Getting your baby to sleep is an obsession for sleep deprived Mamas. When it comes to ensuring a good foundation there is one thing guaranteed to work. That’s a regular bedtime routine for baby. The season it works is because your baby learns the repetitive behaviour.
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Children thrive on routine and bedtime is no different.
You may be stumped as to where to begin. The good news is that a bedtime routine can a simple 20 minutes each day. The most important part is that your do the same thing each time. This guide is to help you get stared with your routine, how to make it easier and how you can work with your baby to tailor it to your family’s needs. Let’s get started.
Related: How To Safely Co-Sleep With Your Baby
Introducing a Bedtime Routine for Baby
Don’t Start Too Early
When you have a baby people will become obsessed with how well they sleep. You’ll constantly be asked ‘are they sleeping through yet?’.
Well I’ll let you in on secret. Newborn babies are not supposed to sleep for longer than 4 hours at a time.
That means creating a bedtime routine is unnecessary before at least 4 weeks old. Until this time sleep and wake times are erratic and unpredictable.
That doesn’t mean you can’t start a bedtime routine. It just means you won’t see any benefit just yet, so don’t beat yourself up about it.
Around 3-6 months old your baby will begin to follow a pattern. You’ll notice they sleep for longer stretches and wake at similar times each day. This is the perfect time to start a bedtime routine as your baby will respond better to your efforts.
Choose a Bedtime
Choosing a regular time to put baby down by can really help regulate their natural body clock.
Most parents look to put baby down between 6.30pm and 8pm. This will stop your baby becoming overtired, which will lead to stress for you both. If you’ve had a good night sleep, try to start your day no later than 7.30-8 am.
You can be slightly flexible with this to allow for vacation or staying over at a relatives. As long as you use the advice in the next step, your baby will adapt.
Learn Sleep cues
If you prefer to avoid scheduled sleeping then you need to learn sleep cues. Your baby will always give you a clue when they are feeling sleepy. It’s important to recognise these cues and respond by settling them for a sleep. Ignoring these signs will lead baby to become overtired and have difficulty falling asleep or having a good quality sleep. Keep on reading for our full list of sleep cues.
Prepare the environment
Sometimes your baby will need to sleep in a strange environment. This may be a hotel or relatives house. If you set the environment up the same your baby will feel much more relaxed as they get cues it time for bed. Follow our steps below for reducing stimulation at bedtime to signal to baby its time to wind down.
10 Bedtime routine Ideas
We find that a bedtime routine is most successful when you dedicate around 20-30 minutes to it. This gives you baby plenty of time to wind down and take in the signals that it’s time for bed. The key is to do the same thing each night. This is the perfect bonding time for parent and baby so try to choose something your parent feels comfortable with too.
The warm water can make your baby feel really relaxed. It’s just like how an adult takes a bath when they are feeling stressed out. Some babies just really love the touch and pampering bath. Remember to keep them cosy and dress them in pyjamas after they come out.
Gentle baby massage after a bath can add an extra element of touch to your bedtime routine. This is also great to do on days when you don’t want to give a full bath, or baby gets stressed at bath time.
Try using calming aromatherapy oils such as lavender or chamomile to induce sleep. If you prefer not to use scented oils on baby’s skin, you can use an aromatherapy diffuser as you massage baby.
Whether they have a nursery or using your own room, take baby to the room they will sleep in. Getting them to associate the room with sleep time will really help with your routine. Use our tips below for reducing stimulation in the room.
We often think that babies need silence to sleep, when this can actually upset them. Babies love soft, repetitive white noise. It soothe them as it reminds them of hearing your heartbeat or body sounds in the womb. Try using on YouTube for free videos with hours’ worth of white noise sounds.
5. Read a book
We actually recommend reading to your baby before they are born. Use the same book each night to soothe your baby with the repetition of words. This is not only great bonding time but will stimulate your baby’s language skills.
Giving your baby a last feed before bed will fill them up to see them through most of the night. Try to make this one of the biggest feeds of the day. If you are breastfeeding try to keep them on a long a possible so they get the rich, fatty hind milk.
