Transcript: Tips For Implementing a Comprehensive Bedtime Routine For Infants
This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Tips For Implementing a Comprehensive Bedtime Routine For Infants and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.
Helen Thompson: Whether your little one is on the way, and you want to learn about how to plan a good bedtime routine or you’ve already given birth and are faced with sleep issues or queries then I’ve got a great episode for you. This week on First Time Mum’s Chat I’m chatting with pediatric sleep specialist Hilliary Giglio.
Hilliary battled with sleep issues with her child, which left her sleep deprived and struggling. After experiencing an amazingly quick transformation, when she sought help, Hilliary decided to make it her mission to help other parents faced with the same issues. If you are multitasking, make sure you give this episode 100% attention because Hilliary has shared a ton of tips and insights, which I’m certain you will find of value and you don’t want to miss them.
During our chat, you’ll hear Hilliary talk about why bedtime routines signal to your little one’s body and brain that sleep is coming, making them crucial for a good sleep, why you need to follow exactly the same steps in your bedtime routine each and every day without exception, tips on when to schedule your little ones feeding and how it will impact their sleep cycle, how to help your little one sleep during the daytime and their nap times, and so, so much more.
Hi Hilliary, and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat, I’m delighted to have you here today and I’m looking forward to hearing all about how you help children with sleep and their routines. Can you start by telling us about you and your background?
Hilliary Giglio: Thank you so much. I am delighted to be here, so thank you for the opportunity and yeah, so I am a pediatric sleep specialist, I work with a wide range of children, who are having trouble sleeping. So I do private coaching in my business with families, coaching with parents to help them solve their children’s sleeping problems once and for all.
And I came to this work following a background in psychology and social work and had returned to work after having my first child and was completely sleep deprived. He went from being a bad sleeper to a worse sleeper and long story short, I wound up working with someone to help me with my own child, kinda reluctantly at first, but when I finally accepted the support, he changed my life in 3 days.
Literally, my kiddo went from waking every 45 minutes, all night long, 10 to 12 hours, to sleeping all night long in his own bed peacefully, happily. Meanwhile, I was already trying to figure out a way to work for myself, work more flexibly. I didn’t wanna be in my office all day, every day away from my, my baby and the stars just kind of aligned and after having that experience, I got certified as a sleep consultant and founded my business. So I love what I do, I really bring in a lot of my background in psychology and social work to kinda help inform how I work with families and just love watching the ripple effect of what a family getting the rest they need can really do.
Helen Thompson: Oh wow. You sound as though you’ve got a lot of experience as a mother, as well as the psychology side, which is great for mums.
Hilliary Giglio: Yes and I love, love helping families so much. Love my job.
Helen Thompson: I know as a baby massage instructor how a baby massage routine before bed can actually help with sleep. When it comes to what you do, how do you incorporate a routine to support mum and baby, to have a better night’s sleep?
Hilliary Giglio: Yes, yes, awesome. So for starters, I think bedtime routines are one of those things. We hear about them the moment we become parents, but it’s like, when do we do that, what do we do? I’m here to tell you they are not just a fluff word in parenting, they truly are really important pieces to good sleep because they are queuing systems, to the body and the brain that sleep is coming and so because of that, it is a really important step and how we structure them, what we do in them, can make a difference right.
So first off, it’s never too early to start a routine, but not all families will do it, the first couple of weeks of baby’s life. But if you’ve got a newborn and maybe you haven’t done one yet, you can start anytime. 3, 4 months is a good age to start, where they’ll start picking up on those cues. What we do in those routines is important, so we want them to be conducive of good sleep and I sometimes will start with new clients and I’ll always ask what their bedtime routine is.
And sometimes it’s we start doing things to get ready for bed and then we’re playing for a while or kind of roughhousing with dad or we’re playing with the dog. And those are all fine things to do to get out some energy at the end of the day but I wouldn’t recommend that you place them in the middle of your bedtime routine.
