My baby's routine used to be a warm bath, book, massage, holding him while gently walking around (the only thing that actually calms him), and then rocking with him till he's drowsy. It used to take forever to calm him this way.

Almost every bedtime routine suggestion on the internet, even for hyperactive babies, mentions a "soothing" bath. No such thing with my 6 month old! He loves bath time a little too much. Splashes and twists and turns the whole time. Just keeping him safe takes my entire strength and energy! I've tried with less water, more water, a bath toy to keep him calm and distracted... nothing has worked. He gets too worked up after a bath. So I moved bath time to earlier in the day.

This made bedtime a little easier, but then he started getting too excited about his picture books. I cant keep him from crawling and rolling over during the massage either, although it doesn't excite him more than he already is.

If I were to remove all of these things from the routine, I'm left with holding him and then rocking him to drowsiness, which doesn't seem like much of a routine. What can I do better or different to have a bedtime routine that actually works?

  • Man....I had one of those and nothing worked but patience (and even that failed me sometimes). Bless you.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 19:57

7 Answers 7


Bath is too exciting for bedtime for a lot of kids. I also have a super-active, super-excitable little one, and he also got worked up by books and just about anything remotely interesting at bedtime.

It's fine to move bath and books earlier in the day, or move books to the start of the routine. Some other soothing bedtime routine options that I've either tried or use myself include:

  • Say goodnight to favorite toys
  • Close the curtains, turn on the nightlight, turn on white noise, etc, while carrying them, so the little one can see you're preparing the room for sleep.
  • Talk in a soothing voice about what you did that day, and what you're doing tomorrow. My son loved this one even from a pretty early age, and would quiet down as I moved gradually from a conversational tone to a quiet, sleepy one.
  • Have a verbal good night ritual. This can be a prayer, an affirmation, a special phrase like "Love you to the moon and back". Whatever fits your child.
  • Sing, either a same special song every night, or whatever soothing thing you want.
  • Give a comfort item if your child uses one (pacifier for a baby- stuffed animals and blankets should not be placed in the crib!)

At 6 months I did bath, lotion, talk about the day, song. Now that he's a preschooler it's more involved, and book has been added back in, with a prayer and affirmations replacing the song.

You might need to experiment for the perfect routine, and it may change as your baby grows.


In our experience, in addition to the nightime routine, another important factor in good nighttime sleep is the daytime routine. Keep it consistent. At this age keeping it consistent from day to day to within 20 minutes was helpful for us.

The last daytime nap should be consistent across days, and not too late in the day so as not to interfere with the night time sleep.

The lights before bedtime should not be too bright.

Try singing quiet songs in a soft voice at bedtime.

Do not expect the baby to fall asleep during the routine. As described in more detail in Ferber's book, the baby should be put to bed before they are asleep. The babies should learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own.


"By the time your baby is three months old and has developed a fairly predictable twenty-four-hour pattern, it becomes more important for you to provide increasingly consistent structure. If you do your best to establish a reasonable and consistent daily routine and keep to it as much as possible, then it is likely that your child will continue to develop good patterns. If instead you allow the times of your child’s feedings, playtimes, baths, and other activities to change constantly, chances are his sleep will become irregular as well. Remember from Chapter 2 that when there is no schedule, people (including children) tend to run on a twenty-five-hour day. So if you don’t stick to a schedule for your child’s sleep, a pattern might emerge that would surprise you (although it wouldn’t surprise a sleep scientist)."

(Ferber (2006), p. 127)

Napping Too Late

If your child naps in the late afternoon, let’s say from 4:00 to 6:00 P.M. each day, he may be unable to fall asleep until 10:00 or 11:00 at night. If you try to make his bedtime earlier, you will likely face real struggles. Most families recognize the problem and make the nap earlier or shorter. If you want to move the nap significantly earlier—for instance, if your child is used to napping at 4:00 P.M. and you want him to nap at 1:00 or 2:00 P.M.—it will be easiest to make the change gradually. Move his nap time (and his bedtime, too, if it is later than it should be) ten or fifteen minutes earlier each day until he is sleeping at the desired times. If he still has a nap in the morning, you may need to move it earlier as well—if it occurs in the late morning—or, if he’s old enough, eliminate it altogether in order to move the late-afternoon nap earlier. If his afternoon nap and his bedtime are both late, and he also wakes late in the morning, you will have to move all three earlier together (see “Late (Delayed) Sleep Phase” in Chapter 10).

(Ferber (2006), p. 495)

"Recall that exposure to light sets your biological clock and adjusts the timing of your sleep phase. Bright light near bedtime delays your sleep phase, so that you fall asleep later and wake (spontaneously) later. Bright light in the morning has the opposite effect, causing you to wake earlier and fall asleep earlier. If you are exposed to bright light within your sleep phase—that is, after you would usually fall asleep or before you would usually wake spontaneously—its effects are especially strong. (Exactly what happens depends on the timing, intensity, and duration of the light exposure.)"

(Ferber (2006), pp. 368-369)

Ferber, Richard. (2006) "Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems: New, Revised, and Expanded Edition" New York, NY: Fireside: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0743201639/




  • 1
    Yes,, we do put him in his crib drowsy but awake. But even getting to drowsy is taking a long time.
    – learner101
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 17:18

Six months is about when babies can start learning to go to sleep on their own - and it's very important to do so, if you don't want to be spending hours getting them to go to sleep for the next several years. This article recommends starting this at six months, for example - about when you start seeing your baby able to sleep all night, in particular.

As far as what can be components of your routine - excitement is okay for parts of it, for sure. I like to call it "get the wiggles out". My kids (now middle grade, but the same since this age!) often get pretty excited prior to sleep and then suddenly fall asleep; that's just how they're wired biologically.

