When your baby is born it isn’t really necessary or possible to have a bedtime routine as newborn babies spend most of their time sleeping and can sleep for up to 18 hours in a 24 hour period. The maximum they will sleep at one time is around 3/4 hours, day or night.
You need to remember that at this age your baby doesn’t know the difference between day and night yet. This does unfortunately mean that you can expect some sleepless nights, luckily it won’t last long even though it might feel like it! For the first six months your baby should sleep in a moses basket or cot in the same room as mum and dad.
Once your baby is six to eight weeks he/she will probably start to sleep for a shorter period during the day and longer at night, but they’ll still wake up to feed during the night. Your baby should start to sleep through at around 12 weeks old but this could be later or if you’re lucky earlier – it is possible they will start sleeping through at 8 weeks old. To help encourage your baby to sleep through the night, you can start to develop a sleep routine as early as six weeks.
From as early as two weeks old you can start to teach your baby the difference between night and day. In the daytime dress him/her as soon as they wake up, play with them, be sociable and keep the room light and bright.
At night time be quiet during feeds, keep lights and noise low and change into pyjamas as soon as it’s bedtime. During their first three months learn to recognise the signs of tiredness, including rubbing of eyes, whining and crying easily, yawning and stretching, losing interest in toys and people. If you notice these signs put him/her down into their moses basket or cot, you’ll soon learn when they are ready for a nap. From six to eight weeks old start to teach your baby to fall asleep on their own, put them into their bed when they are sleepy. Try not to rock to sleep every night as they will become accustomed to this.
Other ideas you can try are singing to your baby, lullabies are well-known to help your baby get to sleep. They will love hearing the sound of your voice in a soothing tone. If your singing is not all it’s cracked up to be, try a soothing playlist and leave it on once you’ve left to help the transition of being awake to asleep.
Many parents worry about the risk of sudden infant death during the first few months, there are ways to put your baby down to sleep that reduce this risk. These include keeping the room temperature between 16-20°c, putting your baby on their back to sleep and placing them towards the bottom of the cot so they can’t wriggle backwards under their bedding (this is known as the feet to foot position). It’s also advised to use a flat, firm waterproof mattress and try to avoid sleeping on the sofa or sharing a bed with your baby. Breastfeeding is also proven to reduce SIDs due to various health benefits.
By the time your baby becomes a toddler, bedtime routine will be a little bit different. One technique is letting your little one have a “crazy” 10 minutes, running around chasing you to burn some energy. As long as this activity is followed by a calming, soothing activity, it could work for you and your baby. A soothing, warm bath is one of the most popular bed time routines, allowing your little one to be nice and clean to slower ease them into bed. Some toddles find baths are a more exciting experience or they don’t enjoy them, if this is the case avoid this activity and try a different routine instead. If your toddler suffers from sensitive skin they should only have a bath three times a week to avoid any further irritation.
Having a bedtime story is another popular routine, this is extra time mum or dad can spend bonding with your toddler and letting them choose their own story makes it an exciting part of your little ones routine. The downside is you may end up reading the same book for a whole week!
For a successful bedtime routine you need to stick to the set routine as much as you can, even when you’re away from home. Getting them used to a bedtime routine at a young age will help them sleep and it will help them when they are older too. Allowing Mum and Dad to have the evenings to themselves.