A bath before bedtime can be a good way to help settle your little one for sleep, writes Lucy Wolfe.
Promoting better sleep
Promoting better sleep is often a number one objective for many parents. Studies consistently suggest that sleep deprivation is one of the biggest challenges for parents with an otherwise healthy child. There are many schools of thought supporting helping your young child sleep better, often confusing and conflicting. However, one element that is consistently recommended, because it is effective, is the establishment of a calm, bedtime routine.
This can be implemented from six weeks onwards, once your child is responding to social cues and any time thereafter so it is never too late! It does not need to be sophisticated, it just needs to be observed every night before bedtime and ideally with the exception of the bath, the remaining steps should happen in the bedroom where your child will sleep.
Research continuously highlights that children with a predictable and regular bedtime process, go to sleep faster and stay asleep longer – exactly what every parent wants for their baby! Recent Irish research illustrated that a simple, three step bedtime routine is clinically proven to help this to happen and the lovely thing is that, everyone can do this and you can start tonight!
Step 1: Bath
A bath can be a good way to help relax your baby ahead of sleep time. It can be a great sleep cue and may help to anchor the end of the day. Many parents report that this is a lovely start to bedtime and many parents find it a close and connected time with their little one. Also, nursing babies can be bathed by dad and can be a great bonding opportunity for all families alike.
1. Make sure the temperature is correct – test with your hand to make sure.
2. Allow for at least 5-8 centimetres of water and pour water over the baby’s body during the bath to prevent a chill.
3. Consider using a bedtime bath oil that may help promote sleep inducing qualities, make sure that any product you use is hypoallergenic, age appropriate and suitable recommended.
4. Don’t get your child undressed until you are ready to put them in the bath.
5. Make sure that the room is not chilly.
6. Be organised, have towels, lotions and shampoos ready before you put your child in the bath.
7. For small babies I would recommend a bath seat to help you feel confident-wet babies are slippery! Always keep one hand on your baby.
8. You could always put your small baby bath into the big bath until your child is bigger, if not make sure it is placed on a flat secure surface.
9. Don’t spend too long in the bath. A quick dip, wash and out again will suffice.
Step 2: Massage
When your bath-time is finished then retreat to the bedroom where your child will sleep. At this is the second stage of the three step routine designed to help you ease your baby into the land of nod. At this point, you should dry and change your baby’s nappy and consider some gentle baby massage. Consider using age appropriate lotions or oils with sleep inducing qualities. It may be well worth taking a few baby massage classes to help you learn some massage techniques.
Indulge in plenty of physical and eye contact. Gently talk and sing to your baby as they enjoy being connected with you, start the massage with a gentle hello. It can be helpful to do this exercise in a dimly lit environment, to help promote the sleep hormone melatonin. You may like to use soft playing music or white noise on in the background to help regulate the heart beat and again to help your child learn key words or songs that you say or sing before you want them to sleep.
1. Hold your hand so your little finger’s edge can move like a paddle across your baby’s belly. Starting at the base of the rib cage, stroke down with one hand, then the other, in a paddle-wheellike motion.
2. Massage her abdomen with your fingertips in a circular, clockwise motion.
3. Do the “I Love U” stroke: Trace the letter I down your baby’s left side. Then trace an inverted L, stroking across the belly along the base of her ribs from her right side to her left and down. Trace an inverted U, stroking from low on the baby’s right side, up and around the navel, and down the left side.
4. Walk your fingers around her navel, clockwise.
5. Hold knees and feet together and gently press knees up toward her abdomen. Rotate baby’s hips around a few times to the right. (This often helps expel gas.)
6. Place hand on tummy horizontally and rock your hand from side to side a few times.
Step 3: Quiet time
Before you anticipate that your child will go to sleep, after the bath and gentle massage activity, then indulge in some quiet one to one time with your baby. Sit down and read with them – a book or story board for example. Many young children want to only eat a book, so use a fabric book or tell a story from your head. You could consider, other play-for older children, stacking cups or shape sorting.
Participate in low impact activities that can help to relax your baby and prepare the young child’s body for sleep. Do your best to end this pre sleep ritual with key words such as “it’s sleep time baby”. Turn out the lights and make an effort to help your child to be awake or partially awake before going into their cot, crib or co sleeper.
Over time you will get more comfortable and confident in applying the bedtime routine and you will be able to develop and enhance each step as your child gets older and I would anticipate that your baby will start to go to sleep with ease and stay asleep for longer, so it will be well worth the effort.
More like this:
Help your baby sleep through the night
Baby sleep routines
Top tips to get your baby to sleep