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How To Create A Calming Bedtime Routine For Your Child

by Hayley McLean 06 Feb 2022

For any new parent, and baby for that matter, a relaxing and well defined bedtime routine is essential.

A bedtime routine helps to create order and establishes patterns for both the child and parents to easily adapt to. It signals to the child that it is now time to rest and sleep, and helps the parents differentiate between ‘parent time’, and downtime. It is, after all, just as important for new parents to learn a routine and establish a pattern to relax a little themselves, as it is for a child to rest and sleep. As a parent you may still end up with one eye on the monitor all night or be up and down feeding your new bundle of joy, but you should be able to relax a little while your child sleeps.

All children are different of course, however there are some time-honoured traditional steps you can add to your routine to help you and your little one have a more restful night. As we all know, sleep is vital to us all, but it is especially important for small children. A good night’s sleep is key to good physical and emotional health, brain development and growth; a good sleep routine is also known to help develop cognitive skills and emotional bonding.
Here is an example of the bedtime routine I successfully used with my 3 children.

6:30 pm onwards: Relaxing Activities

After a long day of play, feeding and generally getting used to these new squishy bundles of fun, it’s time to start winding down.
By beginning a familiar routine with our children, we can establish a pattern they start to recognise- one which lets them know that now is time for bed. Toys should be put away, any distractions switched off, and blinds or curtains closed.


It is important to create a soothing and calm atmosphere for the child to start to relax and unwind.


We would often start by sitting together and either watching a gentle animated tale, or nursery rhyme such as something on BabyTV’s regular evening programming designed to promote sleep, or by doing quiet and relaxing activities such as felt puzzles, or shapes. These gentle activities, ones free from bright lights or loud noises, are perfect for winding down.

7pm - Bath time

After quiet activity time, we would run a nightly bath for our children. When they were first home this would be a traditional baby bath and the bathing would be done in the living room in lukewarm water and a warm but not too hot environment. As they got older, we used the proper bath with a baby safe bath seat or support system securely in place. For both instances however we always used a bath thermometer for safety; the optimum temperature being around 37 degrees for a slightly older baby. This ensures that the child is kept at the right temperature at all times and not hurt by the water.


As well as cleaning your child, bathing helps your little one to relax, after all, they have muscles just like an adult and warm water will help them start to unwind and have a calming effect on them. Baths cool the core temperature of the child and this is a great sleep trigger. It is also believed that the warm water reminds babies of the womb and produces a sense of feeling safe and calmness.


For our children, we found that a lavender bedtime baby bath wash worked best, and smelled lovely. Lavender has long been known to encourage relaxation and sleep, but chamomile and fragrance free bedtime washes are also available (Always use a product specifically designed for babies sensitive skin).

During bathtime, we always maintained communication with our children, talking softly, smiling and keeping eye contact with them. Again, this promotes bonding by giving reassurance to the child that everything is ok, and that the parent is there for them.

7:30 pm - Story Time

Once they were dried and dressed, I would sit with my child on my lap and would read a bedtime story to them.


By reading to a child you are planting the seeds that books are pleasurable and something to enjoy themselves in later life. It promotes early reading skills even in very young babies and firmly establishes the association between relaxation whilst feeling safe and secure. Reading together is also a wonderful bonding experience, and was the part of our nightly routine that I enjoyed most of all myself.


The books I used were all baby friendly…I opted for board books or sensory books with flaps, textures etc. These books allow your child to turn pages, grasp things, experience shapes and textures while you read to them. Once again I tried to make sure my voice was calm and that I wasn’t talking too quickly whilst I read to my little ones.

7.45 pm - A Relaxing Bedtime Feed

Before actually laying them down for the night it was time for their bedtime feed. Whether breast, or bottle, a pre bed feed is essential in encouraging your child to sleep.


This feed promotes a good nights sleep as the child has a pleasurably full tummy and indicates to the brain that it is time to sleep as hormones are released to help induce rest.

As any parent can testify, most babies are eating machines and multiple nightly feeds especially during the first few weeks are part of the programme. They need the essential nutrients to help them stay healthy and grow.
By feeding before putting them down to sleep, it ensures they are not going to bed hungry or distressed. This will encourage longer sleep periods between feeds and better emotional development. The last thing you need is a baby who starts to dread bedtime as it fears feeling hungry or irate at the prospect of sleep.


Now every child is different and what works for one, may not work for another.
For our children we found that closed blackout blinds, gentle soft music and a soft nightlight in the room during the last feed helped them drop off naturally.


Now I’m not saying that it’s easy or always straightforward finding the right routine that works for you. It may take a few attempts to come up with the winning formula for you and your child; trial and error are the key watch words so don’t be afraid to try something new if your child seems to be getting bored with the usual stories or lullabies.

There will always be occasions where things don’t go according to plan, or your routine is knocked off schedule. That’s life and these things happen, it is not a failing on your part and a few occasions of change will not be detrimental to your childs health. It is important however that once a successful routine is established that it is maintained as much as possible or you may find you have to find a new routine and start all over again.

It took us several attempts and a few sleepless nights before we got it right, but it was worth it, and really worked for us as well as our children.


You may not only want to create a calming bedtime routine for your baby but also konw more tips to help your baby sleep better at night.

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