Ultimate Baby Sleep Solution: A Bedtime Routine

baby in crib

Imagine you are at a fancy restaurant having a great time with your best friends. You’re about to tell a funny joke when, without any warning, you’re yanked away from the party and dropped into bed. It would be hard to fall asleep, right? Heck, you’d probably want to cry! This is exactly how your baby feels without a bedtime routine: confused, grumpy, and a little stunned.

A bedtime routine gives your baby a heads-up that it’s time to wind down. The process also minimizes crying, making bedtime a wonderful bonding opportunity instead of a fight. And as sleep-deprived parents everywhere can affirm, there’s nothing quite as beautiful as a soundly sleeping baby (and a chance for some precious grown-up time!). 

Be consistent …
Reading a book or taking a bath is relaxing no matter your age, but it’s not necessarily the story or the bubbles that help you fall asleep. The most important part of a baby bedtime routine is its consistency. If you follow a specific pattern -- whether it’s singing a song, giving your baby a gentle massage, or slow dancing to soft music in a dark room -- your baby will start to expect what’s coming up (sleep!).

… but don’t be too consistent!
If you’ve ever gone on vacation and forgotten to bring your baby’s special teddy bear (oh, the horror!), you know that flexibility is a crucial part of peaceful baby sleep. Encourage your baby to be adaptable by tweaking the routine ever so slightly now and then. If your baby enjoys white noise, switch between a fan and a noise machine. If your baby usually sleeps in footed pajamas, try a sleep sack once or twice a week.

Bedtime cuddles are one of the sweetest parts of parenting, but all moms can use a break once in a while. Here’s a great reason to have the other parent, a grandparent, or a babysitter occasionally put your baby to sleep: If your baby gets accustomed to you always doing it, she may struggle to fall asleep when anyone else attempts the bedtime routine. So kick back on the couch and let someone else put your baby down every now and then -- it will pay off in the future.

Keep it short and sweet
Your baby’s bedtime routine doesn’t need to be a complicated dance that leaves you exhausted. Try 10 to 15 minutes of reading books, singing lullabies, or playing quietly in a dim room. Signal with your tone and mannerisms that it’s getting close to bedtime -- speak softly and give a few big yawns. (You may not even have to fake them!)

Then change your baby’s diaper, offer a bottle or your breast, brush her teeth or gums, and put her in comfy pajamas. Lots of moms have success with swaddling, which makes newborns feel extra secure; plus, they look pretty darn cute wrapped up like a baby burrito!

Try putting your baby to sleep when she is drowsy, not already wiped out in your arms. If she wakes up in the middle of the night and is no longer with you, your baby may become confused and struggle to go back to sleep without you.

Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

by Caitlin Boyle