Sleep Routine Ideas to Get Your Baby Sleeping Well. A sleep routine helps your baby know it is time for sleep. Keep sleep routines consistent each time.
It is a good idea to have a solid routine before sleep time to signal your little one that it is time to sleep.
When you are setting up a baby sleep schedule, a baby sleep routine is vital to having a consistent schedule. A routine signals that it is time to sleep, so having a good sleep routine will help baby sleep for a full sleep cycle and get enough hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.
Below are some ideas for a naptime routine and a bedtime routine so you can aid your little one in going to sleep quickly.
Nap Routine Ideas
Your daytime sleep routine can be different from your bedtime routine–or it can be the exact same.
I prefer the least amount of “show” prior to a nap–especially now knowing that the older they get, the more tactics they use to delay bedtime.
I want to have as few tactics in place to start with because believe me, your child will do everything he can think of to make naptime come a little later. A drink of water, a story, a hug, a kiss, a song, one more song, the last song…you get the picture. They are smart!
There isn’t one magical sleep routine that is best for all babies. There are a lot of things you can do and use. You need to find what is best for your baby’s needs and for what makes sense for your family.
Here are some routines I used with my babies to give you ideas.
Newborn Sleep Routines
Newborn babies can be so sleepy that you can’t do much before they drift off to sleep. You do want to start a routine even if your infant is half asleep for it. It is a great way to set up good sleep habits and establish a solid newborn sleep schedule.
Here are some things to definitely include:
- Diaper change: Baby’s diaper will need to be changed before the nap starts. You do not want your newborn waking early because of a dirty or wet diaper.
Here are some things that might be good to include:
- Swaddling: Most newborn babies will sleep better if they are swaddled. I would highly recommend you include this in your routine.
- Gripe Water and/or gas drops: Many newborns get their nap disrupted because of gas pain or hiccups. Gripe water does wonders to get rid of hiccups and gas drops help get rid of gas. I actually used gas drops immediately after a feeding and gripe water while I changed the baby’s diaper right before a nap.
- Cuddling: Your baby will never be more cuddly than in the newborn months. Enjoy it and get some cuddles in!
- Lullaby: I always like to sing a lullaby to my babies. I pick a lullaby and sing the same one to my child through the baby months on through toddlerhood, preschool years, and beyond!
- Infant Massage: Infant massage can be a great part of your nap routine to help calm your baby down and help the baby relax for sleep.
- White Noise: White noise helps block out noises in the home and neighborhood that might wake baby up from nap during sleep transitions.
- 4 S’s: The 4 S’s is my favorite way to sleep train baby. It is a no-cry sleep training method that involves setting the room up for sleep, swaddling baby, and sitting with baby until you feel baby is ready to sleep. It is a great way to establish healthy sleep patterns. Read more about this method here.
- Rock Until Drowsy: With a newborn, many people like to rock their baby to a point of sleepiness before putting them down in the crib. If you choose to do this, you might want to stop it at a young age. You want to move to fully independent sleep when your child is old enough. You don’t want your baby to become dependent on rocking. Only do it if your child needs it.
You then put your infant in her bassinet or crib.
Baby Sleep Routines
Here is the routine I used with my nearly 9 month old. It had been the same since birth.
I kissed her and hugged her, etc. Then I put her down in her bed and sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to her. Then I told her to sleep well and that I love her and that she is my princess, etc. Then I kiss my fingers and touch her nose.
She smiled at me the whole time.
You want many of the same elements to a sleep routine for a newborn when your child gets 4 months of age and older.
As your baby moves out of newborn months, sleep patterns will be more easily disrupted. She will notice noise more, so white noise will be more important. Light can mess with her sleep, so some blackout curtains or blinds can help with naps and night sleep.
There are two things that will change as your baby gets older. One is the swaddle will be dropped. Another is that your baby will no longer need gripe water or gas drops.
I also like to read to my babies often, so I would sometimes include reading a story with our na routine as they got older, but I couldn’t do it with every baby.
Adding books can take a lot longer, and that can be hard if you have older toddlers or siblings who are waiting for you to be done putting baby down for a nap. If that is the case for you, you can add reading books to playtime.
Toddler Sleep Routines
Here is my routine I used with my 2.5 year old. His routine had evolved over time.
It started the same as my baby routine described above, but as he got older (about 16 months old), he started requesting things.
We read a story for a while, but I curbed that because he was using it as a delay tactic. I also curbed it because I realized once I had the new baby (Kaitlyn) she would have a feeding at 1 and his nap starts at 1. I needed a routine that was consistently under 5 minutes.
I did the hugs, kisses, etc. He got in bed and I sang“Brahma’s Lullaby”( I am kind of sentimental about stuff so I gave each child their own song). As I sang, I rub his back if he was on his belly. Then I told him to have a nice nap, assured him we will play once he got up, and that I love him, etc.
Pay Attention to Wake Windows
As you decide what your nap routine and bedtime routine will be, make sure you keep in mind your baby’s wake windows.
A wake window, or wake time length or awake time, is the amount of time your baby can be awake before needing a nap. Getting wake windows correct helps your baby to fall asleep quickly and easily, sleep through sleep transitions, and take good naps.
Most newborns can only be awake 30-45 minutes, and that includes feeding time. If your baby can only do 40 minutes of wake time length, takes 20 minutes to eat, and you do a 25 minute nap routine, then you are keeping baby awake too long and you need to cut back your routine.
Benefits of Short Nap Routines
If your baby wakes early from nap due to illness, separation anxiety, or a good old sleep regression, a short nap routine can serve you well.
