The Importance of Routines: 5 Activities for Building an Effective Bedtime Routine

Is there something in your day-to-day that you can always count on? Something you do each day without fail? Mine starts right when I start my day—having my morning coffee, of course. The second I hop out of bed, I’m throwing in the coffee grounds. I sip my coffee as I prepare for my day—the calm before the storm. I take comfort in my peaceful morning start each day; my morning routine is what sets my day in motion and makes me feel more prepared for what’s ahead.

Routines also give babies a similar sense of comfort and security. They are taking in the world as it comes, which can be overwhelming. Routines give them an opportunity to know what to expect and take comfort in its arrival. ParentPal provides resources for various activities throughout the day, allowing parents to establish and stick with routines for their little ones.

A bedtime routine is crucial in meeting your baby’s sleep needs, and it’s equally important for your own health and wellness. Good sleeping habits contribute greatly to a baby’s healthy development and overall wellbeing. Your little one’s well-rested brain is perfectly prepared for another day of sustaining a positive relationship with you, for learning to be more physically agile, and for attempting to understand and speak an increasingly complex language. A good night’s sleep makes your child more attentive and engaged the next day, more curious about things, and more motivated to learn and solve problems.

What’s more, bedtime routines provide rich, ongoing bonding opportunities with your little one. These positive early experiences create a healthy environment that helps build sturdy brain architecture and lays the foundation for resilience in your child.

Effective bedtime routines include nutrition (feeding), hygiene (bathing), communication (reading), physical contact (hugs, kisses, snuggling), and the arts (music). A consistent bedtime routine promotes healthy sleep and a broad sense of wellbeing, helping your child to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, with fewer awakenings during the night.


It’s easy to build an effective bedtime routine by following these simple suggestions:

  1. Feeding. Make sure your little one is well-fed before bedtime. Sleep experts suggest that you feed your child outside the bedroom to avoid their associating feeding with sleep.
  2. Bathing. Gently bathe or wipe down baby with a warm cloth, and get him or her comfy with a clean diaper and pjs.
  3. Reading. Reading to your child at bedtime is far different from a daytime literacy experience. When the sun’s up, you want to engage and stimulate your little one through stories. At night, relaxation is the goal, so the approach to reading a bedtime story is designed to calm and soothe. As your child matures, your reading strategy can evolve naturally to reflect his or her language and comprehension gains.
  4. Contact. According to Stanford Children’s Health, babies who feel secure are better able to handle separations during nighttime. Cuddling and comforting your baby or providing them with physical contact during the day can help your little one feel more secure at night.
  5. Music. Music enhances your bedtime routine no matter when you decide to introduce it in the evening ritual. Some choose to play music right from the start of the routine to signal that bedtime is approaching, and to set the mood for the bathing experience—whether it be splash-filled and playful, or quiet and soothing.

Others choose to introduce music toward the end of the routine, just before laying baby down to sleep. Doing so consistently will signal to your child that it’s time to go to sleep.

After reading to your little one, set the music volume to moderate or low. Let your little one enjoy the soothing tunes while drifting off to sleep.


Things to Remember

Please remember the expression, “back to sleep.” Putting your little one to sleep in a supine position (flat on one’s back, facing upward) notably reduces the chances of SIDS, short for sudden infant death syndrome. Baby’s sleep surface should be firm, and free of fluffy quilts and pillows. Your little one should be dressed comfortably, but not overdressed—overheating is thought to increase the risk of SIDS.

Also note, there is no “right” bedtime routine; simply be consistent in the actions you and your little one go through before bedtime each night.


Follow these simple guidelines for the first year so both you and baby will sleep better at night and try out our Daily Routines List that provides several other ways to personalize your routine with what works best for you and your little one.