Did you know you can start a bedtime routine from day 1? A key element of building a healthy foundation for your baby's sleep is establishing a bedtime routine. The bedtime routine below is ideal for babies 3 months and older. I've also outlined a similar version for newborns too!
The No-Fail Bedtime Routine
- Wind down in Baby's room- About 45 minutes to 1 hour before bed, it's time to go into baby's room and wind down. This is a great time to read books, play with snuggly toys, and spend quality time with mom and/or dad after a long day! I cherish this time with my baby every night, it's a break from everything else going on in the world. This is also a great time to practice tummy time or any new skills baby is working on to release that extra energy before bed. One more benefit of this extra time is the opportunity to notice when your baby starts to show sleepy signs, you can then start to transition to the next step!
- Bottle- Offering the bottle before the bath allows you to eliminate the feed to sleep dependency for baby. Some babies can nurse or drink a bottle right before sleeping with no problem, but separating the two eliminates the dependency on the bottle for sleeping and will come in handy if you need to sleep train. Also, if you have a reflux baby, this buys some time to allow the baby to settle before going to sleep.
- Bath- The bath is the last "fun" part of the bedtime routine. You can play in the bath, but I also like to dim the lights and play lullabies. "Hey Google, play lullabies on Spotify." We use this bubble bath and this shampoo. Research shows that a bath before bed raised the core body temp so that it can subsequently lower, a key part of the sleep onset & regulation process. Bonus tip: studies show this is true in adults too, so try a shower before bed if you have trouble falling asleep! Some other favorite bathtime items are this faucet cover & this mold-free toy.
- Lotion, Massage, Jammies, Sleep Sack- After bath, return to baby's room and give a little calming massage with lotion. We use this one to keep Harper's mild eczema under control. Research actually shows that infant massage before bed lowers cortisol levels (what keeps us awake) and increases serotonin & dopamine (calms us down). Who can argue with that?!
- Finish bottle or quick nurse- This step is totally optional and I am only mentioning it because we do it and it works for us. Harper has always fed in smaller, more frequent sessions, so in order to get a full bottle before bed, we would offer before bath and then finish a couple ounces after. If you do this, it's important for baby to stay FULLY awake so you do not create the dependency of feeding to sleep. At this point, I start to use red light from the Hatch and turn the sound machine on low to create a calming environment.
- Lay down in bed awake- A key step in getting baby to sleep though the night, is their ability to fall asleep without assistance from a fully awake state. It usually takes 5-15 minutes for baby to fall asleep. From a young age, it's important to give your cuddles before placing baby in the crib. Any shushing, patting, or rubbing you give to baby in the crib is considered assistance for baby to fall asleep and it's best to minimize these as you are teaching your baby to fall asleep without your help.
- Enjoy your evening- It's BEFORE 7:30 PM and guess what? You are free to shower, watch TV, read a book, have a glass of wine, the options are endless. Good job mama!
The Newborn Version 0-8 Weeks
- Bath Time- You can do a quick bath every night as soon as the umbilical cord is healed! For newborns, it may be easier to give the bath in a large sink or use a bath like this in your large tub. I liked to cover baby with an extra washcloth during the bath so she is not cold and I always wait to wash the hair last. When you remove baby from the bath, you'll want to make sure you have a towel handy. Babies can be super sensitive to the air temperature and could become upset. I found it helpful to place baby in a rocker with a towel and immediately put a diaper on before going to the nursery.
- Lotion and Jammies- You can do a quick lotion and massage and then pajamas. I recommend doing this part of the routine in baby's room so they get used to being in there before bed. This will help the transition to their own crib when the time comes!
- Book- We liked to read a quick book from day 1!
- Nurse or Bottle- In the early days, your baby will most likely fall asleep during this feed or become very drowsy. You can slightly wake them before placing in bassinet. See what works for your baby, you can start practicing elements of independent sleep as soon as you'd like.
- Swaddle- Swaddle baby nice and tight and place in the bassinet or crib ideally drowsy, but awake. Until your baby is around 3-4 months OR as soon as they can roll over to their tummy, you'll need to drop the swaddle and transition to a sleep sack. The merlin suit is a great transition option if your baby wants their hands out of the swaddle, but isn't quite settling into a sleep sack yet.
I hope that helps guide you in the right direction for creating the perfect bedtime routine for your family!
Nichole @ Little Peach Sleep
I only recommend products I have personally used for my family and myself. All opinions expressed here are my own.