When your baby is waking up every 2 to 3 hours, day and night, it may feel pointless to do any type of bedtime routine, but its not. Starting a bedtime routine early in your baby’s life will help them start to learn night and day and will make for an easier transition as they get older and start to sleep longer at night. So, what is the best bedtime routine for babies? Every baby is different but for my son, the 4 B’s worked wonders.
When my son was about a month old we started our routine. Every night between 8pm and 10pm (depending on what his feeding schedule was like that day) I would dim the lights and read him a book while he was eating. Our rule was no toys or extra stimulation after this feeding, until his morning feeding around 8am when we were all awake for the day.
By the time he was 2 months we had a more extensive bedtime routine down and he was starting to sleep longer stretches at night. Here are the key pieces of our routine:
Your baby doesn’t need a bath everyday, every two to three days is fine for hygiene purposes, but it can be a great part of a bedtime routine. Click here for more information on how to give your baby a bath. My son loves bath time so he gets a bath almost every night. The only exception is when we aren’t at home for his bedtime. When the bath is over give your baby a clean diaper and put them in their pajamas.
Bath time can be a fun wind down for your baby. Just make sure you have everything you need for a safe and successful bath. You can see a full list of must haves for your baby here.
Bottle (or Breast)
At this point whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, your life probably revolves around your baby’s feeding schedule. This bedtime feeding is an important one because it will hopefully set your baby up for a longer stretch of sleep.
I like to dim the lights and rock in the gliding chair in our nursery during this feeding. My son generally eats a little more at this time than he does the rest of the day, so I generally try to burp him a few extra times to make sure he’s comfortable with the extra food in his tummy.
Click here for more formula feeding tips, including a feeding schedule.
Even though your baby is still too young to be able to understand what you’re reading to them, books are great for development from day 1. They help your baby develop listening skills and an interest in sound. For reading at bedtime I prefer small board books because they are easier to hold and read with one hand while I hold my son.
Take this opportunity to also get in all of your snuggles. This is a great time for bonding with your baby. My husband and I take turns doing the bedtime routine so we can both take advantage of these moments. You can read more about reading with your baby here.
This last step is the most important. If you don’t put your baby to bed, the rest of the routine won’t help you. Whether your baby sleeps in a bassinet in your room or a crib in their own room, now is the time to put them in it. If your baby isn’t asleep quite yet don’t worry because all of their needs should be taken care of at this point so they should be able to fall asleep on their own just fine.
Start by swaddling your baby either with a blanket or pre-made swaddle. I also give my son a pacifier and use a white noise machine to help soothe him to sleep. If your baby has a hard time falling asleep on their own, try to comfort them without giving them too much extra stimulation.
Making It ‘Til Morning
After my son is in his crib asleep, he still may wake up a couple times at night. When he wakes up, I change his diaper and give him a bottle without turning on any lights in his room (we have a nightlight so it’s not too dark). Once he’s fed, he goes back in his crib to go back to sleep. He doesn’t get a long snuggle session or toys or anything.
I also recommend keeping your baby swaddled for nighttime feedings. This will help let them know that it isn’t time for being awake yet.
Create Your Rhythm
The key with anything when it comes to your baby is to find what they like and what works for you. Your routine may not look exactly like mine but if it helps your baby get to sleep at night, that’s what matters.
In time your baby will naturally start to sleep longer stretches and eventually will be sleeping through the night, but finding a good routine will help you get to this point sooner.