How to Establish a Healthy Bedtime Routine for Infants and Toddlers?

Sleep is essential for a child’s health and development. An extensive body of research shows that good sleep habits encourage brain development and promote mental and physical health.

Infants and toddlers bedtime routine should improve your child’s sleep and promote healthy sleep habits.


How Much Sleep Should Infants and Toddlers Get?

Understanding your child’s sleep needs is the first step in creating a healthy infant and toddler bedtime routine. Sleep problems are commonplace during early years – babies usually wake several times during the night in the first few months after birth.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 25 to 50 percent of children experience sleep problems. Lack of sleep during the night can affect both children and their parents.

Sleep patterns in newborn babies are commonly irregular because their sleep-wake cycle, also known as a circadian rhythm, needs some time to develop.

A circadian rhythm is regulated by light and dark patterns. Since these patterns develop gradually, babies typically have an irregular sleep routine. In most infants, the circadian rhythm establishes by the six months of age, when a baby begins to sleep better at night.

While adequate sleep is essential to a young child’s growth and development, naps throughout the day are also important since they don’t allow your child to become overtired.

In toddlers, nighttime sleep is accompanied by one or two naps a day. In addition, their sleep challenges are often influenced by separation anxiety, which can cause stubbornness and noncooperation at bedtime.

How much sleep does your child need depends on their age and individual needs.

However, the following sleep timeframe is a general guide to the amount of sleep infants and toddlers should get over 24 hours:

0 – 3 months12 – 18 hours
4 – 12 months12 – 14 hours
1 – 2 years11 – 14 hours
3-year-olds10 – 13 hours

To instill healthy sleep habits, introduce a consistent and calming bedtime routine from the earliest days.

The Importance of Sleep in Early Development

Your baby’s lack of sleep can be concerning and exhausting, impacting your child’s and your own mood, health, and well-being.

Children appear happier and have more energy during the day after a night of good sleep. Nighttime rest provides a child’s brain with the much-needed opportunity to restore. Well-rested children are more resilient to stress, have better self-control, and stronger immune system. In addition, research shows that sleep boosts learning capacity, memory, and attention span in young children.

Sleep is essential for growth and physical development in infants and toddlers, as it helps the growth hormone production in the brain.

A chronic lack of sleep can impact the child’s emotions, behavior, memory, and more, causing irritable and hyperactive behavior, mood swings, anxiety, difficulty concentrating and learning, and so on.

Good bedtime habits impact a child’s emotional health, behavior, and executive function. Therefore, helping your child develop a healthy sleep routine will instill healthy sleep habits and help them develop and grow.

How to Establish a Healthy Bedtime Routine for Infants and Toddlers

Since a circadian rhythm still develops during the first months of life, it is expected that your young baby rarely sleeps through the night. However, sleep habits and needs change as children grow older.

A consistent bedtime routine helps children get enough sleep, promoting healthy development in early childhood. Also, when they have routine and predictability, children know what to expect, which allows them to feel safe.

Below are a few tips on introducing a consistent bedtime routine to help you follow a regular sleep schedule and develop healthy sleep habits.

  1. Practice a Relaxing Routine at Bedtime

Establish a relaxing bedtime routine to make the transition to bed smooth and help your child calm down and fall asleep. Your child’s wind-down routine can involve anything from feeding and a warm bath to relaxing music and bedtime story.

First of all, make sure your child is not hungry or feed them right before bed.

Bathing your toddler at the end of the day is an excellent way to help them calm and relax, preparing for sleep. It is also a perfect opportunity for kids to associate a bath with bedtime. So, after taking a bath, help your child brush their teeth and put them in their pajamas.

Soothing sleep music is a great way to help your baby fall asleep, as lullabies help kids relax and still their minds and bodies before they fall asleep.

Research shows that music directly affects our hormones. For example, listening to relaxing music increases melatonin, a hormone that regulates the circadian rhythm, at the same time decreasing levels of stress hormones such as cortisol in a child’s body.

  1. Replace Screen Time with Books and Stories

A digital detox should be an inseparable part of a bedtime routine. Spending time in front of the tablet, smartphone, or other illuminated screens before bed can significantly disrupt a toddler’s ability to fall asleep.

So, try turning off video games, TV screens, and other bright lights at least an hour before bed and interact with your child face-to-face instead. Also, settle into a routine of reading to your child each evening before going to bed as reading in bed can help your toddler relax. It also helps associate reading with bedtime and gets your child into a sleep time routine.

  1. Create a Relaxing Atmosphere

In the evenings, your baby’s environment should be quieter, with reduced activity and light. To make the atmosphere in your child’s room relaxing and sleep-inviting, reduce the lights and play soothing music.

Soft lighting and lullabies will encourage your child’s body to produce melatonin and help them fall asleep. Allow your child to pick a security blanket or a stuffed animal, as they provide a sense of security.


Kids need routine as it helps them feel safe. To improve your child’s sleep, maintain a consistent bedtime schedule.

Establishing a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine to help your child fall asleep faster and foster healthy sleep habits.


Last Updated on September 20, 2021