Skip to main content

Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

0 to 2 years - Bedtime routines for babies and young children

Sleep health is an important part of your child's development.

A bedtime routine builds:

  • good, lasting sleep habits
  • a strong relationship between you and your child

It's important that your child's bedtime routine is consistent. Do it the same way at about the same time each night. Everyone caring for your child should follow the same steps.

Newborn babies

Newborn babies are too young to follow strict routines. Some babies sleep for long periods, others for a short time. Newborns do not know the difference between day and night.

Safe sleeping position for babies to reduce risk of cot death

Why babies wake at night

Babies age 3 to 6 months

By between 3 months and 6 months, your baby starts to know the difference between day and night. A bedtime routine can help them sense it's nearly time to sleep.

Start a bedtime routine when your baby is about 3 months old.

Your baby's sleep needs may change over the first 6 months.

How much sleep your child needs

A regular bedtime routine

A bedtime routine might take about 30 to 45 minutes.


  • bath your baby or change them into sleeping clothes

  • feed them

  • wait half an hour after feeding before putting them to bed - this stops them linking feeding with sleeping

  • use a dim night light for a calm atmosphere

  • put them into the cot drowsy but awake - they usually fall into a deep sleep within 5 minutes

  • avoid talking loudly as it may encourage your baby to stay awake

  • avoid having mobiles or light-up and electronic toys in or near the cot - they might disturb your baby's sleep during the night

If you have a mobile above the cot, phase it out by the time your baby is 5 months old.

Help your child sleep through the night

Children age 6 months to 2 years

A regular bedtime routine is essential for your older baby or toddler. They should go to sleep and get up at around the same time each day.

Make going to bed as predictable as possible. If you can, share bedtime routines and storytelling between parents or caregivers.

Help your child sleep well

Bring your child outdoors early in the day. This helps release the hormone melatonin, which helps them sleep.

Carbohydrates also help release melatonin. So give them a good supper of carbohydrates, such as bread, rice or cereals with milk before bed. Avoid giving them large meals or sugary snacks and drinks.

There are other things you can do to help your child sleep.


  • avoid activities such as playing outside and running around just before bedtime

  • have wind down time for an hour before bed, with dimmed lights and quiet talking

  • bathe them, brush their teeth and change their nappy

  • read them a short bedtime story to help them relax - avoid screens such as mobile phones or TV and toys with music or lights

  • place babies in the cot or bed drowsy but awake - toddlers do not need to be drowsy going to bed

  • give them a comfort toy at about 12 months - make sure it's clean and not a strangulation or choking hazard

  • leave a night light or hall light on so that they are not upset if they wake up in the dark

  • leave their door open so they can hear soothing and familiar sounds

It's best not to give your child a bottle to have in bed. They can start to rely on it to sleep, and it can be a choking risk.

Try to avoid rocking your child to sleep as they may need you to do this to help them fall back asleep if they wake during the night.

Children's sleep needs from 6 months to 2 years

Page last reviewed: 15 February 2024
Next review due: 15 February 2027

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.