Is There a “Perfect” Bedtime Routine?

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Is There a 'Perfect' Bedtime Routine?When you have an inconsistent baby or toddler, every day is different. When that happens, it’s easy to want to try to find the right “recipe” for good sleep. I remember trying to recreate exact days when my son, who inspired The Baby Sleep Site, slept well the night before or napped well.

A successful bedtime routine is definitely something that is effective for many babies. In fact, if your baby is slower to adapt (i.e. not very “go with the flow”) having consistency definitely helps a lot! But, is there a “perfect” bedtime routine?

A bedtime routine has a couple of goals: 1) To cue your baby or toddler that sleep is on the horizon and 2) Relax your baby or toddler, so she is ready to sleep. There is one more goal that I believe is a good goal to have as well, which is 3) Encouraging a love for reading. That might surprise you, since it’s really not so much about sleep, but I find it to have been invaluable to us!

Is There A 'Perfect' Bedtime Routine?Here in Ohio, we have something called “The Third Grade Guarantee,” which requires all third graders read at a third grade level before being allowed into fourth grade. Whether or not this is a “good” law can be debate-able, but the important thing here is to set our children up for success. My husband told me that “they” use reading level at third grade as a predictor of the number of prison beds needed in the following decade. While I learned that is technically untrue, there is evidence that poorer reading levels can lead to “unfavorable life outcomes.”

As a mom who had a first grader reading at a fourth grade level and a Kindergartener who is ahead in reading (though not as much as his brother was), it made me rack my brain about what could we have possibly done differently. The main thing I came up with is that ever since the boys were around 4 months old, we’ve read books at bedtime 99.9% of the time. We would sometimes read during the day, too. Maybe that’s not normal. Maybe we are out of the ordinary. Maybe we just got lucky. But, just in case we weren’t, even if it feels like your baby or toddler has no interest (they go through phases), I recommend you keep reading as part of your bedtime routine. Even on days we are running late, I try to fit in 5-10 minutes of reading (sometimes skipping a step in a routine is bad for a slow-to-adapt child anyway!).

So, is there a “perfect” bedtime routine?

Yes – your “perfect” bedtime routine is the one that’s perfect for your family! This means, of course, that the perfect routine will be different for all babies and families. The main key is consistency in routine. And, keep in mind that routine will change as your child grows and changes, too. Toddlers, for example, are lucky to get through one book in 10 minutes, at times, with all the new details they seem to find in the book they’ve read a thousand times like Goodnight Moon! It also sometimes helps not to END the routine with something that is a sleep association, such as feeding. Not only is it very easy to accidentally reinforce the sleep association, some babies react more negatively to being removed from the breast or bottle and then be laid down right away. Some prefer to feed and then cuddle while mom sings Mary Had a Little Lamb, for example. Regardless, in my opinion, reading a book (or 2 or 3) should be a part of every routine.

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Comments

  1. ANA says

    THIS IS A REALLY GOOD I REMMEMBER MY MOM ALLWAYS READ TO US THE BIBLE IN THE MORNING AND IN THE NIGHT FOR OUR BEDTIME ROUTINE AND IN THE AFTERNOON WE GOT TO PICK ANYOTHER BOOK WE WANTED FOR READING USUALLY BEFORE A NAP AND I HAVE TRIED TO ALWAYS IMPLEMENT A READING BEFORE BEDTIME WITH MY 9MONTH OLD BUT SHE ALWAYS SEEMS TO BE MORE INTERESTED IN EATING THE BOOK THAN HEARING THE STORY OR LISTENING TO ME READ, I´VE DONE THIS SINCE SHE WAS 1 MONTH OLD AND SHE SEEMS TO BE MORE INTERESTED IN CHEWING ON THE BOOK THAN LISTENING BUT IM SURE AD SHE GROWS OLDER SHE WILL GET MORE INTO THE STORY THAN THE TASTE, BUT TOTALY AGREE WITH THIS ARTICLE INFACT ALTHOUGH MOST OF THE LITERATURE I HAD READ SAID THAT A BATH WAS PART OF THE BED TIME ROUTINE I COMPLETELY DISAGREE MY BABY GETS EXTREMELY ACTIVE WITH HER BATH AND WILL ONLY WANT TO KEEP PLAYING AFTER, SO NOT ALOT OF BABYS SHOULD HAVE A BATH AS PART OF THE BEDTIME ROUTINE OR WILL BENEFIT FROM IT BUT I PRETTY SURE THAT ALL OF THEM CAN BENEFIT FROM READING AS PART OF THE BEDTIME ROUTINE. GREAT ARTICLE!

  2. penny says

    Reading the article I felt it was me writing. I too have a first grader who reads at 4th year level and I am pretty sure it can be attributed to my reading to him every night. He reads to himself and me daily and I still read to him every night, we choose a book that is just a beyond his level of sustaining meaning while reading so that he hears and understands and learns new words and phrases. To Ana’s response , I say, you can be sure your child will benefit from reading. He may chew the book now but he is noticing you flip the pages and read the symbols (as words may seem to him now). He hears your voices and will soon be asking you to read the same book over and over!

  3. says

    @Ana That is really normal to chew on the books, but interacting with them is just as great! I used to give one to my son to “read” and I’d read another one. Or, sometimes I knew the words by heart, so he’d play with the book and I’d keep “reading”/talking anyway. As Penny pointed out, just hearing the words and seeing that the symbols on the page actually have meaning makes for babies who are interested in books much earlier. Hearing your toddler ask “What dis say?” is one of the best questions when you realize they actually get it. :) And, great point about the bath. Both my boys get hyper, too, so it’s definitely not meant to be a “soothing” activity for us and never was, even as babies. :) Thank you for commenting!

    @Penny I read your comment to my son and he said “That sounds like me!” It was so cute! Choosing books that you read that are above level is a great idea, too! It’s great when my son asks what a word means. He is expanding his vocabulary and it makes a big difference! Thank you for commenting!

  4. says

    Thank you for saying that “the perfect routine will be different for all babies and families.” I like the idea of finding a song you like, even if it isn’t a lullaby, taking the words out, and humming or ‘bum’-ing it the same way every night. Who cares what the original words were about, if mom and dad like singing it and baby feels comforted (and sleepy) by having a special thing of her own?