You probably know by now that one easy way to help maximize your little one’s sleep is to create a predictable bedtime routine. Routines help our children know what is coming next, so a bedtime routine signals to your baby or toddler that it is time to wind down, and to get sleepy. This can help greatly in getting your little one to fall asleep quickly.
However, not all routines are created equal! And if there are problems with your bedtime routine, then it may not help your baby or toddler sleep well; in fact, it may disrupt sleep and make it worse!
Are You Making These 5 Bedtime Routine Mistakes?
Your bedtime ‘routine’ is not routine!
Remember, the key to a great baby bedtime routine is to follow the same predictable pattern of events before bedtime. That is what puts the ‘routine’ in the bedtime routine! But if each day’s bedtime looks different, then your routine is not a routine at all, and you are missing out on the benefits that a strong routine has to offer. Focus on creating a pattern of pre-bed activities, and then make sure to follow it each night.
Your bedtime routine starts too late each night.
While many parents understand that the bedtime routine should contain predictable patterns of events, some miss a key element: the bedtime routine should happen at roughly the same time each night, in relation to your baby’s last nap. However, many families start the bedtime too late, pushing bedtime even later. Remember, it should take your baby roughly 10 minutes to fall asleep, so you need to lay her down ahead of time. Having your baby or toddler go to bed without being over-tired is crucial to creating a healthy sleep schedule.
Your bedtime routine has too much going on.
If you are trying to cram 8 different activities into your bedtime routine, you may be doing too much. Remember, babies and toddlers can quickly become over-stimulated, so if the bedtime routine is packed full of action, and if it requires you to transition between lots of different activities, your little one may actually become wound up, instead of calming down and relaxing. Instead, stick to a few simple activities at bedtime.
Your bedtime routine is too long.
We have already established that babies and toddlers can quickly become overstimulated; they also tend to become overtired very easily. So if your bedtime routine is too long, you can actually miss your child’s ideal sleep window, which means that by the end of the routine, your baby or toddler will be cranky and fussy, instead of sleepy and relaxed. Try to keep the activities you do right before bed (reading books, singing lullabies, snuggling, etc.) relatively short, and be sure to watch your baby’s sleep cues.
Your bedtime routine is too exciting.
Tickle fights, while fun, should not be part of your child’s bedtime routine. 😉 Same goes for any other exciting, “let’s-get-wound-up” activity. The activities that are part of your baby or toddler’s bedtime routine should be slow and calm and soothing, so as to promote sleep.
20 thoughts on “5 Common Baby and Toddler Bedtime Mistakes You May Be Making”
I have a 15 month old who’s transitioning into her own toddler bed and her own room. Prior to this we co slept in the same bed as she hated the cot also it was easier for us.
For the first week, she absolutely loved her bed ( it was still in our room) the vey first night of getting her to bed was a breeze, she went straight to sleep, woke once through the night and only needed shushing back to sleep. This lasted for a week so I thought, great let’s put her into her own room.
Again she loved it, took a little longer to go to sleep but was able to sleep for 5 hours, needed a bottle then slept for another 6 before joining us in our room at 6.30 in the morning… Since then it’s gone down hill.
She’s still in her own bed and room, but is waking more often ( usually to find her bottle then resettles herself). She’ll fully wake at about 2:30 and walk into our room and cling to her dad… Sometimes she’s screaming and not awake while she does this, I assume she’s night walking or having night terrors? Either way the only way she’ll calm down once she opens her eyes is to stay in bed with us… Then she cracks it because she wants her own space.
I’m not sure how I can help her. I try and take her back to her own bed but it’s like she’s petrified at that time of the morning and will dig her nails into me to not let me go. I eventually give in and take her back to bed and she’ll Instantly calm and go back to sleep.
We’re due with our second baby in two months and really want to nail a sleep routine that bennifits her. Is there anything you can suggest? I’ve tried a night light in her room, but that seems to stimulate her ( it changes colours slowly).
Hi @Imogene, thank you for writing to us and I am sorry to hear you’ve been struggling with your daughter getting out of her bed! We would love to help. Your situation sounds like you would really benefit from working one-on-one with our amazing sleep consulting team, especially since you have a short timeline before baby #2 arrives (congrats!). If you are interested, you can view all of our packages online at https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/ and if you have specific questions about what the best fit may be for you, please contact us directly here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/contact
I hope you are all able to get some rest soon!