So once we start your bedtime routine, we want it to be leading towards going in the bed and sleeping right. Good rules of thumb are we want them to be about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the age of your child. We want them to be long enough that your child’s body can kind of, transition, kind of get those cues and know what’s going on. But not so long that the steps get muddled, it gets long and drawn out right, and then it kind of confuses them and is defeating the purpose.
So we also want the steps you choose to have in your routine to happen in the exact same order every night. We want your child to come to predict what is coming next so that they know at the end of that last step, after this mom or dad’s gonna lay me in my bed. That will be time to sleep, right? So that is a really important piece that sometimes gets overlooked when we’re just kind of overwhelmed, rushing to get baby in bed. So I love so much that I get to talk to you about this because things like massage are really helpful components. We do want to calm the nervous system and doing massage on your baby is calming for both parent, mom, and baby, right?
I love to include a bath in the bedtime routine, and you don’t have to, but if you do, the reason I like it is it is such a different sensation than anything else a baby experiences in their day. That sensation of water that is a really good signaling activity that daytime has ended, nighttime is beginning. And I know many of us don’t bathe our itty bitties every night, and that’s fine you can always supplement that step. I call it a wash up, basically just warm baby washcloth, hands, face, feet kind of thing, to hold that space in the routine, kind of simulate it on nights you may not be doing a full bath.
If your child is under 12 months we do wanna be sure that we’re including a feeding in there and some people hold onto ’em a little longer. But where the feeding falls in the routine can actually have a big impact on how sleep goes. So with bitty newborns, we’re gonna feed closer to the end of the routine because they can’t go as long, that makes sense. 3, 4 months and beyond we actually wanna start to move that feed, still in the routine, but a little bit more up in the routine and the reason is so that they get a nice full feed while they’re awake and so they don’t fall asleep while they’re feeding.
So a lot of the work I do with families is to help untangle the relationship between certain things and sleep and feeding’s a big one. We want your baby to feed because they need food and they’re hungry and we want them to sleep because they need sleep. But feeding to sleep for an ongoing basis can actually start to cause more sleeping problems. So you can experiment with before bath, right after bath, for a little bit older child, and then you’re going to put a diaper and nappy on. It’s a great time to do some of those soothing and calming activities. It might be massage, might be a little aromatherapy, something to just calm the nervous system, and then after you get them dressed in their pajamas, some people will use sleep sacks or wearable blankets, some don’t. They’re great for those babies that are too young to have a loose blanket here in the states anyways.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says, 12 months and beyond and the other great thing about them is they only come on at sleep time, so it’s another really great cue, mommy zipping up the wearable blanket, time to sleep and then at the end of the routine are some activities. I think even from a young age it’s great to introduce a really short book. With small infants, I’m talking one word in a picture on a page here, but it’s a great step. It will grow with your child. So part of these routines is how can we set them up so that they’ll stay similar, but grow as your child develops and then the final steps that I like to do include a song and the key phrase, and these are verbal cues or auditory cues. So when we talk about singing, I like families to pick a short, repetitive song. I don’t care what it is, it can be as simple as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. It doesn’t even have to be a baby song, but something short and repetitive that anybody who puts the child to sleep, any of the caregivers can sing the same song. So the song does a couple of things. Yes, it helps prepare us, it helps calm us, but it’s also a really strong cue. Music is wildly powerful in the brain, and they’re gonna start to recognize that this song means I’m going into sleep.
So it might look like you’re holding your baby just before you lay them in their bed, you sing them this sweet song. We’re not trying to sing them to sleep. We’re trying to help them prepare for sleep. Hugs, kisses your last little cuddle, and then they can go into their bed and when you place them in their bed is a good time to have a little key phrase and this is a little spoken kind of verbal cue that’s gonna mean it’s sleep time.
And again, we want any caregiver that’s gonna be involved to use the same one. So it might be as simple as it’s night night time, Sarah, whatever the baby’s name is. In my house, we say it’s night, night time, it’s time to rest your body. Just short, simple phrase that you’re gonna say every time and if you can get in the pattern of doing these things in a routine, systematic way, by the time your child is several months old, they’re gonna completely know and it’s going to help prepare them to get better sleep because they’re gonna 100% know what’s expected of them.
