A flexible bedtime routine based on babies and toddlers natural patterns really work for families. A routine in a child’s life is always so important, it creates stability and reassurance and helps parents to be able to have consistency and control. Which in turn gives them confidence.

A bedtime routine is always the first thing that parents seem to introduce,and as they introduce one early and stick to it,it really works.  Even when I help households whose babies and toddlers don’t have troublesome naps and difficult nights,they always do a bedtime routine and they always settle well for the evening.

One of the things I have always suggested that parents do with their little ones is to read a story before they go to sleep. It becomes a trigger for sleeping and I also suggest this before nap times too.

Flexible baby sleep routine with Jo Tantum - reading to your toddler

When your baby is little and very sleepy at bedtime I tell parents to either sing a lullaby or tell them a little story. It can be about them, your family or a fairy tale that you know. The calming tones of your voice lulls them into sleep.

As they get older and more aware of their surroundings and their eyesight becomes more focused they will be able to start looking at picture books.I think that around 4 months old is a great age to introduce a bedtime story. This is when they can engage more with you and look at the book and be interested. Of course their first books will be simple with few words and perhaps flaps to lift.  As they get older there will be more exciting, interesting stories they can enjoy.

I also think it’s a great outing to go to the library to chose some books.Libraries often have activities and storytelling sessions or singing and musical instruments too. It’s a great place to find your little ones new favourite book and for you all to meet some new friends..

Here are some top tips to help with a great bedtime routine-

  1. Switch off all screens including TV’S and tablets an hour before bed as this can affect their ability to switch off ready for sleep.
  2. Have some nappy off time until they start crawling.
  3. Have a bath ,then a massage if they stay still long enough!
  4. Take them into their room,make sure there is a low light,so its calming and less stimulating.Have some natural calming sounds on in the background,’I love waves and it reminds me of lovely holidays.’
  5. Make sure before you start a story that they have been to the loo,had their nappy changed and you have everything in place like comforters and teddies.
  6. Once they have their PJ’s on then get comfortable in a chair ready to read the story.
  7. Read the story in a calm ,gentle voice. Try not to use an excitable voice when introducing characters as that will stimulate them.
  8. Once you have read the book say good night to the characters – “Good night bear, Good night rabbit etc”
  9. Try and have the same book for a few days so that the repetition helps them feel secure, and they begin to recognise the story. When they get older encourage them to choose a book to read, as part of their bedtime routine.
  10. Say “Good night I love you, before tucking them in. If they want to start a conversation, continue this one line so as not encourage delaying tactics.

Bedtime routines with a bath then a story and milk work as its using repetition. All babies and toddlers love to know what happens next.It makes them feel happy and secure in their little world.It means that before they get overtired and cranky you start the routine which immediately reassures them that you understand them. They look forward to a story and a cuddle with you. This is always a great time for Dads to be involved, especially if they have been at work and not seen their little ones.

Reading a story to your little one can pull them into a magical make believe world, it will fuel their imagination, help with their vocabulary and understand the World around them. There are books that can help them with real life situations like having a new baby, getting a pet or even death.

Books open a whole new World of discovery for them to dive into.

Some families all pile into bed together for stories. Sometimes older siblings will read a story to the younger ones. In some families, Dad reads to the toddler whilst Mum puts baby to bed, and some parents get into their little ones bed.  However your family works, having a story before they go to sleep is lovely bonding exercise that children will remember, it starts their interest in reading and hopefully continue the tradition when they have a family in the future.

About Jo Tantum

With over 27 years experience working with babies and parents Worldwide, it’s no wonder Jo is the UK’s leading Baby Sleep Expert.

Jo Tantum Baby Sleep and parenting Expert with Prestige Parenting Services

Teaching babies how to love sleeping with calm, gentle guidance, with no tears! Encouraging confident parenting. Jo helps parents with her best selling book ‘Baby Secrets’, Sleepytime- Bedtime products and ‘Go Anywhere’ blackout blind, she also offers email and Skype support.

Whilst her Sleep Angel Sleep trainers offer overnight and home support. You have probably seen Jo at one of The Baby Shows around the country, as one of their key speakers, or on Daybreak, Live with Gabby as their Baby expert, ITN news, on BBC Radio, or in one of the many parenting magazines including Mother & Baby, for whom she writes for, or online for Mamas and Papas and Bbaby!

Working with Pampers for the fourth year running and other large brands including Boots Parenting Magazine and Annabel Karmel as their Sleep Expert. Jo’s mission is to make a difference to parents where she can.  Her new venture with her business partner is Prestige Parenting Services, this Unique London based Agency, offers top quality, confidential Childcare and household services. Going the extra mile to perfectly match candidates and clients.

If you need any advice about your baby, whether it is sleep, natural routines, reflux or twin issues . Or you want to find your perfect Nanny or Maternity Nurse then Jo and her team can help you.

Visit www.jotantum.com or www.prestigeparenting.com for more information