Establishing Positive Sleep Routines With Faded Bedtimes

Emma Sutherland This week’s guest blog comes from Emma Sutherland. Emma is a successful mum, author, naturopath and TV presenter and her mission in life is to inspire women to get their mojo back. Her book “50 Foods That Will Change Your Life” is the ultimate guide to healthy eating for women. She was the expert nutritionist on the popular TV show “Eat Yourself Sexy” on Lifestyle You and is currently finishing her training as an infant sleep consultant. You can find out more about Emma at

Emma shares her expertise in infant sleep in this week’s article. The approach Emma shares is a positive sleep routine with faded bedtimes. Sometimes when people hear ‘sleep training’ or ‘sleep routines’ they think of rigid rules, and the heartache of letting a baby cry-it-out. However, I can speak from experience when I say that one of the best things you can do for your baby is to give her the comfort and security of a routine. And you don’t have to ‘abandon’ your child to set up a sleep routine! With my first daughter, I had no strong routine and bedtimes were a nightmare for the whole family. When my second daughter was heading down the same track, I sought help and was supported in establishing a solid daily routine with her which included becoming aware of early sleep cues and establishing a positive routine that she learned to associate with sleep. She was 9 months old at the time. Ten months later I can see firsthand what a difference it has made to our whole family. Naptimes and bedtimes are mostly a breeze, and when they aren’t I know that there’s a real problem – and it’s not just that she’s overtired! 

For some families, you will want to establish a routine sooner rather than later. The gentle advice that Emma gives can help you establish those routines. Of course, in the ‘fourth trimester’ your baby will still be waking up to feed in the night. However, having some positive sleep associations can help your baby to get back to sleep more quickly, which should help you get back to sleep more quickly too! 

Positive Routines with Faded Bedtime

By Emma Sutherland

Bedtime sleep problems are one of the most challenging and frustrating experiences every parent goes through. In line with this, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine appointed researchers to review studies of well-established types of behavioral interventions for young children with sleep problems, and concluded that, positive routine with bedtime fading is among one of the most effective behavioral therapies in treating bedtime struggles and night wakings1.

What is positive routine with faded bedtime?

Positive routine with faded bedtime is a sleep training method that is based on the premise that children are easier to settle and fall asleep quicker if they are consistently exposed to routine pleasant, relaxing and quiet activities that the child enjoys, and occur about 20 minutes before bedtime2.

This training program doesn’t promote early bedtime at the onset because its implementation will be dictated by the baby’s normal sleeping time. Babies are taught to associate the pre-bedtimerituals as cues for onset of sleep; therefore, it is important that this is done when your baby feels naturally sleepy. Forcing the baby to sleep earlier than his natural sleeping time may just result in resistance and negative reactions!

As soon as your baby starts to relate the positive bedtime interactions with falling asleep, faded bedtime, or gradually moving bedtime earlier, is used until you reach baby’s ideal bedtime. Noticeable improvements are usually achieved over 1-2 weeks period.

Example of a positive bedtime routine

A bedtime routine can be any activity that promotes calmness and relaxation to help a young child or baby wind down and prepare for sleep. It’s usually a mix of these activities: a warm bath, brushing teeth, massage, reading a story, singing lullabies and other interactions that keep the atmosphere pleasant and should be consistently done the same way every night.

Here’s one example of a bedtime routine done 20 minutes before sleeping4:

  • Give baby a warm bath for 5 minutes
  • Brush teeth
  • Read a book together for 10 minutes
  • Play a lullaby
  • Cuddle baby
  • Kiss baby goodnight and then leave the room

The end of the positive period must always end with a goodnight or the use of key words such as “night night, sleep tight” to reaffirm that it’s time for sleep.

Top 5 Tips On How To Implement

Positive routines definitely help to soothe and calm your child to get ready for sleep, but, it also requires the right approach and implementation for the method to be successful2,4.

Keep in mind these tips on how to apply this program with your bub:

  1. Know the right bedtime. Record your baby’s sleep pattern and watch for signs of sleepiness. Take note what time in the night your baby falls asleep naturally and set it as the starting bedtime.
  2. Introduce the sleep training program at later bedtimes, as a baby who is drowsy and relaxed will fall asleep easier and faster.
  3. Start the bedtime routine 20 minutes before the usual time baby gets naturally sleepy, in the same way, every single night.
  4. Implement the faded bedtime part a week after introducing routines so that baby has already learned to firmly associate the routine with sleep.
  5. Advance bedtime, bit by bit; say 10-15 minutes every few days until the established age-appropriated sleeping time is reached.





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