Helen Thompson: I love how you talk about books and songs because I think that is so important, whether it’s sleep or anything it’s so important for child development because it’s such a relaxing cue. You mentioned a bath as well. I think all of those are preparing to relax. Those are key because not only are you relaxing with your baby, you are giving your baby that quality time, but they’re also getting that quality time from you as well and they know that this particular time is me and mommy time.
I think your routine sounds so loving and soothing. I wish I had started to do that for me to help me to get to sleep.
Hilliary Giglio: Right, me too, oh gosh me too. I know my own isn’t nearly as lovely as much as I try, but from a mom’s perspective, I can tell you I’ve been doing pretty much that routine. My oldest child is 5 1/2 and we have been doing that since he was about 6 months old, when I got some help with his sleep and it is the same. At this point, he knows exactly what comes next, he sings songs with me. You know, the time they turn about 2 years old, they start singing that song back to you that you’ve been singing to them for 2 years and it is a really sweet moment of connection with your child. So it’s something that will last with them forever.
We can have the craziest of days, we can be busy, we can be away from our kids but that time you’re able to have that 45 minutes or so is a time where you’re truly gonna get to connect and just be with your child and it’s lovely for both people for sure.
Helen Thompson: When they get a bit older, have you ever thought of putting that routine down as a picture format. I know from a childcare perspective, I encourage parents to do that, to help their child. Once they know their routine, they say to grandma, okay, no grandma, that’s not the next step, the next step is this and they actually show grandma and they can tick off the picture and say, right, grandma, I’ve done that one now it’s my time to read a book, or whatever it is.
Hilliary Giglio: Yes, absolutely and in my coaching practice, when I work with that toddler age group, we do that and you’re right, they help to check ’em off. They really love, they’re growing into independence, they’re becoming their own little people, but it helps them to have some autonomy and a little bit of control, kind of have a role in it because they’re gonna go check it. In the last few years in my work, I’ve had families actually take pictures of their kid doing the steps of the routine.
So you can do it just with clip art, or pictures from books but if you just snap a quick photo, even on your phone, it doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to be professionally printed, but if you can just get pictures of your own child, it’s an age where they love seeing pictures of themselves and you just tape them up on the wall, each step of them in their routine, and they’re gonna walk through and they’re gonna help you help help them stay on track and it can also reduce some of the kind of power struggles that tend to come with that age because we’re putting a little bit of responsibility in their hands. You’re there doing it with them, but they can very much go walk over to that wall and what’s next, you got out of the bath, what happens next and be a part of that with you. I love that.
Helen Thompson: Yeah and as you said, if you start them from a young age, doing exactly the same routine every night, once they get to that stage, although they can’t communicate with you, they know, they’ve got that sense that, oh, this is gonna happen. You start them very young. I like your nice relaxing, easy approach because it’s not like, oh, I’m standing by the door, watching them going to sleep. You actually teach them and guide them in that process.
You are not saying, right, it’s bedtime, time to go to bed and you’re not scaring them, you’re not letting them cry it out and that’s something, I used to work in childcare and I used to hate that when we had to close the door and you just had so many kids to deal with and you just had to close the door and give them a bottle, which nowadays you wouldn’t do in the bed and you could hear them crying and you thought, oh, I just want to go and pat them but you just knew that you had to let them cry themselves to sleep and I used to hate that.
