Putting a Baby to Bed in 75 Consistent Steps

POPSUGAR Photography | Grace Hitchcock
POPSUGAR Photography | Grace Hitchcock

Sleep experts say a consistent bedtime routine is the key to getting your baby to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. These routines can be as simple as telling them the same story each night, putting on their pajamas in a particular room, or singing a familiar lullaby.

However, in my home, we have a much more elaborate ceremony for creating just the right environment and circumstances to help our little darlings drift off to sleep so everyone can wake up the next day feeling rested and ready to go.

Here are 75 simple steps to creating a bedtime routine you can rely on, night after night:

  1. Decide that tonight is the night you get your free evenings back.
  2. Draw a warm, relaxing bath for yourself and baby.
  3. Cuddle baby close right as he decides to mustard-bomb the bathwater.
  4. Pick yellow curds from your skin and baby's hair.
  5. Wrap baby in a snuggly towel.
  6. Lay out clean pajamas.
  7. Place naked baby on top of the clean clothes and reach for a diaper.
  8. Turn back just in time to watch a fountain of pee gurgling from between your child's legs and onto previously dry pajamas.
  9. Fetch another pair of clean pajamas, but this time put on the diaper before laying out the clothes.
  10. Check the clock and see that it's now already 10 minutes past bedtime.
  11. Carry drowsy baby into his bedroom and sit down in the rocking chair.
  12. Nurse baby or offer him a bottle.
  13. Close your eyes and sing to baby, preferably the same song as the last 50 times.
  14. Catch yourself nodding off, but refuse to go to bed at the same time as the baby again.
  15. Check for baby's eyeballs.
  16. Realize it's too dark to distinguish between eyeballs and eyelids.
  17. Turn on phone and shine the light on baby's face.
  18. Stare into the now-wide-awake eyes of your baby.
  19. Sing again.
  20. Take a chance that the baby is asleep and stand slowly from the chair.
  21. Freeze in midsquat when baby stirs in your arms.
  22. Hold your breath until he quiets back down.
  23. Inch your way to the crib while swinging your arms to replicate the rocking of the chair.
  24. Lower sound-asleep baby into the crib an inch at a time so he doesn't notice the change in altitude.
  25. Approximately one second later, retrieve screaming baby from bed.
  26. Dance with baby.
  27. Lay baby back in bed, but this time keep your hand pressed firmly against his chest.
  28. Slump over crib until you lose circulation to your arm.
  29. Remove your hand from baby, one finger at a time.
  30. Pause with your hand hovering above baby to make sure he's really asleep.
  31. Back away from the crib.
  32. Avoid the squeaky floorboard by the dresser.
  33. Close nursery door behind you.
  34. Perform a victory dance in the hallway outside baby's room.
  35. Reach for your phone to brag to your spouse that you are The Baby Whisperer.
  36. Realize you've left your phone by the rocking chair in baby's room.
  37. Face-palm.
  38. Fall to your knees.
  39. Open the door just far enough to slip into the nursery.
  40. Crawl on all fours to the rocking chair and fumble around in the dark.
  41. Find phone on the floor under the chair and cram it into your back pocket.
  42. Hear baby shift in his crib.
  43. Close your eyes because if you can't see him, then he can't see you.
  44. Army-crawl out of the room so baby can't see you through the bars of his crib.
  45. Close the door too loudly in your haste and wake baby.
  46. Check the time. Decide to wait five minutes before rescuing baby this time.
  47. Cover your ears and watch the seconds tick by on your phone.
  48. After five minutes, realize the baby has gone quiet.
  49. Creep downstairs and flop onto the sofa.
  50. Turn on the television.
  51. Check the baby monitor. Still no sound from baby's room.
  52. Mute the television and turn up the volume on the monitor.
  53. Spend 10 minutes imagining all the possible reasons your baby might have stopped crying: a head injury, he stopped breathing, he gave up on life after you horribly abandoned him, etc.
  54. Press your ear against the monitor and listen for signs of breathing.
  55. Forget about television.
  56. Obsess for 10 more minutes in total silence.
  57. Assume the worst.
  58. Sneak back upstairs and stand outside baby's door, debating about whether or not to go in and make sure he's breathing.
  59. Argue with your spouse about whether or not you should go in and make sure baby is breathing.
  60. Go in anyway.
  61. Stand over the crib and watch baby sleeping like an angel, and wonder what you did to get so lucky.
  62. Notice the fluttering of his eyelashes and hit the deck like it's an air raid.
  63. Realize it's too late and you've been busted.
  64. Retrieve crying baby from crib and curse yourself for being so paranoid.
  65. Sniff baby's bottom and realize he's pooped.
  66. Change baby's diaper.
  67. Promise baby ponies, candy, a trip to Disneyland, or a million dollars to go back to sleep.
  68. Dance with baby.
  69. Sing to baby.
  70. Finally lay lightly sleeping baby back in his crib.
  71. Run from the room.
  72. Check your phone and realize it's after 9 p.m.
  73. Figure you have about two hours before baby is awake again and wanting to eat.
  74. Abandon all plans for an adults-only evening and fall gracelessly into bed.
  75. Promise yourself that tomorrow will be the night you get your free evenings back.

Sure, these steps aren't perfect. They certainly aren't pretty. But they are tried and true and work every time . . . eventually.