As the last of our kids inch toward the teen years, it’s easy to forget how hard the early days of motherhood can be. Long days and often longer nights lead to days chasing toddlers without the energy required to do it well. I wish I had realized with my first two children how vital a good nighttime routine is to a smooth daytime one.
After all, a good bedtime routine helps ensure babies have a good night’s sleep, which helps them thrive and grow, while enabling parents to get some sleep and peace, too. With adequate rest, parenting life becomes a lot easier. Yes, you might still be tired, but you’ll be more productive and much happier, too.
With my first two kids, we didn’t have much of a routine. To be honest, I’m not a very structured person and don’t often set schedules or want routines, but with age comes wisdom (or at least it can come with exhaustion), so when our twins were born, we did things differently. Bedtime was earlier, and it was pretty non-negotiable. From infancy, they knew when it was time to get ready for bed and when it was time to go there.
That routine made all the difference in the world for this mama, and it helped our girls as well.
Let’s face it: there will be times when your kids don’t sleep very well, but establishing an excellent bedtime routine can solve a lot of the issues. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for establishing a bedtime routine that works well for your family.
Start with a warm bath.
Something sure to help your little one start to feel sleepy and get ready for bed is a relaxing, warm bath. Think how comfortable and cozy you feel when you take the time to draw a bath and relax in it – it’s only going to give the same feeling to your baby, making them less likely to fight against sleep and happier to be put to bed. My oldest still loves the smell of the relaxing lavender baby wash we used when she was little. She loved to have her hair washed with it, closing her eyes as I massaged the soap into her scalp and then rinsed it with warm water.
I should have known then how much she would enjoy a good spa day.
Massage for Babies?
She would also love a good massage from time to time, and babies do, too, sometimes. I never really thought about it when my kids were young, but we often massaged bellies when babies were constipated and rubbed legs that were aching with growing pains.
Baby massage takes it a bit further and is something you can learn through classes to ensure you’re doing it right because there are specific techniques you’ll need to get the hang of, but once you do, a nightly massage could be a really helpful addition to your bedtime routine. It can help ensure your child sleeps through the night and gets to sleep more comfortably, too.
No matter how relaxed your baby feels after a nice, warm bath, if she’s not wearing comfortable clothes, she will not sleep well. Babies are not going to be able to get comfortable if they’re wearing clothes that irritate their skin or that are too tight. Look for soft, breathable fabric, and avoid things like buttons that can cause discomfort.
I always loved pajamas with feet because they are so cute, but when it comes to helping your baby sleep, keeping those feet covered is imperative. Have you ever tried to go to sleep when you’re cold? I find that if I just put on a pair of socks it’s easier to get cozy and dozy. (I am in love with these…so precious!)
After bathtime and teeth brushing, one wonderful way to get babies ready for bed is with a little focused family time. Make it a habit to read a book or two, talk and pray. At first, kids may always want “just one more” story, but as you set the routine and practice it, they will become accustomed to the number of stories you read, knowing you’ll read another the next night. Asking your kids what they would like to pray about offers you insight into their hearts and minds and allows you to address fears and worries that might keep them up at night. You might just find these few minutes become your favorites each day.
What if nothing works?
There will be nights when you do all you can, including everything on this list, and still, your baby won’t sleep. Those are the nights that feel incredibly long, and as a parent, you can often feel as though you’re doing something wrong. It is especially difficult when you have no idea what the problem is. I can remember feeling so helpless when I simply couldn’t figure out why my kids were crying.
On nights like those, I found it helped to start with their health. Does he have a wet diaper? Could she have a fever? Is she teething? Is that a rash?
Some rashes can be very uncomfortable; others can be dangerous. My daughter had allergic reactions to antibiotics as a baby, and those hives kept her up and itching. Of course, not every red spot on your baby is cause for alarm. Some are quite normal and not at all dangerous. Baby acne is one of them. To help your peace of mind, read rash vs baby acne and learn the differences because one could be dangerous and the other is perfectly normal. Knowing the difference might help you answer that age-old question: “Should I call the doctor?”
If the baby is not sick and her diaper isn’t wet, you might have to hold her for a while. He might just need a little extra attention. Give it to him. Sit with her. Try to enjoy the fact they need you and treasure this time with them.
The nights are long, but they pass by fast.
Just a few of our favorite bedtime books:
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post and may contain affiliate links.