Is your baby’s sleep inconsistent (at best)? When mine was four months old, I never knew what to expect. Would we be going to bed at 9 PM or 2 AM? Every single day, it changed. He kept me on my toes, that’s for sure.
But us moms have enough things keeping us on our toes, am I right? So, let me introduce you to your new bestie: the bedtime routine.
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Why I Started a Bedtime Routine
My son’s sleep sucked. So that’s the main reason. I had gotten his nights and days figured out (although it took him a while!). And then I blissfully enjoyed about a month of amazing rest.
He would fall asleep around seven and only wake up once around five. He’d have a quick snack and then be done, ready to sleep another few hours. But then, all of a sudden, that stopped. He started waking up an insane amount of times. He started going to bed at random times. Let me paint you a picture.
He woke up around noon that morning (afternoon? day?). Then went to sleep at midnight. He woke up throughout the night at 1:30, 1:51, 2:55, 3:15, 6, 7, 8, 10, and 11:20. Nope, that is not an exaggeration!
He was up for the day at 11:20 AM. Then fell asleep at 12:30 AM (as in a half hour past midnight). He woke up at 1:30, 4:30, 7:20, 10, 11, 12:15 PM, and 1:30 PM. A little better, right? Ha.
He was up for the day at 1:30 PM. Then he went to bed at midnight. He actually fell asleep around 9 PM but it was a false alarm, he woke up at 10 with no intentions of going to sleep. But finally fell asleep around midnight. Then he woke up at 1:10, 4:15, 6:40, 8:50, 11:15, 11:55, and was up for the day at 1 PM.
On and on I tracked his erratic behavior. I was baffled. Every time he fell asleep, I’d be prepared for bed, because I honestly never knew if he was going to stay asleep or if it was just a nap. That’s how insane his “schedule” was.
Now, I’m not about to pretend that I’ve found a fool-proof way to ensure that your child adopts some beautiful schedule, sleeps through the night, and becomes a happy baby. (I’m updating this post when my son is 15 months and we still don’t have a perfect schedule)
But I believe that I have found a way to help you get one step closer to that beautiful schedule you’re dreaming of. A bedtime routine! If you’re wondering why you need this in your life and how to implement it, read on!
Why is a Bedtime Routine Important for Babies?
According to the experts, children thrive off of routine. It gives them a sense of safety and comfort. Our babies are so busy learning new things all day, and experiencing new things, that they need some sort of consistency. This article goes into more detail if you’re interested!
If you think about it, routines are what make the world go round. When we enter school, our days become extremely routine. We know what to expect. There aren’t tons of surprises. I’m pretty sure this is because having routines in place is really useful at every age.
In our case, implementing a routine significantly decreased my son’s nighttime wakings. We went from 6-10 wakings per night down to our current two to three. And the absolute only thing I changed was starting a bedtime routine.
How Start a Bedtime Routine
You can (and should) implement a bedtime routine as soon as possible. How’s tonight sound? Good? Great!
What I would suggest is beginning fairly simply. When I started our routine, it was just dim lights, massage, breastfeed, bed. Since then, it has evolved to fit our needs, but in the beginning, we just kept things very simple.
My biggest piece of advice is that you should listen to your baby. Pick a time when your child generally drifts off to sleep anyways. Start your routine a half hour or so before this time.
I made a simple, free Baby Sleep Log printable! An easy way to watch for emerging patterns. I highly suggest using something like this when you’re trying to nail down a sleep routine. It will help you understand your child’s natural sleep patterns, which makes it much easier to determine when to start your wind-down ritual!
You don’t want to try forcing your baby to go to sleep when they aren’t tired. Trust me, this just results in an angry baby that learns to fight their sleep. But you also don’t want to start your routine when your child is too tired. This will result in an over-tired baby who will, again, fight their sleep!
What to Include in a Bedtime Routine
It can seem like a big task, figuring out how to soothe your little one straight into blissful sleep. But I promise it’s not. Here are some general ideas for what you could incorporate into your routine. But honestly, anything that seems to soothe your baby will work!
- Getting wiggles out (do this first if you decide to do it)
- A story
- A bath
- A lullaby
- White noise
- Breast or bottle
- Baby-safe Aromatherapy
- Brushing teeth
- Giving your child their favorite stuffed animal
- Turning out lights around the house
- Saying goodnight (use the same words every night to really get them to associate that phrase with sleep
Do you have a bedtime routine? Has it helped? And what do you do? If you don’t have one, let me know if you plan on incorporating one soon! And if you found this helpful, be sure to share!
PS If you’ve ever considered sleep training, grab my free guide!