5 Tips for an Amazing Baby Bedtime Routine
When it comes to common advice new parents receive, the importance of establishing a baby bedtime routine is pretty universal, because it works. For infants, toddlers and even small children who lack the ability to truly understand time and schedules, routine is an easy way to nonverbally tell them what is about to happen. This makes bedtime and their bed a positive thing, associated with comforting acts like snuggles and story time. This, in turn, gives them a sense of calm and control that facilitates sleep.
In fact, establishing a bedtime routine early on in your baby’s life is one of the best ways to help him learn to sleep through the night. It can even be used, in a shorter form, to establish naptimes once he begins to consolidate sleep at around three to four months.
At first, the idea of taking a baby with no sense of day, night, up or down and “signaling” to her that it’s time to get some shuteye may seem daunting. And, without a plan, it can be. However, by using the following these five tips from Pottery Barn Kids to gently ease into a bedtime routine, you will find that winding down the day is some of the most precious you get every evening.
TAKE A PERSONAL APPROACH
Every baby is different – just ask any parent of more than one child. Therefore, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all bedtime routine. So, before you start to set things in stone, take some time to get to know your baby and her habits. Keep a sleep log for a few days and try to determine which times she goes down easiest and sleeps the most. Then, start your bedtime routine between 30 and 60 minutes before that. For example, if your baby sleeps best from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., start a bedtime routine sometime between 8 and 8:30 p.m.
Very small infants have a very short attention span and really don’t understand what is going on around them. In other words, instead of reading four to six books and giving them a long bath, opt for one little story and some baby massage. Start with one ritual and then add others as your baby and your life allows, slowly over the course of a few weeks. Be willing to change paths if something doesn’t work. For example, some babies get stimulated by a bath at night. Others find it soothing. It’s all about reading the signals of your child and going from there.
FIGURE OUT AN ABBREVIATED RITUAL
One of the biggest boons of a successful bedtime routine is that it can translate into a naptime routine as well. Basically, once baby knows what actions or series of activities signal sleep at night, she will be able to translate them into the daytime, making naptimes more predictable and easier to accomplish.
DON'T LET MOM (OR DAD) BE THE ONLY ONE TO DO IT
Because routines are built on predictability, make sure both parents or caregivers perform the bedtime ritual. Baby may associate a particular voice or snuggle with sleep and refuse to sleep as well without it. For breastfeeding mothers this can be especially difficult, since nursing is often part of the routine. However, if possible, allow your partner or another caregiver to give the baby a bottle of expressed milk instead. Alternately, pass the baby off after nursing and allow the other person to finish the routine.
Life changes. Whether it’s a new schedule at work, the activities of an older sibling, travel or even a party or special event, it is important that baby be able to adapt to changes in the routine. Prepare him for this by changing small elements, such as which song you sing, or which chair you sit in, in order to better prepare your baby for disruptions.
As baby gets older flexibility is equally important. Nursing may play less of a role, for example, or a favorite book or comfort object may become part of the routine. As long as she is still sleeping at the end, allow your child to direct the tone and content of the routine to suit her needs and emerging interests. Take requests, always offer extra hugs and be ready to be surprised by the little person that emerges from these special bonding nighttime rituals.