In this blog post, Rachael Shepard-Ohta from Hey Sleepy Baby — a pediatric sleep specialist, mom of two, and friend of LS — shares her advice on starting the new year off right. Here are her thoughts on refreshing your kiddo’s bedtime routine in 2024!
It’s a new year and lots of us are thinking about what goals or resolutions we have for 2024. If you’re a parent, one of those goals might be to get more sleep! It’s not always easy or predictable to get great sleep when we’ve got little ones, but one thing that can make a huge difference is a solid, predictable bedtime routine.
There are also some things we want to ditch in the new year. Whether you call them “bad habits” or just things that don’t work for you anymore, a new year is a great time to start fresh. The same goes for your baby’s sleep and routines! We can let go of the things that are too stressful, too rigid, or that just don’t work. It’s freeing!
Why incorporate a bedtime routine?
According to research studies, consistent bedtime routines can help your little ones sleep better and longer! It’s never too late to start implementing a simple bedtime routine that is easy to stick to. An example of a bedtime routine might be doing a bath after dinner, followed by PJs and brushing teeth, then reading a couple of books before getting tucked in or rocked to sleep.
Routines not only foster better sleep but can also be a way to give children a sense of control and predictability. It can be calming to them to know exactly what will happen each night.
Keeping the routine the same might seem boring to us, but kids thrive on structure! To mix it up a little, you may give them some choices like picking out their favorite Little Sleepies PJs or storybooks, doing a fun dance party to get the last wiggles out, or telling them a story they love while they fall asleep..
How to know what to keep and what to release when it comes to baby’s bedtime routine?
The first thing I recommend is to really tune out the noise and listen to what your gut—and your baby—are telling you! Some “baby sleep rules” are really meant to be broken. Not every single piece of advice you see on social media is going to work for your baby, and not all of it is doable for every family! We all have unique circumstances, values and lifestyles. So, curate your social media feeds to be sure you’re only taking in the opinions and tips from people you like and trust. Let go of the rest!
If early bedtimes don’t work for your daycare schedule, that’s OK! If bath time upsets or over-stimulates your baby at night and makes the whole evening a nightmare, get rid of it and do baths another time! There are no strict rules when it comes to baby sleep and bedtimes routines, simply things that work for you and things that don’t! We really don’t need to overcomplicate things.
Think about your evening and try to come up with your ideal “rhythm” rather than trying to adhere to a strict clock-based schedule. Think about things that you enjoy doing with your baby as well. If the evening routine doesn’t feel rushed and is enjoyable for all, it’s going to be a much more pleasurable experience for your little one. This translates to less stress and better sleep!
If the bedtime routine feels stressful
Babies and kids are like little sponges. If we’re stressed, they’ll pick up on that and be stressed, too! Try to limit distractions like phones and emails during the bedtime routine and focus instead on 1:1 connection time with your child. This might be through singing a special song together, laying with them while you scratch their back, or telling them a little “recap” of their day.
If bedtime isn’t going well lately, think about the following:
- Is my child tired enough? Could it possibly be time to drop a nap or limit the time they’re asleep for their nap so sleep pressure is high enough by bedtime?
- Or, are they overly tired? Similarly to a child who isn’t tired enough, a child who is overly tired will also have a hard time settling down for bed.
- Are they full? Was there too much time between dinner and bedtime, and maybe they’re still hungry?
- Is it just their temperament? Do they need more time to wind down, less rushing, more sensory stimulation, etc?
Bedtimes don’t have to be stressful. In fact, they can be one of the most treasured parts of our day and some of our children’s fondest memories of being a kid!
If you only do ONE thing this year in regards to your child’s sleep, my advice would be to ditch the stress, let go of the idea of “perfection” and know that everything is temporary.
If you need more help with bedtime or other sleep situations with your baby or child this year, feel free to check out our stress-free sleep guides, workshops and courses at heysleepybaby.com
What are your favorite parts of your bedtime routines with your kids? How are you planning to change or keep them the same in 2024? Let us know in the comments!