Bedtime routines are wonderful for many reasons. They’re relaxing, and they help babies and young kids fall asleep. But perhaps most importantly, they are one of the best ways to bond with your child.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Dawn Huebner says, “Too often, families have so much going on that bedtime becomes a frantic time of finishing dinner, squeezing in baths…It is better for kids to have a half-hour or so before bedtime to connect with their parents in a positive way — to talk and play and be together.”
Components of the bedtime routine can include a warm bath, soft music, rocking your child, bedtime stories, massaging your child or giving a back rub, and more. All of these activities are excellent ways to strengthen your parent-child bond.
Routines also make children feel safe and secure because they know what to expect. The comfort and security you provide through the bedtime routine will help your baby or child form a secure attachment to you, which is crucial for your child’s healthy development.
If you’re unsure how to build a bedtime routine that will boost your parent-child bond, you can follow the simple guidelines below.
Most infants are receptive to bedtime routines as young as 6-8 weeks old. Begin trying to establish a routine at that point. If you don’t experience success right away, continue consistently following the same steps, and your baby will eventually come around.
Of course, if your baby is older than 8 weeks, it’s not too late to create a routine. Just remember that once you’ve decided on a routine, you’ll need to stick to it each night. Don’t commit to any activities that you won’t be able to do or won’t want to do nightly.
Dr. Huebner recommends creating a bedtime routine following a pattern she calls “shift-snug-snooze.”
Shift: You need a winding down period in your routine, because it’s difficult for babies to transition from noise, bright lights, and activity to bedtime. Start shutting down electronics and dimming lights about 30 minutes before bedtime.
Snug: Get into bed with your child for 10-15 minutes of cuddles, quiet talking, reading a story, etc. It’s good for part of the bedtime routine to take place in the bedroom (particularly in the bed) so your child doesn’t only view the bedroom as a place where she’s “abandoned’ nightly.
Snooze: These are the last few minutes of the routine that signal to your child it’s time to sleep. This can include a back rub or brief massage, a lullaby, nighttime prayers, or hugs, kisses, and “I love you.”
The shift-snug-snooze routine, according to Dr. Huebner, helps babies and kids feel “calm and connected,” which is perfect for bedtime.
The key to bonding with your baby at bedtime is to create a comfortable, calming, and consistent routine.
While you may sometimes find yourself thinking about everything else you need to be doing during your bedtime routine, remember that these are the cherished moments you’ll miss as your child grows up, and you’re doing the all-important work of building a bond with your baby.