Positive Routines

Positive routines are an important addition to any sleep training approach. Positive routines involve a series of steps that you do with your child before sleep. These should be activities that your child usually enjoys, but that are quiet, require little activity on your child’s part, and can be done with dim lighting.

Common (but not necessary) components are:

  • Bath or cloth bath
  • Massage
  • Story
  • Singing
  • Hugging
  • Patting

Ideally bedtime routines should involve a lot of positive interaction between you and your child. Try to make the steps fun, see the bedtime routine as quality time with your child, and relax into it. You could even get your child to choose some or all steps in the bedtime routine. Short routines are generally advised so that you can respond quickly to your child’s tired cues. The elements of the routine should be done in the same order each time. With repetition, your child will be able to predict the next step in the sequence, which should help him or her to relax.

From 6 months of age, another thing you can do to help make this a predictable sequence is modelling.

The most powerful element of bed routines is the association they build with falling asleep. This means they need to be repeated many nights before they have maximal effect, and ideally, they should result in sleep.

If your positive bed routine isn’t resulting in sleep, I would recommend that you follow the sleep mapping series that should have been emailed to you. If you haven’t received it, you can sign up for it here: Sleep Mapping Email Series. You could also try combining a new positive routine with Faded Bedtimes.

Please add your experiences with this approach in the comments below. Please provide the age of your child when you tried it, and how long you tried it for. If it helped, please share the effects you saw. If it didn’t help, why do you think it didn’t work in your case?

1 Comment

  1. Nicole Weeks

    “We ended up having good success with implementing a routine (music, books) over one month before trying ‘camping out’ at six months. A ‘lovie’ didn’t work for us but our LO seems to find comfort in having her favourite teddy tucked in by her side.” (Mother of 6 month old girl)


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