Woo hoo! You brought home that squishy little human and are now settling in to your new "norm." After the first couple weeks of round the clock snuggling, it's time to get serious about establishing routines.
Keep reading to learn how to become a master of the bedtime routine (or scroll down to see the quick tips...I won't judge).
*DISCLAIMER: All opinions are my own and based on my personal experience as a mother. I am not a licensed expert or health professional and you should always consult your child's doctor for medical advice.
First Thing's First
Believe it or not, you can start establishing a routine for sleep the first day you bring your baby home. While it may not lead to sleep at first, it will help your baby learn the difference between day and night and signal to them that it is time to sleep.
For some people, this signal is a bath. For others, it is a book. In our house, lotion is the all-powerful signal that it's time to go to sleep.
Whatever signal you choose, be sure you can commit to it EVERY night. Your sleep signal needs to be possible at any time and in any environment (ie: a family member's house), so be sure it is something you can do no matter what.
#realmomconfession: We chose lotion as our sleep cue because our sink was usually full of dishes, which meant we could not commit to a nightly bath. I also love the smell of a freshly lotioned baby.
Timing & Baby Cues
Just like you decide when you are ready for bed and wouldn't want to be forced to go to sleep at the same time every night, your baby likely desires the same. They will "tell" you when they are ready for bed by signaling with sleep cues.
Every baby is different but sleep cues can include:
- Rubbing of eyes, nose, or ears
- Grabbing ears or neck
- Turning head side to side
- Avoiding eye contact
- Staring and heavy eyelids
As soon as you start noticing any of these sleep cues (and it is an appropriate time for bed), it is time to start the bedtime routine.
Short & Sweet
From start to finish, the bedtime routine should be no longer than 30 minutes.
In our house, bedtime looks something like this:
6:00- Henry shows "sleep signs"- rubbing eyes, turning head, and being pitifully whiny
6:05- Take him upstairs, undress him, and change diaper
6:10- Sing "You Are My Sunshine" while putting lotion and jammies on
6:15- Small feeding
6:20- Burp, one more snuggle, and as many kisses as we can squeeze in
6:22- Turn on white noise machine
6:23- "Goodnight Henry. We will see you in the morning."
6:25- Lay him on his back, give him his lovey, and walk away
Consistency is Key
Once you establish a routine, avoid the temptation to make any changes.
Sometimes, it takes a few days (or even weeks) to notice a pattern but I promise- keeping the same routine regardless of time, place, or how baby responds will pay off before you know it.
Better Late Than Never
Although poor habits are hard to break, it is never too to start a bedtime routine with your baby or toddler. Likewise, follow through with the routine even if bedtime happens later than usual.
While bedtime may not go as planned every night, remember to stay patient and consistent, and always let your baby lead the way.
Still struggling with bedtime? Stay tuned for "Bedtime Troubleshooting Tips," and "How to Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe."