Ask any seasoned parent and they will tell you that sleep is very important for both the parents and the baby! As most of us know, sleep—or a lack of it—can make or break anyone’s day. Our bodies just need sleep to function properly, and the same is true for our babies.
It might be intimidating to come up with a routine for a newborn baby, but it’s definitely worth it. A routine can make a big difference in the sleep that you and your little one get. Keep in mind that certain things can throw off a baby’s sleep routine. Sickness, travel, teething, or inconsistent naptimes can lead to a rough night or two of sleep. Though it would be amazing, babies can’t be expected to follow their routines perfectly. Be prepared for some changes when your baby gets sick or skips a nap.
I want to share a few of the tricks I’ve found to be successful for creating bedtime routines for my babies! Some of these leave room for changes, depending on your family’s lifestyle.
1. Find a bedtime that works
One reason that some babies can’t sleep at night is because of the time that they’re being put down. Sometimes, parents get too caught up in setting a bedtime and trying to stick to it that they don’t pay attention to whether it’s working or not. While it’s important to maintain consistency, you should also be open to trying new bedtimes if necessary.
Your baby’s doctor might give you guidelines for bedtimes, so you might feel compelled to follow those. They are definitely worth a try, but you should also experiment a little bit. If you have been putting your baby down at 7 every night, you might try waiting until 7:30. Even 30-60 minutes can have an impact on how well your baby sleeps.
It’s especially important to realize that there’s no right or wrong time to put a baby to bed. Being consistent is your best bet, but it may take some trial and error to get there!
2. Figure out what your baby needs before bed
Some babies fall asleep best after a bottle. Others need an hour or two to let their tummy settle before bed. This—and other routine-based preferences—need to be kept in mind. Just because one of my babies fell right asleep after a nightly bottle doesn’t mean yours will too!
There are some general suggestions that will apply to many babies, but some little ones simply require more or less of a bedtime routine. As for most pieces of a routine, you will have to find what works for you.
Some things you might include in your baby’s routine are baths, massages, feedings, lullabies, or books. As a parent, you get to come up with a routine for your child, based on what you think the little one needs.
Don’t be afraid to make changes as you move along. Maybe your baby doesn’t like baths and gets worked up about them. This will likely take away from the peaceful bedtime routine you are hoping for. You should also pay attention to how much time your baby’s ideal bedtime routine is and start at the appropriate time each night.
3. Set an endpoint for the routine
This is another area where you should focus on consistency. While it would be nice to be able to keep adding to the baby’s bedtime routine until they appear to be dozing off, you need to draw the line somewhere.
For a couple of my little ones, this was when I would turn off the light and leave the room. Eventually, this became a sign that it was truly bedtime. Everything, like a story and a bath, was done, so it was time to say goodnight and leave the room. This can carry over into a toddler’s bedtime routine as well!
4. Try to pick up on your baby’s sleep cycle
This will take some time to figure out, but you might find it to be helpful when it comes to choosing when to lay the baby down. It’s best to put the baby in their crib when they are drowsy but not in a deep sleep. Even from a young age, babies will follow a sleep cycle.
To figure this out, set the baby’s bed time and routine. Take notes to see when the baby becomes more tired and is almost asleep. Be sure to do this for a week or two until you find a pattern. If you can’t pinpoint a specific time, you can lay the baby down whenever you see him or her getting drowsy during the bedtime routine.
5. Keep things short
For some babies and toddlers, a long bedtime routine can be distracting. If possible, try to establish a fairly quick routine. Remember that you can edit it as needed. Some babies simply need a lullaby when they’re getting tired and then they can fall asleep on their own.
This all depends on the child and your lifestyle, but some babies only need a 5-minute routine. Others need closer to 30 minutes. It’s wise to start with a short routine so that they can get used to it. You can add a bath or a story if necessary. It’s easier to add things gradually than take pieces away once the routine is established.