I have a 2 month old little girl. So far, her sleeping patterns are fairly predictable. She wakes around 7-8 AM, she is up 30min – 1 hour (eat, play) and sleeps for 1.5 -2 hours. By around 5PM-6PM, her sleep time may differ because between 5-10PM is when she is the fussiest. Somewhere there, we could get another nap for 2 hours. If she attempts a nap around 5-6PM, those only last about 30-45 mins. long. My husband and I are night owls. I have read that your baby’s bedtime should coincide with yours in the beginning. So she has her bedtime routine start at 1015-1030PM and it usually is for about 30 mins. Its a feeding, bath, feeding again, cuddles and then to crib. She doesn’t fight this at all. She will sleep from 11PM – 3 or 4AM. Thereafter, she will wake around 7-8AM. I wonder, at what point should I start making her bedtime routine early like 8PM? I feel that if I do this, she will wake around 12-1AM, 3-4AM and then wake around 7-8AM. My dilemma right now is that when she is still sleeping around 10PM, I have to wake her just to do her bedtime routine.
Hi @Jayne Hamilton, thanks for writing to us! You sound like you’ve got a sweet little girl. 🙂 All babies are different so you may find it helpful to check out our sample schedules to help guide you on when you plan to move her bedtime back.
Here is the link to our sample schedules: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-feeding-schedules/
If you decide you need more help down the road, let us know! We have a wide variety of more in-depth resources that may simply dive deeper into information for sleep help, all the way to fully personalized, one on one help! Here is a link to that if you are interested in the future: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/
Thanks for using the Baby Sleep Site as a resource for sleep help!
Hi, we have a 17 month old and unfortunately due to the layout of our house, her crib is in our bedroom. We have tried sleep training but she gets sick often, so we’ve had to forego that. Now, we’ve succumbed to walking around the room and humming a lullaby for up to 20 -25 minutes each night and then end up putting her in her crib. However, she always wakes up 30 mins to an hour later, crying and won’t go back to sleep in her crib. She needs to sleep in our bed. I am at my wit’s end! I don’t know what to do at this point because if we try CIO, she ends up crying for hours while standing up in her crib…. is there anything else you could suggest at her age? Thank you!
Hi, i’m at a bit of a loss at the moment with sleep training. My daughter is 14 months, from about 3 months she was a brilliant sleeper, slept through the night almost always with short bad periods of not sleeping well due to teething or illness etc. Then about a month ago she just started refusing to go down, and even once she is asleep she wakes many times a night and will only fall back asleep on me or her dad after lots of crying. We then put her in her cot and she often wakes immediately from being put down and the entire process starts all over again. We have kept a fairly consistent routine. She naps pretty well from 12-2ish each day. Then has her dinner at 5.30, we play for a bit. Then i cuddle her and we watch a short bedtime tv programme at 7.30 while her dad runs her bath. She then baths till 8ish and we give her a bottle and put her down once she’s fallen asleep. My question is do you think her bath time is too late? She does tend to play in the bath and its her dad’s main weekday time with her so i feel pretty bad about moving it. And also it was never a problem her falling asleep on us before as she fell asleep quite quickly, but it’s obviously not working now and i feel like nothing we try helps her to self sooth. She just will not fall asleep in the cot. Pretty clueless as to what to do next, any help would be really appreciated. Many thanks.
@Emma, Thank you for your comment. I understand how difficult it can be to determine where to start! From what you are describing, it sounds like it may be a scheduling issue. You can consider moving her bath and bedtime to be a little earlier, and that may prevent her from becoming overtired. Knowing that Dad and baby enjoy that quality time together, it is still possible to find another relaxing activity that they can enjoy during the weeknights, such as puzzles or storytime. I recommend reading our sample schedule for toddlers who are on one nap. Here is a link to the schedule: https://www.babysleepsite.com/schedules/toddler-schedule/ Also, you may want to consider how she falls asleep at bedtime. If she has a difficult time falling asleep on her own, then she may have developed a sleep association. You can read more about the sleep associations here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/sleep-association/ Hang in there and know that you are not alone!
@ Rosie — honestly, it sounds like you’re doing a great job! There’s certainly nothing wrong with nursing your daughter when she asks for it. It sounds like she’s slowly weaning herself from it, anyway (since it’s no longer a regular thing).
Truly, you could continue in this pattern for awhile, and odds are, she’d gradually give up the feeding all by herself. However, I totally understand your desire to wean away from needing to breastfeed every night, as part of the nightly routine (if only so that you can be away from home occasionally, at bedtime!) It may simply be a matter of offering her something else to drink and then distracting her. You could also try having your spouse/partner (if you have one living at home) put her to bed for awhile. Then, there isn’t even the option to breastfeed. That may help speed the process along.
Hope this helps, Rosie! Again — sounds like you’re doing a great job here. 🙂
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