One of the hardest things for a new baby to do is sleep. When you think about sleep as an adult it is very straightforward. For most of us we always wish we could get more. As parents, that is even more true. For example, I am usually up 2-3 times each night with my son, Tobias. The first few months I spent a lot of time getting him to put himself to sleep and to sleep better. The most important part of my efforts was building a solid bedtime routine.
*If you’d like to just read my bedtime routine with Tobias scroll to the bottom of this post*
Important Aspects to Build On
When a new baby comes home they don’t know the difference between night and day. So we want to teach them as quickly as possible. Day is for being awake. Night is for sleeping. Once they generally figure that out, we want them to be able to go to sleep at night. Preferably for long periods of time. That’s where a solid bedtime routine comes into play.
Consistency is Key
Doing the same thing each time your baby goes to sleep helps them to recognize when it is time to wind down for bed. When these things happen their body will start t relax as you are going through the motions for them.
Be consistent, but remember that it doesn’t have to be exact. Mom and Dad can do it a little different from each other, or the baby sitter. That way you have the ability to have other people put baby to sleep or be in a different place for bedtime if necessary. You never want to end up traveling, exhausted, and have baby screaming all night because their routine was done in a different place. Teach them it’s alright to have some differences now and this won’t be an issue if everything else is the same.
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There Will Be Different Versions
Different situations call for different things. Tobias does not get a bath every night. However, when it is bath night it fits into the bedtime routine without throwing everything off. I also differ from his overnight to his nap time bedtime routine. For overnight he gets body lotion and pajamas, but not at naptime. It can be a snapshot version of your same routine and still achieve the same end.
It’s Not Tell All, Be All
When you setup a routine and build a timeline you are going to feel like you need to stick to it. But taking baby’s cues is just as important as the routine. If you start your bedtime routine at 7:00 but it’s 6:30 and baby is incredibly cranky and tired, start a little early and move more slowly. Same goes for if it is 7:15 and baby is wide awake and giggling. Putting a happy, awake baby to bed causes a lot of screaming and a very long night of broken up sleep, at my house. You don’t want to be so stuck on the timeline that you make your night harder by upsetting baby more than necessary.
Stay Away From Feeding to Sleep
When baby first comes home, I believe in doing whatever works to get you both to sleep. So if feeding baby to sleep and army crawling out of the room is what it takes, by all means, do it. But there is a very fine (and hard t find) line. When you cross it baby won’t be able to go to sleep without eating.
As baby grows, try using different steps as your final one even if it is only for a few seconds. Reading, singing a song, or sitting in the rocking chair after a bottle or a nursing session all work perfectly. And having those crucial moments between the feeding and laying down is what makes baby learn to go to sleep on their own.
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Keep it Relaxed
If you go for a run and then listen to rock music can you go straight to sleep? Most people have to relax for a little while in between. Babies work the same way. Keeping the lights dim, or out during part of your bedtime routine is best. You also want to try and keep your voice soft and relaxing for any songs or talking you do to ensure a relaxing environment for baby. These will be major signals that it is time for bed.
Tobias’ Bedtime Routine
As I mentioned earlier there are a few variations to our routine that I make as needed. And I am always sure to take note of cues from him and adjust the timeline as necessary. But in a perfect world these are the approximations.
6:30 Solid Food For Dinner
Tobias eats around 4oz of warmed solid food for dinner. Sometimes more or less, until he is signaling that he wants no more. When he is done, I wipe his hands and face with a wash cloth. He gets to chew on the wash cloth while I clean up and make a warm bottle.
7:15 Get Changed
I take him to his room where I have his sound machine playing and his soft light on the dimmest setting. I get him undressed and give him a clean diaper. If it is a bath night this is when he would usually get his bath. Then I put hydrocortisone and lotion over his entire body and put him in his pajamas. I usually hum or sing softly to him while I do this to keep him engaged but relaxed.
7:20 Goodnight Book
We sit in the rocking chair and read 1-2 goodnight books. We sometimes skip this step if Tobias is fussy.
Check out 8 Awesome Bedtime Books You Need In Your Nursery for my recommendations!
7:30 Bedtime Bottle and Rocking
At this point I turn out the dim light so that only Tobias’ Star Wars night light is on. We sit in the rocking chair and Tobias has his bottle. He usually starts to doze a bit during this step but stays awake.
When he is finished with his bottle we rock for a few minutes until he signals that he’s ready to lay down. He may begin to get heavy eyes or stretch out and fuss. Either way he is ready to be put in his crib. I give him his pacifier and set him down. He gets to sleep with his lovey, a doggie made by one of his Aunts, which he pulls to his tummy and hugs to fall asleep.
Build Your Own Routine
The most important thing to remember is to do whatever works in your house. Your baby’s bedtime routine can include anything that you want to indicate it’s time to sleep. Dimmed light and darkness are preferred to differentiate from daytime. Soft and relaxed noises and voices are most helpful to set the mood. And consistency, at least in general, makes it easier for your baby to learn and remember when it’s time to go to sleep.
What is your bedtime routine? What works or doesn’t work in your house? Let me know in the comments!