Hilliary Giglio: Right, it’s hard and it’s a big topic in my line of work for sure and what I have found, humans of all ages, you and I included, we’re extremely habitual when it comes to sleep, right? Most of us as adults, we sleep on the same side of the bed each night, we might use a particular pillow, we might like to lay in a certain position, whatever it is we all got these little things, and even as adults, if I came into your home and said, all right, Helen, you need to go to bed and this bed at this time and this way, you’d probably be like, mm, I don’t think so, lady or worse and so on one hand when we work on potentially changing children’s sleep habits, we do have to expect some level of protest or resistance and so depending on the age, that protest or resistance might be communicated through tears. What I find is when you set them up for success from the start, you can avoid a lot of extra or unneeded protest. I talk to a lot of parents who, they’re doing their best and they’re trying to get their child to sleep well on their own and they tell me they’ve been doing certain things for a couple of weeks and their kid’s still crying for long periods of time but then when we look at what happened before that, their routine isn’t optimal for good sleep. Their schedule’s wildly off base for the child’s age and development, their physical sleep environment isn’t conducive to good sleep. They’ve got all these other pieces that are not helping, that’s kind of like an uphill battle, and it doesn’t necessarily mean your child’s gonna like, night one, okay mom, I’m gonna go to sleep but we can cause a lot of extra problems that aren’t needed. Make it a lot harder for the child to learn to sleep well, if we haven’t addressed everything that comes first. So I always tell families that portion is just as important as anything else and so many parents in this day and age jump straight to how do I sleep, train, how do I get my kid to sleep without even looking at all those other pieces, how do we prepare them, how do we set them up and when they start getting older and into those toddler years, and even if they don’t have expressive communication, if they have receptive, they can understand stuff, we’re gonna teach them, we’re gonna talk to ’em, we’re gonna get them involved, bring them into the picture so that they can learn what we’re talking about, why sleep is important for them in a very child-friendly way, so that they’re not confused, so that they get a little more comfortable and confident.
Helen Thompson: Just something that when you were talking about that, it just came up. You have your sleep routine and it is, all going really smoothly. You started when they were a baby and when they get to maybe 1 1/2, 2, maybe a little bit younger, when they start moving from their cot to a bed, that would obviously be something that’s changing the routine slightly. You still follow the routine, but now not putting them in their cot. They’re going into this strange bed that they may not be used to. How do you incorporate that into the sleep routine?
Hilliary Giglio: Good question and I hear from a lot of parents who call me at that transition because maybe they had a kiddo who was doing well in the crib, they make that transition and kiddo isn’t used to it, they’re a little bit confused and also there are no rails and there is this newfound freedom, so to speak in their mind of well, I can get right out of this bed and some babies that were sleeping well are now crawling out of their bed and not sleeping 17 times a night, exaggeration but still. So I find that if parents can be a little bit more intentional before that happens.
A lot of times something triggers that transition. It might be that mom is pregnant, they’re gonna have another baby, and they wanna use the crib for baby number two. It might be that they think baby is going to start climbing out of the crib, or they’ve seen baby try to climb out of the crib. Sometimes it happens really rushed like that for a reason and they’re just like, okay, no more crib.
Regardless though, if you can get ahead of it and plan for it so that once again we can bring your child into the loop and kind of prepare them about what’s to come. Personally, I prefer 2 1/2 years of age, when at all possible because it’s just brain development. It’s cognitively really hard for a child under that to understand, remember and follow through on, this is my bed I’m supposed to stay in this bed, even though there’s no rails, I’m supposed to stay here. So sometimes with 18 month old babies, it can be really hard because they’re just not cognitively ready for that kind of responsibility and then everybody gets frustrated and isn’t sleeping well.
If we wait till that age, we can start to teach them. We tell them it’s going to happen. We talk about kind of the expectations. So, okay, this is your new bed. I’m gonna do our routine like we do every night. I tuck you in, we go to sleep and then, this is your bed, you can stay in your bed, you can lay here quietly until morning.
In my coaching practice, I use a lot of visuals. We’ll have little charts on the wall, not just the bedtime routine, but some reminders of what they’re supposed to be doing and then another thing that’s really, really helpful is using a toddler clock. Some people call ’em a toddler clock, some people call ’em an okay to wait clock. You can find them on Amazon. There’s a lot of different brands, but basically it’s a very simple little light up. Call it a clock, not like a real clock, but you basically can set it so then it shows them with an indicator of light. Is it nighttime, am I supposed to be in bed or is it morning time, is it time to get up and it can help like you put it in the room. So the ones in my kids’ room don’t have lights at night but when it’s time to get up in the morning, they turn green and it makes the sound of some birds chirping if they’re supposed to get up in the morning with the birds chirping.
