Setting the Bedtime Routine

Baby Sleep Patterns

By Vandita Rajesh

Between 6 to 8 weeks your little one will gradually be awake for more time. This is a good time to start the bedtime routine. Some babies can sleep for slightly longer stretches and setting a consistent bedtime will help to set the stage.


Early bedtime

A 7pm bedtime is great because babies often get tired and cranky by late evening. Many mothers and fathers are confused as to why by the the late evening the little one is so restless. For a new baby everything they see is new and the brain works very hard to process these new stimuli. Long stretch of sleep helps the brain to store the information and create memories and recall them when needed. Early bedtime gives babies a chance to get a good stretch of sleep. If you have noticed, as adults we find it hard to fall asleep when we are very exhausted or we tend to be restless in our sleep. Similarly, when babies are over tired (which happens very easily) it will take them longer to fall asleep and they may find it hard to stay asleep. This is not helpful for their development.

If 7pm is too early for your family, try 8pm. Avoid delaying it beyond that time. The circadian rhythms start to set in and it is possible that the baby may wake up early without getting sufficient sleep. Your little munchkin may be a night owl later in life but at the moment, babies need a lot of sleep and helping them to go to bed early will help their little bodies and brains get the much needed rest.

KISS

Keep it Simple and Special! Create your own simple routine for the baby. Any activity that is relaxing and calming is helpful to wind down. Bathing, swaddling, white noise, massages, singing a lullaby, reading a book, chanting are all great options to be included into the schedule. Follow the same pattern every night. Being consistent is key to conveying that it is time to sleep. Below are a few sample routines you can try.

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Bath

Massage

Change PJ and Diaper

Change PJ and Diaper

Change PJ and Diaper

Read a book

Feed

Read a book

Feed

Swaddle

Feed

Baby-led play

White noise with light swaying if needed

Swaddle and light patting

Chanting/Singing a lullaby

Bed

Bed

Bed

 Avoid adding too many activities to the routine because it can tire you and your baby. Some babies may only need a couple of activities to sleep. Usually the last thing that you do is very crucial to communicate that it is time to sleep. Some babies may still fall asleep while nursing and you may not be able to do the entire bedtime routine that you planned. Do not be discouraged. While feeding you can play the music/white noise so that the association with the music will remain and don’t forget to kiss goodnight!


Reduce Stimuli

At bedtime reduce the noise levels, talk softly, dim the lights. Engage in baby led play if that is helpful but avoid using toys and other things that can excite and tire the little one. Likewise at nap time, you can follow one or two activities from your bedtime routine, keep it low key. In some homes, the late evening can get exciting if there are visitors coming or if one partner returns from work late. Try to excuse yourself from visitors and get your baby to sleep. Your partner who comes late can also do the bedtime routine. If not, try to find sometime during the morning where your partner can spend time with the baby. Avoid disrupting the bedtime routine.

90-minute

This is magic window. Usually little ones by 8 weeks will be sleepy after a wake period of 90-minutes. This pattern applies to nap times as well. So during the day if the baby has been up for 90 minutes ensure that they get a nap. If you cross this time the baby is likely to be over-tired and cranky. Some babies have a tendency to take a nap around 6:30pm. In that case it makes more sense to just convert it into t bedtime. Plan the bedtime routine about 15-20 minutes before the 90-minute wake period ends. Then you are more likely to find a drowsy baby versus an over-exhausted baby. When you are going to sleep, you may dream-feed your baby at night so that the little one does not wake up.


Tummy Time

The importance of tummy time cannot be stressed enough. This is any important skill for developing the neck and trunk muscles, for neurological development, to enhance motor co-ordination and to get good sleep. It is a good workout for your little one and the ability to roll back and forth helps them later to get comfortable during sleep. Tummy time should not be done right after feeding as the pressure on the stomach may result in spit ups. Start with about 30 seconds and gradually increase the time. Place your little one of her back and then gently nudge her hips to roll over. You can lie down on the other side so she can look at your face, she will love that!

Remember to use the ideas in the Initial Steps to Bedtime Routine to build good sleep habits and environment for your little munchkin.

Featured Image Credit: Mylene @mylene2401

The author is a public health professional with expertise in child development, epidemiology, and behavioral science.


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