Importance of Bathtime & Bedtime routine for babies and children.

The earlier you can start any kind of evening routine the better. Certainly by 12 weeks of age, it wants to be on your ‘to do list’. This routine is not just beneficial to babies but it’s also beneficial to parents, as it will help you think about and prepared for your own evening.

For babies, toddlers and older children, strong bedtime routines play an important role as both a way to unwind and better behavior, as they learn to understand what is expected of them.

This evening routine should start about an hour before you want your little one to go to bed.

First things first, separate the bath time portion of the routine from the actual PRE-bedtime routine. 

The bathtime portion is where you will start to prepare your child for the evening, getting them clean, get them snug, and let them have their last bottle, breastfeed or evening snack.  Give them some time for this to digest, and then make sure they get their mouth wiped out or their teeth cleaned after wards, once this has been done, they really should not be eating anything until the morning time (unless they are under 6 months of age).

Once in the bedroom, you would embark on the PRE bedtime routine – which can be a combination of items that you want to do or share with your child, before departing their room and going about your own evening as normal.

A bonus to having a strong evening routine, is that you can take it anywhere, hotel rooms, other people’s houses, Grandparents, no matter where you are, you can roll this out at the end of your day, and your child will know what’s expected of them.

Things to remember: 

The bedtime routine of course is ONE step away from your child being separated from you and for some children especially those going through some cognitive changes, can also be a scary time.

The pre bedtime routine should take place in the bedroom you want your child to sleep in (ideally).

Making it too fun or too long, can have consequences too.  Think about your toddler having fun at the park, when you say it’s time to leave, they want to stay and will get upset when you buckle them into the stroller and walk home. The same thing can happen if you make the evening routine too fun, they will cry and get upset when they start to anticipate it coming to an end, this can result in delay tactics and more requests for stories and songs.  Before you know it, your performing a private 1.5 hr concert each night.

Avoid any kind of activity that will rile your child up, horseplay, tickling etc, instead thing about things that are more low key and sleep inducing. 

I would recommend sharing a story about your day and if your child is verbal, have them do the same to you. Keep your tone lower and quieter, create the same ambience in the room itself through lighting. 

For older children, esp. those who worry, avoid planting seeds about things that could trigger them into being anxious before falling to sleep. 

How long should this routine last?

Plan your routine and know what it will include and how long you will spend on each step/phase, as young babies could get overstimulated by an overly long routine, short and sweet is usually best.  An older child will look forward to more, 30 minutes is reasonable.

Another variable to this would depend on how many children you have, if you have 4 children I’m pretty sure you don’t want to spend 2 hours putting them all to bed. 

So think about your family overall, look at what you can also combine with sibling and what parts should be one on one, how many parents will be home and so on, make it so that its realistic and manageable for you on a nightly basis.

Should I bath my child nightly? 

It’s not necessary to bath your child every day – but when working on something new, its recommended to do it daily to begin with.  If you are in a situation where you don’t have access to your normal amenities, a bum wash / sink wash will do!

The end result

The end result of any bedtime routine should be that you can put your child to bed, and the parents leave so that negative sleep associations are not created.