Aw… sleep. It’s what all parents
want crave, but because of the needs of new babies and young toddlers, it can feel like a desert oasis.
Take a deep breath and do the happy dance. Because once your baby is old enough and you’re ready to establish a bedtime routine (generally 8-10 weeks is where your routines become more structured), the establishment of a consistent and peaceful bedtime routine will change your life – and get you some of that much-needed sleep!
The important habits you help your baby learn will give them the signals they need to know that bedtime is on it’s way. A consistent routine helps your baby get settled for the night, go to sleep easier and more peacefully, and snooze longer.
Sounds pretty amazing, right?
Bedtime routines shouldn’t take hours but what they should do is create a calming, loving and peaceful environment for your child to wind down and be able to drift off to to la la land, all by themselves.
The fundamentals of a peaceful sleep routine include these steps:
START YOUR BEDTIME ROUTINE BEFORE YOUR BABY IS OVERTIRED
Begin your bedtime routine 30-45 minutes ahead of bedtime (bedtime is the time you close the door and your baby drifts off to sleep), so that your baby doesn’t get overtired and will fight going to sleep.
Choose an appropriate bedtime based on their age and amount of awake hours during the day. Take note of the last nap they took during the day and the amount of wake time between the nap and bedtime on this chart to find an age-appropriate bedtime.
BATHTIME CALMS BABIES
A bath is a peaceful time of the day to have 1:1 interaction with your baby, let them soak in warm water and relax. This is a great way to begin creating a calming environment.
If your baby doesn’t like baths just yet, a quick cleaning with warm washcloths may work as well. If your baby may be more comfortable in a bath with you, try to sit in the bathtub holding them and having skin-to-skin contact to calm them down.
Continue the calming physical touch and interaction with your baby by applying warm lotion and a peaceful baby massage before you put on pajamas. All of these techniques together will develop a soothing routine your baby will look forward to and signals that its almost time for bed.
CREATE A PEACEFUL NURSERY ENVIRONMENT
After bath time, the key is to continue with an environment that has low levels of stimulation and will keep your baby calm and drowsy.
Overstimulation from siblings, visitors, loud music and noises will wake your baby up and make it harder for them to fall to sleep.
Dim the lights or pull the shades in the nursery, put on soothing music or a sound machine, read to your baby in a soft and neutral tone, snuggle, nurse or give the baby a bottle, and then gently rock your baby to the point of drowsiness, but not being completely asleep.
PUT YOUR BABY TO BED DROWSY, NOT ASLEEP
This is the hardest part of creating good sleep habits for your child, you must put your baby to bed drowsy and not asleep. This way, your child will learn to fall asleep on their own and they won’t rely on the crutch of Mom or Dad, nursing or being completely rocked to sleep in order to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own.
If they learn to drift to sleep by themselves, when they wake up at night, they’ll be able to put themselves back to sleep on their own and won’t be crying out for your help to go back to sleep throughout the night.
WHITE NOISE & BLACKOUT CURTAINS
All three of my kids have used white noise machines so I love them and we noticed they helped immensely when we began to implement them. We have white noise apps on our phones, tablets and have actual white noise machines but also use radio static if we travel with them, and that works just as well.
Make the room as dark as possible. Invest in quality blackout curtains that not only black out the light in the evenings but early mornings, as well as weather controlled to help with cold nights and hot days.
Remember, your baby grew for nearly 10 months in a dark environment where all they heard was white noise, if you can replicate this for them, it’ll help them fall to sleep and sleep more peacefully.
CONSISTENCY IS KEY TO A BEDTIME ROUTINE
It’s crucial to a bedtime routine, especially when you’re working so hard to establish a routine, that you’re consistent.
You must follow the same order or events, keep the stimulation as low as possible and create the most peaceful,and soothing environment that you can. This means that both parents, any caregivers or grandparents must follow the same chain of command as well in order for your bedtime routine to be successful.
REPEAT THE ROUTINE IF IT DOESN’T WORK THE FIRST TIME
If you stray from your routine, your baby will notice and might be thrown off for the night.
When your routine gets off track – maybe you started late or missed a step, older siblings overstimulated the baby or you took a phone call in the middle of bath time – whatever it may be, sometimes the best thing to do when you notice your baby won’t fall asleep on their own, is to start over.
Yes, start completely over.
Instead of struggling to put your baby to sleep, letting them cry or getting frustrated, start all over with bath time and go through the entire routine again. We’ve had to do this several times with our youngest but going through the routine a second time always does the trick!
- Set an appropriate bedtime and work backwards to begin your routine 30-45 minutes ahead of this time
- Create a calming and soothing bath time routine
- Low level of stimulation and a peaceful nursery environment
- Put your baby to bed drowsy
- White noise & black out windows
- Consistency is key to a great bedtime routine
- If bedtime is off, start the routine over. The second time usually does the trick!
A successful bedtime routine will create consistently with your child to be able to wind down, drift off to sleep by themselves, and better regulate their own sleep. It also may be the different between children that sleep peacefully and those that keep you up all night because they never learned the habits it takes to sleep soundly.
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