Establishing a bedtime routine is a vital step in setting up good sleep hygiene for your baby. Predictable routines lead to babies accepting and understanding what bedtime means, and create positive associations. A good sleep routine is important for both the baby and the parents, as it helps ensure that the baby is well-rested, which can lead to better behavior and health, and it can also provide some much-needed rest for the parents.
Here are 6 tips for setting your baby's bedtime routine:
1. Start early
It's never too early to start establishing a sleep routine for your baby. Even newborns can benefit from a consistent sleep schedule. As your baby grows, their sleep needs will change, but having a routine in place can make those changes easier to navigate. Peaceful Peanut recommends establishing a consistent bedtime and naptime routine by 8 weeks.
2. Set a consistent bedtime
Setting a consistent bedtime for your baby can help them establish a natural sleep cycle. Most babies thrive on a bedtime between 6:30pm and 7:30pm, although newborns typically stay up later (7:30pm-9:30pm) until they are about 3 months old. Remember, this is a goal, but pay attention to your baby’s awake windows and sleepy cues more than the time on he clock.
3. Establish a bedtime routine
Establishing a bedtime routine can help signal to your baby that it's time to go to sleep. Your bedtime routine can include activities such as a bath, reading a story, or singing a lullaby. Whatever activities you choose, make sure they are calming and soothing to help your baby wind down. Peaceful Peanut advises to make sure feeding/nursing is at the beginning of the routine rather than the last step. This will prevent a feed-to-sleep association, which can be very hard to break.
4. Create a comfortable sleep environment
Creating a comfortable sleep environment for your baby is essential for a good night's sleep. Make sure the room is dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. Use a white noise machine to help drown out any outside noise. Make sure the crib is sleep safe, having no bumpers, dock-a-tots, blankets, or stuffed animals until your baby is at least 1.
5. Watch for sleepy cues
Babies have their own unique sleepy cues that signal when they are ready for sleep. These can include rubbing their eyes, yawning, red eyebrows, or becoming fussy. Watch for these cues and try to put your baby down for a nap or bedtime before they become overtired. An overtired baby is much more difficult to put to sleep!
6. Put your baby down awake
Once your baby reaches about 3 months, it is time to start practicing putting them in their crib awake, and soothing them while they are in the crib. 3-4 months is just for gentle practice with lots of help. Past 4 months, you can try to give them a bit more space and a bit less help to teach them that they are capable on their own. Be responsive but continue trying until they fall asleep on their own. This will show them that in the middle of the night, they can put themselves to sleep as well.
Think of bedtime as an opportunity to practice each day! Don’t get discouraged– nothing happens overnight. Establishing healthy habits and setting your baby's bedtime routine is the first step in creating your peaceful sleeper.