If you’ve ever headed off to Dr. Google (or even your real life pediatrician!) with the complaint “My child won’t sleep!” then you’ve most likely been introduced to the idea of a baby bedtime routine.
However, not all bedtime routines are created equal. Let’s talk about some common baby bedtime routine questions and then look at the biggest mistake made my parents when helping their babies go to sleep.
Should My Baby Have A Bedtime Routine?
Bedtime routines are essential for babies. Babies take their cues from you and what you do together; if you do the same thing each nap and bedtime, they’ll start to realize it’s time for sleep. Routines are how babies know day from night, and when to transition from one to the other.
How Long Should Baby’s Bedtime Routine Take?
Your baby’s bedtime routine should be 20-30 minutes long. You want it to be long enough to calm your baby down and realize it’s time to go to sleep, but not too long where they start to wake back up.
What Should Be Included In Baby’s Bedtime Routine?
You can do a short bath, get in pajamas, snuggle to a lullaby or read a book, and then tuck them into bed. Nothing exciting, nothing to get them worked up…sweet, but also boring works well.
The Most Common Bedtime Routine Mistake Parents Make
You might be thinking you do all those things and your baby still doesn’t sleep well at night. That’s often because parents make one crucial bedtime routine mistake: they make themselves the finale of the bedtime routine by feeding or rocking their baby to sleep.
After the bath, the pajamas, and the singing they nurse or bottle feed until they see eyelids drooping and sweet baby snuggles turn into slumberous rest in their arms.
While those moments are all too precious, they don’t pave the way for a good night’s sleep and at some point you’re likely going to want (need!) to change this routine so your little one (and you!) can sleep at night.
Feeding-sleeping association is one of the biggest enemies of a good night’s sleep. When this happens, your baby will require food to settle back into sleep every time he wakes up all night long.
How To Break Sleep Associations & Establish New Ones
If your baby already needs food to fall asleep or is used to you rocking him in your arms instead of going to bed, you’ll need to break those sleep associations.
The way to do this is to add something after them in your bedtime routine. Perhaps you feed them before singing to them and then lay them down. Or maybe after they eat you lay them down and give them a doll and read a story.
No matter what you do, you’re separating eating and sleeping in their mind so that you can get them to their crib while they are still awake. Start shifting their sleep association toward their bed and not their food source or your arms.
What Is The Most Important Part Of A Bedtime Routine For Your Baby?
Your baby is warm, fed, snuggled, sleepy, and placed into his crib…awake. Yes, going to bed before falling asleep is important.
In fact, it’s the very first step and most important step!
Don’t worry; I’ll help you through it. It’s an important first step for you and for your baby. It’s the very beginning of learning the skills to be a good sleeper and start sleeping all night long.
So take a peek at your baby’s bedtime routine and see what changes need to be made. Start by looking at what you do and if you need to start a routine, do so. And stop feeding and rocking him to sleep; your baby is about to become a Sleep Wise champ who sleeps all night long…and it starts by going to bed before going to sleep.