Figuring out your baby’s sleep patterns and preferences can be a difficult task. After all, babies are highly unpredictable, and their sleep often changes as they experience growth spurts, separation anxiety, starting solids, learning new skills such as walking or crawling, illness, and developmental leaps.
However, there are some things parents can do to ensure their baby falls asleep happily and peacefully! The best thing you can do to set your baby up for a long night of sound sleep is to set up a quality bedtime routine. Creating a routine can help your baby predict when it’s time to go to bed. Babies love predictability, and having a set routine can be a wonderful time to bond with your little one as well. Routines can vary from family to family, but here are some common ideas for establishing a bedtime ritual.
There are three things you’ll want to keep in mind when brainstorming your bedtime routine:
- Does this work with my family’s work and activity schedule?
- Does this help prevent my baby from getting overtired?
- Can this routine be done every night, consistently?
If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, you may want to reconsider parts of your bedtime routine. You will want to come up with something you can repeat and that works for both you and your baby!
Babies thrive on predictability - after all, they can’t comprehend words just yet. But they can learn patterns and cues. Help your baby (and yourself!) stay calm and collected during bedtime so it doesn’t become a nightly battle. Babies love sleep associations, and learning what to expect can help them calm down before it’s time to go to bed.
What are some common components of a soothing bedtime routine?
- Singing lullabies
- Reading a story or two
- Having a warm bath
- Massage with lotion
- Rocking in a chair
- White noise or sound machine
The first 6-8 weeks of life are filled with very unpredictable sleeping and eating patterns, as your baby gets used to the outside world. You won’t want to start a strict bedtime routine until your sweet little one is older! Usually, between 3 and 6 months of age, babies are ready for some kind of sleep training. Keep in mind that sleep training can refer to many different methods, not just cry-it-out (which has received much criticism in recent years). If your baby begins to have predictable nap and nighttime patterns, it’s a good time to start a solid bedtime routine.
What time do you start a bedtime routine?
Spend a few weeks documenting your baby’s sleep patterns. If she doesn’t sleep through the night, narrow down when her longest stretch of sleep is, and begin your bedtime routine about 30 minutes before that time. You always want to be ahead of baby’s most extreme sleepiness, so you don’t put your baby to bed in an overtired, agitated state.
Of course, you can use the methods of the night time routine when your baby is a newborn, but don’t expect it to produce a solid night of sleep. Slowly incorporate bits and pieces of what you want your baby’s nighttime ritual to look like. Maybe you’ll start singing a song every night as you rock your baby to sleep, or you’ll give your baby a calming massage with lotion after a bath, or you’ll grab a few simple books to read.
BONUS: How To Give A Relaxing Infant Massage
- Find a place that is cozy, calm, and warm to massage your baby. You won’t want the lights too bright in her eyes, but you also don’t want the room to be pitch black - you need to see what you’re doing!
- Pick a time when baby is relaxed - not too tired, too hungry, or needing to be changed.
- Begin by finding some gentle baby lotion or baby oil.
- For your baby’s health and safety, wash your hands and remove any jewelry or clothing that may scratch her.
- FInd a position that helps your baby feel comfortable. Some babies enjoy laying on their back, while others prefer to be close to their caregiver, or even in their lap.
- Use the baby oil or lotion to gently caress your baby’s skin. Use circular motions on your baby’s belly. Roll your hands up and down your baby’s legs. Rub your baby’s back, up and down. Run your fingers through your baby’s hair. Very lightly tug on your baby’s toes. These can all be soothing motions for your little one!
- End with a clean diaper, fresh clothes, and a calming hug from Mommy or Daddy!
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.