You’ve heard it before: sleep schedule. But did you know that it isn’t just about putting your child to bed at the same times every day? It’s about the routine, those little alerts that, over time, signal to your child that it is time to quiet down and sleep. While not all children are the same, we found the following really works well for us:
1. Start the sleep routine at the same times every day, both for day naps and "night nap" (what our little guy calls bedtime). When he was an infant, we did naps at 10, 1, and 4, with a 7 pm bedtime. When he transitioned to two naps, it was 10 and 2 and 7. When it was one nap, it was 12 and 7pm, and later 2 and 7pm.
2. Always make the room as dark as possible. We are lucky enough to have blackout shades, but when the summer sunlight was just too powerful, we literally put contact paper on one of the windows to help our little guy sleep. My friend and her hubby used tinfoil to block the light, and that worked, too.
3. Change your little one's diaper. Clean diapers are essential. When my son was an infant and woke up at all hours to eat, the first thing I did - no matter what the time - was change him. Not only does that help prevent diaper rash, we found when he fell asleep after (or while) feeding, he would sleep longer and more comfortably. If your toddler is potty trained, make sure he or she uses the bathroom before putting on his or her jammies.
4. Put on a sleep outfit. This may sound crazy, but we had a dedicated style of outfit that we'd use for sleep times. During the day, we put on soft pants, a t-shirt or onesie, and a Bumber (a Bumbershoots by Nana sleep sack). At night, we put on PJs and a Bumber. For us, it seemed to help signal to our little one that bedtime is near. Remember, temperature is super important. Only dress a baby in one layer warmer than you would wear yourself in the same room. Your nursery or baby's sleeping area should be kept at approximately 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Get cozy for some snuggle time. When our little guy was still in a crib, we got cozy in the rocking chair while I read stories and my son drank his “nook” (his word for milk, be it breast or bottle). We called this time, "nook and a book." I always read until I could feel his body relaxing. Before "night nap," we would say prayers during this time. Now that he is in his big boy bed, we follow the same routine while lying on his bed.
6. Lay your little down for sleep. After "nook and a book," we placed our infant in the otherwise empty crib. Stuffies, blankets, crib bumpers all create suffocation hazards for infant under the age of one That's why we used the Bumber! We then turned off all the lights and walked away, shutting the door behind us. We do essentially the same thing now that he is toddler.
This sometimes surprises people . A baby? In a dark room without swirling lights and music and with a closed door? But, except for the rare occasion, that is what works for us. And we have tested options to know that it works best for our son, which every parent should do. The shut door helps block the noise and light that tend to make him feel social and want to be up. And while we have tried night lights, we find that he doesn't need them; he sleeps more soundly and longer without them. We know we have made his sleep environment as safe as possible. We have a monitor system that allows us to see and hear and even talk to him from afar. We check on him before we go to bed. And on the rare occasions he wants a nightlight, we give it to him. And that - testing what works and being flexible when needed - is step 7.
What works for you? We'd love to hear (and possibly share and use) your sleep routine tips! Send them to us at email@example.com.