The common bedtime advice every parent has read or heard at least once: Try a consistent bedtime routine.
Having bedtime and nap time routines that encourage young children to fall asleep quickly and self-soothe is easier said than done, however.
“While developing bedtime and nap time routines isn’t rocket science, there are some common mistakes that many parents make when it comes to pre-sleep routines,” writes Nicole Johnson, founder of The Baby Sleep Site in her new book “Baby S.T.E.P.S. to Better Sleep.” Today’s hint is her take on five common routine mistakes she sees parents make.
The bedtime “routine” is not a routine. In other words, the routine doesn’t always follow the same predictable pattern of events. Her tip: “Focus on creating a pattern of pre-bed activities, and then, make sure to follow it each night.”
The bedtime routine starts too late. According to Nicole, the bedtime routine should start at roughly the same time each night in relation to your baby’s last nap. So even if you get the predicatable routine pattern right, you could be getting the time to begin the pattern wrong if you start too late (remember that keeping your child up later doesn’t mean he or she will sleep later. In fact, the opposite is generally true).
For babies ages 8 months to 10 months, Nicole recommends a typical bedtime between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.; for toddlers 10 months to 15 months, she recommends a bedtime between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The bedtime window goes a bit later for kids 15 months to 3 years old: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. And for preschoolers 3 years to 5 years old, Nicole suggests a bedtime between 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Assuming it takes your child roughly 10 minutes to fall asleep, you’ll want to begin the routine at an appropriate time in advance of your child’s bedtime.
The bedtime routine has too much going on. Babies and toddlers can get overwhelmed easily, as Nicole points out, so stick to a few simple activities rather than trying to “cram eight different bedtime activities into your bedtime routine.” Think read a book, sing a song and snuggle.
The bedtime routine is too long. If your routine is too long, your little one can become overtired, and the end of the routine will result in a cranky child rather than one ready to fall asleep. Bottom line: Keep the few activities you do before bed short, Nicole writes.
The routine ends when the baby is asleep. We’re all guilty of this one (or at least my husband and I have done this one too many times), which results in bad sleep associations and having to return to the sleep coaching drawing board.
What’s your best tip for bedtime (or nap time) routines?