These tools, audio visual tools can help teach them and give them something tangible they know. Every time that goes off, mommy’s gonna be here. Of course if they have a true need before that goes off but otherwise it can help them to kinda learn when is it morning, when is it night? For little ones who don’t know what time of day it is, 4:00 AM may seem like morning, so I think it’s all about being prepared for them getting out of their bed, helping to prepare them and setting them up for success before we just wing it.
Helen Thompson: How about having their little bed in the bedroom. Having the cot there as well, but also having the bed in the bedroom and saying to them, yeah, I know this is your cot, but we’re gonna move gradually to the bed. So they get used to seeing the bed there and then eventually you leave the cot open and you say to them, right, we’ll try you in the bed tonight, but if you get scared, you can just go back into the cot. I don’t know whether that’s a good technique or not I just thought of that.
Hilliary Giglio: Yeah. Yeah, I think it could help some kids especially, I mean, all kids are different. For those kids who might need a little bit more preparation that could help. It wouldn’t be a reason not to do it, but my advice around just being cautious would be, does it accidentally become a play space because I’ve still got my crib, I’m gonna sleep in there. Just because confusion, things that seem so straightforward to us as adults may not be to them and I’m always a big proponent of, this is for adults too, the bed is for sleeping. As adults, try not to be on your phone or eating or watching tv. We all tend to do it, but trying to keep the bed a place that this is for sleep can help our bodies natural kind of, okay, I’m in this place, it’s time for sleep. So I would be cautious about that. Just kind of what else does that bed become in the meantime and then depending on parents’ long-terms goal, this would be different for every family but if the goal becomes, okay, now it’s time to really be in the big kid bed and we wanna be done with the crib of having a line in the sand of when that happens.
Now, if you don’t care, if everybody’s sleeping good and your family’s good, then I’m happy if you’re happy. If that means one night we’re in the cot and one night we’re in the bed. But if the goal is this transition from A to B and not a lot of middle ground, we just have to think about the level of confusion for kids.
There’s no other reason. Just with any boundaries, coming from childcare you can relate I’m sure. If we think about it like any other boundary we might put in place for a kid in the day, if the boundary isn’t clear, because we’re going back and forth, cause it feels fine to us, it can send a pretty confusing message to a child about what am I supposed to be doing right now and so I think all that depends on the kid, the age, their temperament, their level of understanding but I do think from a sense of, I’m getting used to this, it’s not like one day I’m in my crib and one day I’m in my big kid bed. So I think that a family would have to trial and error that to see how their kid responds.
Helen Thompson: Or take them with them when they’re buying the bed, the new bed and say to them look we’re buying a new bed for you. Would you like to come with us and choose your bed? And you take a picture of the bed and you put it next to the crib and you say, right, we’ve ordered this bed, now tomorrow we’re going to set up the new bed, would you like to help us? And that way you are getting them involved in the process and you are supporting them and I think that really helps cuz children, as you said earlier, they love to be a part of what’s going on in their lives. They like to feel involved and if you are doing that you are helping them to be involved.
Hilliary Giglio: Yes, absolutely. 100% agree with that for sure.
I think routine wise, what we talked about at the beginning of this conversation is really great for bedtime. However, daytime sleep’s important too, and sometimes naptime routine gets overlooked a little bit and honestly, daytime sleep is harder for all humans and so especially with little ones and so having a nap time routine as well I find is important. It’s not usually as long as a bedtime routine. It might be 5 or 10 minutes and you know, we’re not gonna be having a bath, probably aren’t gonna need to change clothes unless they’re dressed up in something uncomfortable but, you know, changing the diaper, putting on the sleep sack, reading a little book, singing the same song from bedtime at naptime, the same key phrase, having it as similar as possible in this kind of short and condensed version can also help that. So I just wanted to mention, don’t forget daytime sleep.
