Did you know you can literally begin a bedtime routine from Day 1 of baby’s birth?! When we had our first, of course, I had no idea what to do with a baby. When our second came along, I had been established as a sleep consultant and I was pumped to begin a bedtime routine from the first night in the hospital, and we did!
But let’s be clear – starting a bedtime routine is just a cue! Newborns won’t know the difference between day and night until 8-9 weeks from their due date. But starting with small steps (like the routine!) can help cue them. The bedtime routine for newborns is exactly the same for babies, minus the fact that you’ll be helping them fall asleep!
For babies 4 months+ we’re shifting the expectation that they need you to fall asleep to, they can put themselves to sleep independently within 10 minutes.
The entire bedtime routine from start to finish should last around 30 minutes.
The whole purpose of the bedtime routine is not to get them to go to sleep, but it’s just to get them ready to get into their bed to go to sleep.
If your bedtime routine is longer than 30 minutes, your little one could become quite overtired and frustrated with the process. Here’s an example of an ideal routine.
Bath (5-7 minutes)
Feeding (10-15 minutes)
Book (2-5 minutes)
Alright, let’s begin at the very beginning. The first step that I love in the bedtime routine is a bath.
If you do this step every other night, that’s fine! A quick face wash on non-bath nights is sufficient to send a cue that bedtime is starting! Remember this isn’t a time where we’re lighting candles or playing soft music (that’s for you later!)…bath is supposed to be FUN, so enjoy it!!
After the bath, I want you to pick them up, wrap them in a towel, slip on a diaper, sit down with them and feed them in their room, right away. There really is nothing better than a clean, naked baby, so enjoy this time together. Enjoying this awake and alert feed with your baby is one of the simple joys I looked forward to after a long day.
Once the feed is over, we’ll do our lotion and jammies. This is also a great opportunity for you to start brushing those teeth that are popping in.
Once that’s done, then I’d like you to sit down with your baby and read a book. Of course, as a former elementary teacher, I’d say that, right?! But yes, even as a newborn they can start to look at the pictures. Babies will absorb all of the colors on the page, play with the pages, and enjoy a few minutes together.
A few years ago, a mom told me she was so happy I demanded a book at bedtime. She had been wanting to implement reading, but bedtime was so stressful she couldn’t even figure out WHEN to do it! So now, having the freedom to enjoy a book or two with her little one just really gives them that connection time that she was missing.
Reading a book is also a great step for babies who need a gap between feed and laying flat. Often babies who have GERD may need to be upright for 10 minutes before laying down, and this is our chance to do just that!
If you’re finding that your baby is showing sleep cues like arching their back, rubbing their eyes or face…it is a clear sign to skip the book and get them to the next step!
The final step?! Placing your child into the crib! Say goodnight, give kisses and they’re off to do their job – put themselves to sleep! (For 4+month-olds!)
You leave the room, they go to sleep within 10 minutes!
…just kidding, I can’t leave you on that kind of cliffhanger!
This bedtime routine is within the second step of the Baby Sleep E-Coaching™ I teach parents. Bedtime routine sounds simple, but it really is the foundation of how the night will go. If you’re helping your baby go to sleep as part of the bedtime routine, that’s exactly WHY they will wake throughout the night! Whenever I hop on the phone with a family, the first thing I need to know is, “Tell me about the bedtime routine.” From the moment they explain their steps, I can actually gauge exactly what the problem is. A bedtime routine is that powerful!!
If you’re reading through this routine and wondering, “Yeah but WHAT DO I DO when my baby goes down awake?!” Then it’s time to get the full step-by-step process for sleep training! Take this quick quiz and find the exact program for your child…and get started on all of this, right away!
Once you implement a new bedtime routine, be consistent! Don’t try it for a few nights and convince yourself it didn’t work. (You wouldn’t work out twice and stop, right?) Keep at it. But do have a plan and a method. Even better?! Share this blog with a friend and make a group text about your new bedtime routine tonight!!
Cheers to setting the foundations for sleep…for life!!
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Trying to start a good bedtime routine with our 9 week old that doesn’t end with feeding to sleep and then rocking upright into deeper sleep (for his acid reflux). Since he’s younger than 4 months, should I still be “helping him” fall asleep – putting down with his paci, rocking him for a few mins until he’s mellow, etc, or no?