Make sure you're doing bedtime at the right time for your child, and not over-napping them in the day; they should be tired, but not too tired, at bedtime. Play with the times some - try a week of an hour less of nap, or a week of a half hour later bedtime. (Not just one night, you need several to remove other variables.) We tried to have our oldest go to bed too early, and it just never worked - he's a night owl, and later bedtimes even at 2 was necessary (like, 8:30 by 2yo, and that's without a nap).

Otherwise - make sure the last thing in your routine is not excitable, but the rest I feel can be somewhat active. Reading a book, having a bath, all of that can be soothing even if they're being active during it. We used music, for example, as the last thing - we'd play some soothing music while the lights went off, and that helped settle. But don't expect instant results - they'll have some harder bedtimes while they learn to self soothe.

The other thing I'd recommend would be talking to him in a soothing voice. Make up a story that's just verbal. Just talk to him about your day. Read the telephone book (not literally, but that's the gist here) - just your voice will help calm him down, without visual or physical stimuli.


We have found walks (even a short, 15-min walk) in the stroller to be a good way to relax before bed. When the weather is no good we sometimes wear him in a baby carrier around the house, which always seems to calm him down (and it makes it easier to do the dishes!)


We're only on our first and have no idea what we're doing, but I feel like we have this (and maybe only this) aced.

Our normally fairly active 8-month-old goes BONKERS starting 15 or 20 minutes before bedtime. He wants to "jump" and climb and reach at stuff (you're right - those books are like a magnet when he's like this!) and be picked up so he can stare in slack-jawed amazement at my baseball cap. It's by far his most enthusiastic playtime of the day. Really tempting to keep going. But we don't.

Our bedtime routine is very short. It's my favorite part of the day because he's happy and engaged and it's kind all around. It's exactly the same every night and has been since before it mattered:

  1. At 8:00 PM on the nose, play him a lovely "Sweet Dreams" lullaby and smile at him and tell him it's bedtime while he tries to wiggle out of Mama's arms (we cut it short sometimes too - he's getting strong!)
  2. Move to his room
  3. Change his diaper and do whatever grooming stuff he needs - this can be a challenge as he may still be bucking like a mule out of sheer enthusiasm for the universe, but we're learning to calm down for this anyway, so that is a help
  4. Take 10 seconds to play with a soft lion or tickles or just wiggling or something and then one last scoop and squeeze - this is more for us than for him, so he's gonna have to deal with it
  5. Put his jammies on and a pacifier in
  6. Set him down with that goofy grin under his pacifier, turn on the white noise, turn out the light, and sneak out

Kid's not an idiot, he watches us leave, but he goes down without a peep nearly every night these days. He's never really been super into cuddles, so I guess we had our "cry it out" phase early, though I didn't recognize that for what it was at the time.

I know everybody's kid is different, and ours is turning into a unique challenge himself, but we have somehow gotten extremely lucky with the sleeping at night thing so far. Maybe this helps. Don't ask me about naps though. Kid is gonna be a fighter, haha. Any advice there would be welcome.


It is what you don't include which is important!

Don't include: More playing with daddy or mummy, during bed time (other time is absolutely fine)

You don't have a routine to make them tired and fall asleep. You have a routine to let them know it's time for them to go to sleep. Subtle but different.

Think about what going to sleep would ideally be like when they are a bit older, and work to designing a routine like that.

Have a bath with them if you want to. You need to clean them at some point! It can be fun for them and can be a good one last hazzar for them before they go to bed. But it has nothing to do with getting your little one to sleep.

Reading can be similar. It is good for bonding and developmentally. Only reward behavior from them which you are happy with. If you are happy them clapping and giggling, then that is fine. But if they are getting you to chase them trying to calm them down, well they are just playing you!

So if they try running away, just stay with the book, tell them you are just going to keep reading by your self, and keep reading. Don't let them trick you into playing another game.

Ok now it's actual bed time Tell them something like "Ok it's sleep time now" Treat it like a you are just pointing out a fact that you both know. Not as a harsh command.

This is what I used to do, YMMV.

I would lay my little one down, give them a kiss say good night, say I love you and sing them a song. Actually I would play an Adele or Florence and the Machine, because I can't sing, holding my phone above them so they had to lie on their back to see it. I would slowly keep turning the volume down. Sometimes I would stroke one finger softly from the center of their forehead down their nose. This feels soothing and makes them blink and that helps make their eyes feel heavy.

Now this is the important part: I would lie on the spare bed beside the crib (and surf on my phone, but that's not the important part) and not interact with them. That is different than ignoring them. The goal is for them to feel safe that you are near by, but know you not are going to play anymore. Occasionally I would remind them 'It's sleep time now' if they try and interact with me. Treat it like you are reminding them of the fact, not telling them off. After 5 min I would get up and say 'I going to see mummy now, see you in the morning'. They don't need to be asleep before you leave! If need be, remind them you won't be far away. If they cry do not reward that with extra cuddles. Pop back in and say 'It's ok, I love you but it's time for you to lie down quietly now' and head back out. The goal to NOT to let them cry themselves to sleep, but also don't let them 'play you', for extra cuddles. With extra 'you time' and sleep you will be able to give them better cuddles etc during the day.

After a short while of doing this going to bed only took about 10min (Most nights at least 😜)

Also explain to them what you are doing as you go. They can't communicate well yet but you can still include them in what is happening and why you are doing things.


With our kids, we always let them get asleep on their own while we do our things in the house. I am not sure what the advantages of a fixed routine are, as it takes very valuable time from parents to perform low-quality activities. Once they are tired they fall asleep naturally on the couch or the location they have been playing, and when it's bedtime for the parents they can be transported in their designated sleep location.

  • People downvoting because they do not like the answer, not because the answer is wrong. Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 19:32

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