Parents often find themselves dreaming of the day when their child will finally be able to sleep soundly through the night, undisturbed. At about 4 months, the time comes when you can begin to introduce a bedtime routine for your child. This period of time often consists of an extensive process of trial and error; what works for one child may not work for the other. Here are some basic tips to get you started!
Feed Before Bed
Babies and toddlers alike will often get to sleep faster with a full stomach. Giving your baby a bottle or breastfeeding before putting them down will often result in a quicker drift to sleep. For toddlers, this could be a light, healthy snack before bed, like a smoothie, applesauce, or dried apple chips. Milk is also a good option, though if you are in the process of potty training, liquids before bed may be best avoided.
Create a Soothing Environment
It’s important to remember that when establishing a sleep routine, it’s not always about what you do, but how you do it. Creating a soothing, calm environment for your child(ren) before bed will help them shift into a more relaxed state before getting into bed. About 30 minutes before bedtime, dim the lights in the house. This promotes the production of the hormone melatonin, which will help shift your child into sleep mode before even getting in bed. Do your best to avoid any loud, disruptive sounds, shutting off the TV and any unnecessary electronic devices. Soothing ambient music and the use of a slow, calm voice can also help lull your child into sleep mode.
Establish Sleep Associations
Engage in repetitive bedtime rituals every night in order to help establish sleep associations. The purpose of creating consistency with your rituals is that eventually, these specific actions will trigger sleepiness, subconsciously signaling to your child that sleep is approaching. For younger babies, this could be when you put them in their sleep nest; for older children, this could be when you begin to read them a book at night. Through repetitive action they will begin to feel sleepy knowing that sleep is the next step.
It is important to remain consistent with your routine, even on weekends. Make sure babysitters and caregivers know the bedtime routine as well (and stick to it!) no matter how much Grandma wants that extra snuggle time. Especially if your child’s sleeping schedule currently includes naps during the day, deviating from the schedule can mean that they won’t be tired for their nap or bedtime, throwing the whole day (and night) off.
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