An interesting story about David Hilbert, a professor of mathematics at the University of Goettingen.
One night ... there was a party to be held at Hilbert's house. Just as the first guests were arriving, Hilbert's wife noticed that her husband's shirt was soiled; she quickly sent him off to put on a clean one. In response to her request, Hilbert went upstairs.
After 20 minutes or more had passed, he still had not returned. The guests were milling about waiting for him. Somewhat concerned, Mrs. Hilbert went up to the bedroom. There she found the great mathematician peacefully tucked into his bed, fast asleep.
"You see", explained his friend, "it
was a natural sequence of things. He took off his coat, then his tie,
then his shirt, and so on, and went to sleep.". Most of us are not so
susceptible to the cues that signal our bedtime, but we do
become conditioned to the natural sequence of our own routine and it
does assist us in falling asleep.
Taken from Sleep Thieves by S. Coren - ISBN 0684823047
A bed time ritual is a set of actions and words
you do with and say to your child at each bedtime.
Your baby learns to associate these with settling and that is enough for her body to get ready for it.
Good bedtime routines (see below) are simple and recognizable, quiet and pleasant, and you are consistently sticking to it.
You can start this from the first weeks with your newborn baby and you will continue to do it to help your toddler.
Your baby's bedtime routine will evolve as she grows.
Easy settling with a routine is just as
valuable for growing up kids and adults.
It is one of the many things one learns from research. The anecdote in the box says it all ...
One simple example, your winding down bedtime ritual could be like this:
This is just one, typical, bedtime routine but it can be any set of similar quiet things you and your little one like to do.
Always the same
Since your little one must recognize the pattern, it must naturally be the same each time. Hmm, I even sang exactly the same lullaby for almost a year (because it worked ... so why change a winning team ;)) ...
You can of course vary with different lullaby songs, as long as the routine is recognizable to your baby.
Not too long, not too short
Too short and your baby will not easily recognize the pattern.
Too long and getting baby to bed will become a chore.
Relaxing and pleasant for baby and for you
Make the bedtime ritual a quiet moment you
can both enjoy.
Hugging and holding her close, talking and singing softly, ... It helps you both wind down and relax and leaves your baby feeling relaxed and ready for sleep.
Guided by you, without hesitating
Also here, be determined. There must be a clear ending to the routine, don't let your child stretch it. As she grows older, towards one year and above, she may try to extend this pleasant time. Saying goodnight to another toy. And another one. Asking for a second song ...
If you go along in this, it becomes more difficult to end the routine and start her sleeping. Avoid giving her choices as well, like choosing the lullaby. It can take a looooong time before you agree on a song ...
Any thing she asks about, simply tell her "yes, we'll do that later on/tomorrow", and finish the routine as usual.
Of course also here you can experiment, and by all means include more flexibility if your baby still settles well.
There's never any magic of course, and having a routine is not a guarantee that your baby will sleep. But it is one of the many tricks that help towards the best sleep she can have right now.