How to establish a bedtime routine with your baby
As a new parent, it is probably true that bedtime feels a little less structured than you hoped it would be. The days tend to blur together into a series of feedings and unpredictable sleep times leaving bedtime to fluctuate each day and routine feeling near impossible.
Although your baby actually sleeps a lot in the first few months of life (17-20 hours per day) it is not the type of consolidated sleep that would allow for a full night's rest-for either of you. So you might be thinking-what is the point of going through a bedtime routine, if my baby will just be awake in an hour?
I hear you Mama and I want you to know one very important thing about establishing a bedtime with your baby-it will actually make your life so much easier.
Even at a young age, your baby is starting to form her own sleep habits. As time goes on she will learn to distinguish daytime and nighttime sleep and her body will start to operate on a 24 hour sleep cycle. Even though it might not feel like it now, starting to establish healthy sleep habits, like a bedtime routine, can make a good impact on her sleep overall.
When babies have consistancy and a sense of what is coming next, it can help them to feel secure and well taken care of. Forming a routine around bedtime also helps to prepare your baby for sleep and gives you the opportunity to bond with her.
Here are a few steps to take into consideration as you establish a bedtime routine for your baby...
Choose a time that seems natural to your baby's current sleep cycle. Your child will usually start to show you signs that she is feeling sleepy during a certain timeframe each night (rubbing eyes, fussing, yawning, etc). Catching her in that window or even before is important in order to avoid her becoming overtired. If you know your baby normally starts acting tired around 7pm you may want to consider starting to help her wind down around 630pm in order to help prepare her for rest.
Establish a routine that promotes a calm environment. Throughout the day your baby is likely exposed to a lot of stimulating activities. She is experiencing a lot of exciting firsts and learning so many new things. The best thing we can do for our bodies (even as adults) is to calm down and feel relaxed before sleep. Some examples of this are reading softly to your baby, singing, rocking her, and shooshing in her ear. Of course brushing teeth and bathtime are also things to include in your bedtime routine, but I reccomend starting off with these, rather than trying to transition straight from splashing around to laying in her crib.
Ease in. There is no need to try and implement everything at once and the best approach to take is a gradual one. You might find that your baby doesn't respond to each part of the routine the way you expect and that you find yourself two steps in and she is already asleep! Try to be patient with yourself and with your baby during this process.
Try to be as consistant as possible. Once bedtime starts to feel like a natural process your baby will actually want to go to sleep at this time-amazing right? Our biological clocks become used to falling asleep and waking at similar times each day and while I encourage practicing the 80/20 rule with sleep, it is important to try and stick to your child's bedtime most of the time. This might mean occassionally leaving a family dinner early to get home or saying no to a late night activity.
Establishing a bedtime isn't going to happen overnight (pun intended) and there will likely be adjustments made along the way. But once you start to incorporate the routine that works for you and your baby, you are already on your way to a happy and healthy sleeper!