Mindful Bedtime Routine for Babies & Toddlers
When it comes to bedtime, my husband and I have found that a scheduled, mindful bedtime routine for our baby girl, full of relaxing habits and repetition, has earned us the best results for getting her to sleep through the night. Like a lot of parents of babies and toddlers, getting a “good night’s rest” has kind of been this beautiful, unicorn of a concept floating around like dancing sugar plums in our heads since Brooklyn was born 17 months ago. We co-slept in the beginning, because even though she had a beautiful bassinet right next to our bed, Brooklyn absolutely refused to sleep in it. We tried music, rocking, swaddling, shushing, vibrating, leaving something nearby with my scent—you name it—and she wasn’t having any of it. So we co-slept. And then we started working on moving her into her nursery when she was around 9 months old, and eventually, thanks to tons of reading, discussions with the pediatrician, commiserating with other tired parents and honestly, trial and error, we found a really mindful bedtime routine that has worked better and better as time has passed. There are still some nights where she wakes up and wants to be soothed back to sleep, or there are times when we might have to re-establish the routine if we’ve traveled away from home and she’s slept with us for a couple of nights. But overall, we have been super happy with the results of the routine we’ve established.
There are a few ways that we set Brooklyn up for restful sleep. Her mindful bedtime routine includes:
We try to start bedtime around the same time every evening (between 7-7:30pm) so that her body and mind know that this is going to be the time where she calms down and starts to get ready for sleep.
We generally bring her into her room a little before bedtime so that she can move around and wind down with quiet play like flipping through her favorite books or stacking rings/blocks.
I have a “toddler zen” Apple Music playlist on my phone, and I’m obsessed with the Rockabye Baby albums, which are lullaby renditions of popular music. So far we have Justin Timberlake and Bob Marley, and they are just the sweetest little relaxing tunes ever. We also use these when she’s tired in the car and they work wonders!
We generally bathe Brooklyn before bed time, as opposed to in the morning, so that the warm water can help soothe and ease her into sleepiness.
Meditation + Massage
After bath, I like to give B a light massage. I started infant massage with her as soon as she was born, after reading about the benefits while I was still pregnant, and it’s been helpful on nights when she’s already relaxed, but if she’s fussier, it just annoys her. So I try to follow her cues. I’ll massage her with lotion, Shea butter or coconut oil, rubbing away from the heart so the blood pumps away from her heart, and further brings her into a state of calm (by the converse, you can rub towards the heart in the morning to increase circulation and help energize baby for the day!). I like to start with her legs and feet, then move up to her shoulders and arms and the top of her back. I usually avoid rubbing her belly too much, and stick to the extremities.
While I’m massaging, I’ll also play a nightly meditation to help baby sleep. I use a few different meditation apps in order to get a variety, but her favorites are from the Guided Mind app: “Children’s Playground Imagery”, which is 10 minutes long, and a “Mini Relaxation Meditation” which is just 3 minutes. I’ll determine the length based on Brooklyn’s mood as well, and go with the shorter one when it’s easy to tell she’s more than ready to go down. The bonus here: I get in a little meditation myself, even if I haven’t been able to carve out any time during the rest of the day.
Story time is Brooklyn’s favorite part of bedtime, and it’s so cute to watch her little face light up when she climbs up into the rocker and grabs her book. Her current favorite is Goodnight Moon, which we’ve been reading for so long now, that I have it completely memorized! The teen was very impressed with this trick when he was asking about her books recently and I was able to recite it LOL. #parentalpartytricks
Using white noise in B’s nursery for the entire night is a lifesaving recommendation I got from the Happiest Baby Guide to Sleep. I started using it when she was an infant and it still works for her! White noise simulates the noise from inside the womb, and blocks out some of the noise of the rest of the family still being up and moving around the house at night, so that she can rest better without distraction or being awakened by our night time habits. I use the White Noise app for iPhone/iPad and it’s got tons of other sounds besides regular white noise that you can use as baby grows. The one we’re currently using is “rain on windshield”.
After story, as I’m laying Brooklyn down, I always sing her the same lullaby, I tell her what the next day will be like for her (what we’ll do and who she’ll see), and then I invite her to sleep well, tell her that we love her, and remind her that we’ll be here in the morning when she wakes up. I always say the exact same phrases when I lay her down so that she knows when I say those phrases, I’m going to leave the room next, and then it’s time for her to sleep. Hubs has his own version of this, which he does as they snuggle together in the rocker (it’s beyond adorable).
Shop Baby Bedtime
When you add in the humidifier and oil diffuser for essential oils that we also use in her room at night (and I’ll talk more about the essential oils in a separate post soon), there’s definitely an almost spa-like atmosphere that we’ve created in the nursery. When B was younger and I would sit in there and nurse her, I honestly would find myself falling asleep too because it was so relaxing! I could take a lesson to create that kind of relaxing and inviting atmosphere for when I am preparing to sleep. Most nights I still fall asleep with the TV on but on a really good night I’ll set myself up with meditation, or a podcast, and maybe some light reading before bed. It’s a work in progress.
If you have a mindful bedtime routine for your baby, or even for yourself, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. How does it make for better rest, affect your energy the next day, etc? Let’s chat!