provide comfort measures so he'll feel safe at bedtime
Give him the love and affection he needs during the day for a smoother nighttime transition
Make sure his physical needs are met before bedtime
Establishing bedtime rituals early on is important for your baby to develop healthy sleep habits, and for you to get a good night's sleep so you can function effectively. If you haven't used a bedtime routine in the past, it's never too late to start. Just remember that the sooner you begin, the more quickly and seamlessly your baby will adapt to the routine you set. Here are several tips for establishing bedtime rituals for your baby.
Babies and children thrive on routine. Consistency is the key. When you repeat the same bedtime rituals night after night, babies quickly learn when it's time to go to sleep. This kind of organized routine provides a sense of comfort and structure to babies and lets them know what to expect.
The exact routine that you choose is up to you. Many parents give their child a nightly bath and put on pajamas as a bedtime routine. Others put on pajamas, read a book, and play soft music. Choose rituals that are age-appropriate, and be consistent by putting the routine in practice every single day. Other suggestions are simple games or songs that help your baby unwind. Read a quiet, night time book, and say prayers together. Make sure that the activities you choose are gentle and quiet to avoid overstimulating your baby right before bed.
If the routine isn't working well, pay attention to your baby and see if you can tell when he is tired. If you set bed time too late, for example, he may be too wound up and over tired to sleep. If you set bed time too early, he'll just fidget and fuss. Be willing to make changes to the routine based on your child's needs.
Other ways to enhance the effectiveness of bedtime rituals are comfort measures like a pacifier, a lovey, or a soft cotton shirt that smells like mom. You could also try white noise like a fan (in warm weather) or a device specifically designed to create a soothing, ocean-like white noise. I used on of these units in my son's room to help him sleep, and it was the only thing that finally got him to sleep.
Decide how "hands on" you want to be when it comes to night time parenting. Some parents – especially breastfeeding mothers – prefer to co-sleep with their babies and find that both mom and baby sleep better this way. Other parents really want their space at night, and prefer to have baby in his own room. If this is the case, you'll want to be even more diligent about faithfully following the bedtime rituals you set.
Take the time to really connect with your baby during the day. Some babies refuse sleep because they are lacking in quality time with mom and dad. If you meet your baby's needs during the day and provide the attention and loving touch he needs, he's more likely to be calm and secure for a better night's sleep.
Finally, make sure your child's physical needs are met before you put him down to sleep. A wet diaper, teething pain, illness, or hunger can make it difficult for your baby to sleep. Tank him up with a nutritious meal at dinner, or a bottle or breastfeeding session before bed. Don't overdo it, but do offer him a light snack if he is hungry after dinner and before bed. Be aware of any illness or pain he may be experiencing, and provide pain relief measures.
The most important thing to remember is to keep bedtime rituals consistent. Your baby may protest at first, but this will pay off in the long run with a child who sleeps more consistently, allowing you to get the rest that you need to function effectively.