If your baby wakes early from nap, you can go in and re-do the nap routine. This communicates to your baby that it is time for nap.
Having a short nap routine helps you avoid waking your baby up too much or overstimulating your baby.
This is also true of night wakings. If your baby or toddler wakes in the night, you can do a quick sleep routine to communicate “It is still time to sleep!”
Bedtime Routine Ideas
You will want a routine for bedtime also. Having a consistent bedtime routine can really help your baby have solid nighttime sleep.
Bedtime routines are often different from nap routines, and that is a good idea. Babies are smart and will recognize that something different is coming.
With that said, it does not have to be different. It can be the exact same as the nap routine for daytime sleep.
Here are some common elements to bedtime routines for babies.
- Baths: Many people do their baths at night to settle their children down for the night. I do my baths in the morning so it is not included in my routine, but it could be in yours. If you do a bath at night, you can apply lotion and do some massage at the same time.
- Bedtime Story: If you do not include stories in your nap routine, I highly recommend you add it to your bedtime routine. With that said, you might need bedtime routines very short. In that case, just make sure you have a time set aside each day for reading stories with your baby. If you do stories, it is wise to either choose a set number of books or set a timer for how long you will read. We did 3 stories from baby through toddlerhood and preschool years until we started reading chapter books. Otherwise, story time can really be drawn out. It is also nice to do it somewhere other than the bed or even the bedroom. Then you read your stories and go off to bed rather than already being there.
- Pajamas: Most babies take naps in the same clothes they are wearing during the day, although some people do put baby in pajamas for nap time. You will want getting into pajamas as part of your bedtime routine.
- Prayer: We had a prayer at bedtime with our babies as part of their bedtime routine.
Important Elements of Any Baby Sleep Routine
You can do whatever you want for your routines. Just be sure what you do has the following criteria:
- It is consistent day to day and night to night.
- It covers the necessities.
- It is cozy and happy. You don’t want naptime and bedtime to become a battle.
- You can do it anywhere. You want to be able to go out of town and visit people and places. If you use things specific to your home, you will not have as pleasant of a trip.
- The length works for the time you have to consistently give (considering other children if you have more than one).
Get a solid sleep routine set up and help your baby have longer stretches of sleep periods both in naps and in might sleep.
For more nap routine ideas, see Sample Nap Routines.
- The Cornerstone for Good Naps
- Importance of the First Nap
- How to Put Baby Back to Sleep
- Circadian Rhythm Explained and How It Impacts Sleep
Reader Sleep Routine Questions
- Salina said…
Does your daughter cry at nap time or bedtime when you lie her down? My son still does-also almost 9 months and I was wondering if this will always happen. He is fine throughout our routine (read/rock, then sing, hugs, kisses- then I put him down and walk out). He almost immediately starts crying at that point for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Sometimes, he has bad days too, like yesterday when he cried and wouldn’t go to sleep for his 2nd nap.
The Babywise Mom said…
No, she doesn’t cry at all. She rarely cried past about 6-8 weeks. I do have a friend who did BW from birth and CIO from birth whose son cried for about 5 minutes until somewhere between 1-2 years. So it isn’t unheard of. I would wonder about crying through a nap though. Some babies just need to blow off some steam before sleeping.
- Sharon said…
I have a 4 month old who has a pacifier. She is not hooked on it to go to sleep but she will wake in the middle of a nap and if I put the pacifier in she’ll sleep for another hour or hour and a half. If I do CIO how long do I let it go on? She usually does one short nap (45-1 hr) in the morning and by 1 pm she’ll sleep 2-3 hours then a couple of short ones in the evening. My concern about letting her CIO is she may wake my two year old in the room next to hers. How many days until I see results?
The Babywise Mom said…
Sharon, That is hard to say. My guess would be 3-14 days, but you never know. Do you have a play yard you can put baby in to sleep somewhere not next to your 2 YO? I understand your not wanting to wake him. Have you gone through a checklist to see if you can first fix why she is waking early? See Troubleshooting nap problems: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2007/12/naps-troubleshooting.htmlIf you can’t move baby to another location and have tried all you can to fix the early waking, you might just continue on as you are and wait for her to “outgrow” the need. I would watch for a dependency on the pacifier and avoid that.
- sarah said…
To piggyback off of that…one more question. When do you recommend the last nursing if bedtime is 8? Do I need to do it right before bed as part of the bedtime routine, or can it be earlier, around 7 or so, and if it can, does that mean waketime needs to be earlier?
The Babywise Mom said…
Kaitlyn nurses, then is in bed about 30-60 minutes later. She eats solids at that time. So she eats, gets ready for bed, and goes to bed. Exactly when to feed would depend on when the feeding was before that. If you feed at 7, 8 can be bedtime. If you feed at 5:30, then I would definitely do a feeding just before bed.
- Rachel said…
My baby is 5.5 weeks old and I was wondering if I am supposed to start putting her down for bed after the 7pm feeding and then waking her for her 10pm feeding and then putting her back down again? We have just been putting her to bed for bedtime after the 10pm feeding, since that was the last one. Thanks for the help, Rachel
The Babywise Mom said…
You can do what is best for your family. With my oldest, his bedtime was later since my husband got home from work at 8. As he got older, my husband got a new job and started getting home at 4:30, so his bedtime moved up. With my daughter, her bedtime has always been after the 7ish feeding. If you can do that one, that is the one I would choose 🙂
- Emily said…
Should I still do a sleep routine when baby has growth spurts? Baby is napping so much more often!
The Babywise Mom said…
Yes! Still do sleep routines even during a growth spurt.
This post first appeared on this blog in January 2008