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Easy Bedtime Routines for Babies, Twins & Toddlers

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

My friends nicknamed me “The Routine Queen”, because seriously, what is better than a good routine? Without a routine I am LOST. I plan everything out to a tee. With three kids 2 and under, it is the only way I can thrive as a parent.

Although a set schedule/routine may sound rigid, it can actually be pretty flexible! When kids know what to expect, it makes bedtime easier. But what is a bedtime routine? How do you implement one? And what does it look like at different ages or with multiple kids?

What is a Bedtime Routine?

A bedtime routine as it relates to babies and toddlers is a sequence of events that happen leading up to bedtime every single night. Following a bedtime routine is an important first step in teaching your child healthy sleep skills. The bedtime routine should start at roughly the same time every night. When practiced consistently, it can help your child fall asleep faster and have fewer night wakings.

At What Age Should a Bedtime Routine Begin?

The sooner the better! You can start a loose bedtime routine as soon as you bring your baby home from the hospital. While we understand newborns don’t usually have a set schedule, the predictability and consistency can still help them wind down. Around 4 months old can be the perfect time to create a concrete bedtime routine since that is when your baby’s development lines up better with sleep. If your baby is older and you have not implemented a bedtime routine yet, it’s never too late to get started. Bedtime routines will inevitably change with age; however, a few things will always remain constant.

A good bedtime routine always has the following two elements:

· A consistent sequence of events

· A soothing ritual

That’s it!

It’s up to you and your family to decide how long the routine should be, as well as all the components in between. Your bedtime routine could be as short as 5 minutes, or as long as 40 minutes. The timing usually depends on your child’s age, how many kids you are working with, and if you have activities such as a bath built in.

Example Bedtime Routines by Age

4 Months – 1 Year

· Feeding (formula or breastmilk)

· Bath OR clean up routine (sponge bath, wipe down of hands, face & feet)

· Diaper & Pajamas

· Brush teeth (if applicable)

· Sleep sack on

· Book/Song/Quick Cuddles or chats about the day

· Sound machine on

· In bed awake with a kiss goodnight

· Lights out

Baby bedtime routine example
Example bedtime routine for baby

*For infants and children up to 1 year of age, the feeding will take up much of the routine. We advise moving the feeding to the beginning of the routine to eliminate any feed to sleep association.

Easy Toddler/Pre-School Age Bedtime Routine

· Milk or milk alternative (either with dinner or shortly thereafter)

· Bath OR clean up routine (sponge bath, wipe down of hands, face & feet)

· Diaper OR potty

· Brush Teeth

· Sleep sack on (if being used)

· Book/Song/Quick Cuddles or chats about the day

· Sound machine on

· In bed awake with a kiss goodnight

· Lights out

Toddler bedtime routine example
Example bedtime routine for toddler

*For toddlers, more time is added to the hygiene routine and ritual to allow for more choices as independence is established (allowing them to put on their own pajamas, brush their own teeth, pick out which book to read).

Preschooler bedtime routine example
Example bedtime routine for preschooler

*For preschoolers, even more time is added to the quiet time/activity time before bed as their sleep onsets naturally take longer.

Tips For an Easy Bedtime with Twins

Everything is harder with twins, including the bedtime routine. Don’t panic though, I’ve been going through a bedtime routine with twins for over 2 years now and have come up with some time-saving tips below.

1. Do it On the Floor

My biggest tip for a twin bedtime routine for the first year is to do a lot (if not all) of it one the FLOOR. I have found that at this age, this is the safest way to go about it. Being on the floor ensures that your hands can be on both twins, and no one is left unattended in another room.

2. Don’t Do a Bath Every Night

You do NOT have to bathe your child every single day/night! You certainly can if you wish, however, a simple hand & face wash is good enough on days when the twins didn’t have a battle with spaghetti sauce at dinner or didn’t go running around outside in heat or mud. If there is no bath being done, the routine could be cut in half.

I find that a lot of parents put pressure on themselves to make sure that a bath is ALWAYS part of their bedtime routine. It doesn’t have to be if you don’t want it to be! I personally don’t include the bath as part of my twin’s bedtime routine. My twins are bathed around 4PM before dinner every other day. It’s just what works for my family. I like not having the added pressure of including it in their routine and my twins love that their bath can be a little bit longer since I am not held to a bedtime time constraint!

3. Eliminate Parts of the Routine that are not Essential

This might be going against the grain, but you may be surprised to hear that I don’t read my kids a book before bed. I just never got into the habit of making it part of their routine. We read books during the day. This way, I never have to deal with the “just one more book please!” stall tactic. If you like reading your kids a book before bed, please – be my guest, just don’t feel like you HAVE to make this part of your routine. Instead, you could sing a song, say the same words or phrases, rub their backs for a few second before saying goodnight. The options are endless.

Bedtime Routine with Multiple Kids of Different Ages

Doing a bedtime routine with one baby can be manageable once you get the hang of it. Even doing a bedtime routine with twins becomes less challenging once everyone knows what to expect. But what about if you have multiple children of different ages? Perhaps an infant and a toddler? Or twin toddlers and an infant (my exact situation)! Who do you put to bed first? Do you do the routine all at once? And what if you’re by yourself? See my top tips below on how to navigate these types of tricky situations.

Ensure All Your Kids Can Fall Asleep Independently

When you have independent sleepers, life is good! You don’t want to have to be rocking your younger child to sleep while your toddler isn’t being tended to in a different room (scary!). Routines like laying with your child before bed or helping them get drowsy may prolong the routine and make it very difficult to put multiple kids to bed. If you need help teaching your child how to fall asleep independently, we can help you with that! Book a free discovery call here to learn more.

Generally, we suggest putting the kids to bed from youngest to oldest (in that order). Unless you have a newborn – their bedtime typically falls later than the average 7-8PM, which means they are the last ones to put to bed.

How to Prepare for Baby’s Bedtime in Advance

Do anything that you possibly can in advance to ensure a seamless bedtime routine. Sometimes that means laying out your children’s pajamas, diaper & sleep sack ahead of time, pre-picking out a book and having the blackout curtains already closed. Do anything that you can ahead of time (especially if you’re solo) so that you aren’t rushing and looking for specific items when you should be helping your kids wind down.

Tips For a Quicker Bedtime Routine with Kids

Where can you overlap your bedtime routines? Maybe you’re able to read everyone the same book in one room or give them a bath at the same time… Can you feed your baby while reading to your toddler? Multi-task in any way that you can! Don’t forget that toddlers and bigger kids love being given a job to do. Have them help by giving them a specific task to do. For example, your preschooler could pick out a book while you put your infant in their crib. Your toddler could be in charge of shutting the lights off or turning on the sound machine in the infant’s room.

If you’re willing to get creative, you can merge bedtime routines in a way that makes sense for your family. Just be consistent with how you choose to do this!

At the end of the day, just remember to follow the same pattern of events leading up to bedtime every night. Kids thrive off routine and predictability. If done consistently, a concrete bedtime routine cues the brain and lets the child know that sleep is coming. Ultimately, all humans need dedicated periods of transition and that’s why a bedtime routine is so important.

Stellina Ferri is the author of this article. Stellina is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and mom of three.

She supports families through the journey of better sleep as a consultant with Tweet Dreamzz Sleep Consulting. She lives in the Boston, MA area with her family. Find out what solutions she has for you by Booking a free call!

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