7. Tooth care
Even when your baby has no teeth try to start a dental routine. After a feed give their gums a wipe down with a cloth or a soft toothbrush. This gets them into the habit or brushing their teeth before any teeth appear.
8. Lullaby or prayer
Short, repetitive words are a great way to help soothe baby. They will love to hear your voice and the words will sound become familiar to them. A great way to do this is by singing a nice lullaby or saying a prayer if your family follow a religion.
Holding your baby close is a great way to release your bonding hormones oxytocin. Also known as the ‘love’ hormone, it’s well known to induce sleep and is known to improve baby’s brain development.
10. Special goodnight cue
Signal to baby that it’s time to sleep with a goodnight. This may be a simple ‘I love you’ or ‘don’t let the bedbugs bite’. You might even want to make up something special to your family as a little bedtime tradition.
Signs of sleepy baby
Knowing when your baby is ready to sleep is half the battle. The following signs are the best time to start settling baby for them to get the best length and quality of sleep.
Early Sleep Cues
- Fluttering eyelids
- Jerking arms and legs
- Brief eye or ear rubbing
- Sucking on fingers
- Clenched fists
- Staring into space
- Decreased movement
Missing these cues will lead to your baby becoming overtired. This can make it extremely difficult to sleep. It can also lead to a broken, poor quality sleep for baby. If you notice the following signs you need to calm baby and remove any stimulation then encourage baby to sleep.
Signs of overtiredness
- Intense eye rubbing
- Back arching
- Clinginess or refusing to be put down alone
- Inconsolable crying
Related: 31 Ways To Calm a crying baby
How to Reduce Stimulation
Part of a creating the best environment for sleep is removing stimulation from your baby’s environment. Start doing this at the beginning of the bedtime routine so baby is relaxed by the time they are in their crib.
- Dimming the lights
- Blocking out natural daylight
- Whisper or talk in a slow, soft tone
- Turn off the televisions or any bright screens
- Tell older children not to squabble
- Use light touch, no play such as tickling
- Check the room temperature
7 Items to help baby sleep
These are a few items that parents swear by to help their little one settle better at night. They’ll help you create the perfect environment or add to your bedtime routine.
1. Bedtime book
We’ve already discussed how the repetitive word of a book will give baby a bedtime cues. They know once they hear a particular story that its time go to sleep. My absolute favourite is Goodnight Moon, an oldie but a goody. This book is almost hypnotic to children with its soothing words, repetitions and familiarity to everyday objects.
Soft light it essential for creating a night time ambiance for your baby. Their body will soon learn that dark time means sleep. However, you may still need to do feed and diaper changes during the night. A night light is handy to see what you’re doing without disrupting baby. Try to avoid blue tons lights as these are known to cause disturbed sleep patterns.
A humidifier is a great addition to your baby’s nursery. It can help to prevent congestion and open up their airways, for better sleep. They are great if your child has a cold, and can reduce the risk of allergies and infection. They are also a great way to diffuse some aromatherapy oils such as camomile or lavender to induce sleep.
4. White noise machine
A white noise machine will provide soothing, rhythmic sounds for our baby. This gives them a sense of comfort and relaxation as it reminds them of being in your womb. Common sounds include a heartbeat, waves or rain.
5. Sleep toy
There are some really great sleep toys available on the market. These toys are often a combination of soft material, soothing sounds or reassuring lights. The sleep sheep is highly rated. It can also be used in the daytime for naps, or to give baby a little comfort during the night. Remember not to place this in the crib with baby at night to prevent putting baby at increased risk of SIDS.
6. Baby shusher
The Baby Shusher is a highly recommended technique used by baby photographer to calm down little one. They work with a lot of babies and it’s a firm favourite to help them get little ones settled. It makes a repetitive ‘shhh’ noise, just like you probably do as you rock baby in your arms. It’s ideal for a bedtime routine as baby drifts off.
7. Light show
A light projector may be ideal for a baby who is soothed by light. This can be particularly useful for autistic children who are calmed by different colors. This aid may only be suitable as a last resort, as some babies may find the light and movement too stimulating.