Just be aware of schedules. So every family’s different on how structured their lifestyle or their schedules will allow them to be. Some babies do well with really dialed in schedules, some can tolerate more variants. There’s loads of information for free on the internet, but to get a ballpark idea of sleep needs so that they’re not wildly over or under tired because getting through that bedtime routine with an overtired child or baby is going to be really hard. But also going from awake to asleep, overtiredness and under tiredness can be as equally challenging on a baby, finding their way to sleep.
So trying to find your baby’s sweet spot and then keeping up with that kinda as they grow because it changes as they grow. I didn’t know anything about that the first time around when I became a mom and having a little bit of knowledge so that you’ve got this kind of ballpark, so once again, we’re setting them up for success. We’re not trying to get them to sleep when they need another 90 minutes of awake time or trying to get them to sleep when they’ve been stretched a couple of hours.
A lot of times parents I talk with, their hesitation about working on sleep, whether it’s with me or not, they’re fearful that when they do this, that they’re gonna have this massive change to their lifestyle, to their social life, cause they’re gonna be tied down to the schedule. From my perspective with my own kids and helping all the families I have, when we can get the sleep on track and honor their schedule, I find that it’s so much more freeing for your lifestyle and for your social life or whatever it is, because, you know when and where your baby’s gonna sleep.
You can totally plan that. If you’re gonna take your baby and sign ’em up for a little mommy and me play class, you look for the class that falls in between naps or in the morning, rather than it being this kind of black hole of, I never know, are they gonna be okay at 10 o’clock, are they not, are they gonna be cranky and tired? When we can kind of get their day settled around getting good sleep, then they’re gonna be rested, happy during the awake time. The time that you get to do those play dates and things is gonna be that much more meaningful because it’s not gonna be stressful and your baby’s not gonna be cranky.
So I tend to find it the opposite, that once we get that on track, everything is much more freeing and once you get it on track You can have some variance. Your baby’s gonna be resilient if you get their sleep on track, you get them used to things.
You have an off day or you decide to take a day trip to a big park. You can do things like that every now and then and get them back on track. You just wanna have all those tools in place so that you have that to come home to and it doesn’t kind of spiral and get them outta, outta wack.
Helen Thompson: We’ve spoken about a lot today, so if anybody wanted to get in touch with you and find out about what you do, how would they go about doing that?
Hilliary Giglio: Absolutely. So I have a website at www.Tranquil-Beginnings.com. If you go onto that website, you’ll find all the other ways to contact me so you can reach out. There’s also a way to schedule a Zoom chat with me that’s complimentary. It is just a way for us to chat face to face. We’ll talk about what’s going on for your family.
I’ll share with you how I help families. It is 100% no pressure, no obligation. Doesn’t require you to book any sort of service with me. So any family that wants to kind of chat face to face can do that. I’m also on Instagram and Facebook. So on there you can obviously reach out to me through Messenger, but there’s all sorts of tips and parenting stuff coming out on my accounts there that you can follow along with.
Helen Thompson: Thank you, Hilliary. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you and I’ve really, really enjoyed having you on the podcast. I’ve learnt a lot more about the sort of sleep routine and coming from my background it’s been really interesting because I think we come from a similar natural tranquil approach. Your website, Tranquil Beginning, and I think that’s very important for any child.
Hilliary Giglio: Same as well. Helen, thank you so much.
Helen Thompson: Wow, Hilliary shared a ton of great tips during our chat relating to infant sleep, and I learnt a lot from her, and I hope you did too. I highly recommend checking out her website, her social media, and why not take her up on the offer of a complimentary chat. I’ve included links to Hillary’s website and social media in the show notes, which can be found at MyBabyMassage.net/podcast/120.
Next week I’m chatting with midwife/childbirth educator, Beau Wilson, all about active birthing. Beau will be talking about being active and upright to support the physiology of labor. Be sure to listen to this episode when it comes out next week, and please subscribe to First Time Mum’s Chat via your favorite platform so that you can get quick and easy access to all our episodes when they are live.