Dr. Sarah Mitchell
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Ideal Bed Time Routine for Newborn and Toddler & Mistakes to Avoid

What is the purpose of the bedtime routine?  

The purpose of the bedtime routine is to have some closure time with you and your child and to have some winding down time in their room.  This routine helps to cue up their brain that sleep is coming.

A 2015 study by pediatric sleep researcher Dr. Jodi Mindell, showed that implementing a consistent bedtime routine actually helped kids fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and have less night wakings.


What should your ideal bedtime routine look like for a newborn? 

Newborn sleep is highly irregular and babies often aren't ready to fall asleep until nine, ten o'clock at night.  A bedtime routine at this age might be:

  • Offer a bath to mimic the warm, fluid conditions of the womb. 
  • Bring your newborn into the room where they will sleep in the night. 
  • Dry them off, change the diaper, put on pajamas and swaddle them.
  • You could be rocking or feeding them to sleep. This could take from 15 minutes to 1 hour. After 10-12 weeks of age, once your little one starts to produce their own melatonin, things will get better as the witching period starts to recedes and bedtimes become earlier and easier.


Babies, around four months to age benefit from a bedtime routine.  A bedtime routine at this age may look like:

  • Setting the stage for sleep by dimming the lights and playing soft music.
  • Get them changed into their pajamas, change the diaper, put on a sleep sack.
  • Introduce book reading with them on your lap
  • Into the crib for sleep. 
  • This might take 5 -15 minutes not including any feeding or rocking time.

How you get them down is completely up to you but if you’re tired of rocking or feeding to sleep, come check out Helping Babies Sleep School for ways to overcome the reliance on parents to sleep. Inside Helping Babies Sleep School we teach parents how to teach their kiddos to sleep independently: to be put down completely awake, and then can do some sort of self-soothing action to help themselves fall asleep.


As kids get older, their bedtime routine will get a little bit longer.  They can also start to have more opinions, so now your bedtime routine might be taking 20 to 30 minutes.

A bedtime routine at this age may look like: 

  • If you have to do bathroom things, do those first. Once you’re in the bedroom stay in the bedroom and avoid unnecessary transitions which can be distracting.  
  • Coming into the room and giving them little controlled choices; “Hey, do you want to wear pajama A or pajama B?” They're starting to exert their opinions on the world and this helps with a feeling of having control and getting their bucket filled up.
  • Provide some choices. Letting them choose their books, pick out pajamas or turn the lights down are all ways that you can give them little wins to have control over their environment.  
  • If your child is in a bed, you might want to read the books in bed and avoid another transition from chair to bed.

Common Bedtime Routine Mistakes:

  1. Having a bedtime that's too late.

Grab our  “Top Two Things to Help Your Baby Sleep'' download and get a couple of suggestions on timing in there, for ages zero to two years of age.

  1.  Having too many people in the room.   Often parents want to do the bedtime routine together. It can be a sweet time of the night.  But sometimes two parents in the room with all their attention on you can be stimulating rather than relaxing.
  1. A bedtime routine is too long.

In the Helping Babies Sleep Method, until kiddos are on one nap, we teach that your bedtime should be based on when your kiddo woke up from their last nap. We use a rolling schedule.

helping babies sleep book cover

Usually your bedtime falls in a window that may be a half an hour wide.  For instance, if your child woke up early from their nap, you're going to want to put them down for bedtime slightly earlier to accommodate for that lost sleep time.

Make sure to check out the link to the free download “Why Your Baby Struggles with Sleep”, so you can download the e-book to learn some simple tips that you can implement tonight.

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