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A bedtime routine to put your baby to sleep

Putting your baby to sleep is not always easy, and no one enjoys spending the hour before bed fighting with a crying, fussy baby trying to get them to relax and sleep. Fact is, a good night’s sleep starts before you even put your baby in their crib. Establishing a baby bedtime routine can help improve your baby’s sleep – and give you a more relaxing night!

Babies learn through actions before they begin comprehending the meaning of words. Having a predictable bedtime routine helps babies learn, through actions, that it’s time to go to sleep. Your baby's bedtime routine doesn't need to be elaborate - in fact, it's better to make it as simple as possible so you can consistently repeat it anytime, anywhere.

From the experts

“Sleep associations are incredibly strong. The repetitive nature of a parent’s exact actions before bed is very powerful. It doesn’t matter that there’s no massage or books, what matters is that we created a reliable set of steps before bed that cue her brain and body that it’s time to could stand on your head as the first step in your bedtime routine, as long as you do it every night.”

National Sleep Foundation

Establishing a Bedtime Routine

Why is a bedtime routine important?                     

  1. A bedtime routine can help your baby sleep better. Babies are constantly learning and exploring. Even the smallest things or actions can stimulate your baby. Establishing a calming, soothing baby sleep routine will help them relax before it’s time to sleep. It’s important to keep your routine as consistent and predictable as possible, because your baby will be calmer if they know what’s coming next.

  2. A bedtime routine can help YOU relax too.  While your baby will find this time relaxing and start going to sleep easier, you’ll be getting to spend special quiet time with your little one. This is a great time to bond and get away from other things going on in your household or life. To find more ways to relax, click here.

  3. Bedtime Routines aid transitional periods. Baby bedtime routines also help put your baby to sleep during transitional periods and sleep regressions. Around 4 to 6 weeks, many babies experience an onset of colic, or other disruptions to their normal sleep pattern, which can pose a challenge for you and your little one. Staying consistent with your bedtime routine will help them push through this transition.

When should I start implementing my baby’s bedtime routine?

A good time to start implementing a consistent routine might be when:

  1. Your baby is 5-6 weeks old. Newborns don’t follow much of a set routine or baby sleep schedule, and they’re not going to have a set bedtime either. From 0-6 weeks, your baby will be sleeping so often that worrying about getting them on a schedule is basically obsolete. Before 6 weeks old, focus on getting them enough sleep and what activities appear to relax or soothe them; then you’ll know what things you should include in their bedtime routine when the time comes.

  2. Your baby is showing signs to getting used to certain “sleep aids.” When you first bring your baby home, you do whatever you can just to make sure your baby is getting the care, love, and sleep they need. However, sometimes that means we resort to things we know we won’t be able to keep doing forever – like carrying your baby around while they sleep, letting them nurse until they fall asleep, using a pacifier, or sleeping in their swing. These are infant sleep aids, which can turn into sleep associations.

It’s fine if you’ve used these baby sleep aids, most parents do! But the sooner you can ween them off, the better because it won’t always be possible for you to rely on these baby sleep aids. Establishing a bedtime routine can help lessen the need for baby sleep aids, and eventually, eliminate them all together.

Bedtime routine for your baby heading for a 7 PM bedtime


Action Steps

6:00 PM

Bath baby in a nice warm bath

6:10 PM

After drying baby, massage her with some almond oil (or other natural oil)

6:10 PM

Dress baby in her sleeping clothes and sing a song or read a book

6:15 PM

Start bedtime milk feed

6:50 PM

Bedtime milk feed ends. Put baby in her swaddle or sleeping bag, give her a cuddle, and sing her a song. Put baby in her bed, saying your sleep phrase and turning off the lights.

7:00 PM

Baby goes to bed for the night.

If your baby is used to being held to sleep, getting them used to sleeping independently can be a challenge. Your baby's association with your touch is one of the strongest. Zen Sleepwear™ is lightly weighted to mimic your gentle touch, so your baby will still feel that comforting pressure between cuddles. 

Zen Sleepwear™: Lightly weighted to help your baby sleep better in 1 to 3 nights

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  1. Your schedule is about to change, such as going back to work: If you have a newborn at home, routine might feel like a thing of the past. Bringing your baby home probably ended any semblance of routine you once had in your life. Before you know it, mom-brain sets in from lack of sleep and constantly feeling overwhelmed.

Implementing a bedtime routine at the right age can help you get some organization back in your life. Once your baby reaches that 6-week mark, they can start to absorb a routine- and you can start feeling a little more on track! When your maternity leave is over and you have to go back to work, or if you have other children at home that need tending to, you’ll be thankful for your baby’s routine.

"Timing is critical. Tuning into your baby's natural biological rhythms—by reading their drowsy signs—ensures that when they're placed in their crib, melatonin (the powerful sleep hormone) is elevated in their system, and their brain and body will be primed to drift off with little fuss. If you wait too long, however, your infant can become overtired. Not only will they have lower melatonin levels, but their brain begins to release wakefulness hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. This makes it difficult for your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep and can lead to early wake-ups. So don't miss these cues: When your little one is still, quiet, disinterested in their surroundings, and staring off into space, melatonin is peaking in their system and it's time to go to bed."  – Jenni June, a sleep consultant in Los Angeles

How do I establish a bedtime routine?

After about 6 weeks, your baby will fall into a more regular pattern of sleeping, eating, and playing. Since you’ve been noting what helps to soothe and relax your baby, you’ll know how to get your routine started. Learn your baby’s sleepiness cues and begin starting your routine then. It will take time to establish it, just remember to stay consistent!

Sample Bedtime Routine

A Suggested Bedtime Routine Timeline

How long before bed you start your bedtime routine will depend on your baby. But the ideal pre-bedtime routine will last anywhere from 1 hour to 15 minutes. This will depend on your baby’s temperament, and even what kind of day they’ve had. If the hours before bed were filled with visitors or lots of playtime, it may take a little longer to get them calm than it would have if the day was spent relaxing and snuggling with mom.

The timeline below gives an outline of what your bedtime routine should look like:

45 minutes to 1 hour before sleep: Give baby a bath, clean diaper, lotion, etc.

30 to 45 minutes before sleep: Infant massage, put jammies on and swaddle. Turn on ambient noise, make the room dim/dark.

15 to 30 minutes before sleep: Nursing/feeding, other calming activities of your choice

10 to 15 minutes before sleep: Move to baby’s bedroom if you haven’t already. Burp (if needed), and gently rock or snuggle.

5 minutes before sleep: Your baby should be very drowsy. Put them down in their crib before they fall asleep.

Sleep time: As your baby falls asleep, try leaving the room. This can be tough, but the Zen Swaddle may be able to help. It’s gently weighted parts place light pressure in the same places your embrace would, giving your baby extra comfort and security, even when you’re not there.


Other Bedtime Resources

Healthychildren.Org: Toddler Bedtime Trouble

Zerotothree.Org: Fighting Their Sleep Routine

Mayo Clinic: Toddler Health

American Academy of Pediatrics: Your Child’s Sleep


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Baby Sleep Cycle

Baby Sleep Simplified

How to Get Your Baby to Nap


Athena S.

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1 comment

  • “Drowsy but awake” – I remember from my sleep training guide How to teach a baby to fall sleep alone. It was a great guide and HWL method worked very fast but recognizing this “drowsy but awake” moment was a tricky case at first!

    Beth on

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