We've said it before and well say it again. Sleep breeds sleep, and if your little one naps well in the day, she is more likely to sleep well at night too. So nailing the naps might be a priority for you most days, because let's face it- there aren't many parents who don't want their babies to sleep well at night. And because good sleep at night needs a little preparation, we've put together a few tips to help you with a good bedtime routine.
Agree a timetable for bed
Discuss this with your partner, and older kids if you have them, and agree a bedtime that works for everyone. Now take an hour off this time (or however long you think your routine should take) and use that time as your starting point to...
Set the scene
Most babies ( and kids) won't respond well to just going straight to bed without any kind of lead up to it, so you need to set the scene. Here are some tips:
- Turn off the television and tablets. Screen free time is a great way to prepare babies and children for sleep. Studies have found that the stimulation provided by electrical devices can actually hinder the body's ability to fall asleep, so instead of the iPad or a movie, go for quiet activities instead.
- Dim the lights and turn the volume down. This helps to set the scene for a peaceful and relaxing bedtime.
- Talk quietly. It might seem silly, but babies and children can respond better and calm down more quickly if you talk to them in lower tones than normal.
- Keep your order of events the same each evening. This is an important one. @singleMahoy says she sings the same songs every night, and her little one finishes last one before settling down for sleep. Babies especially are creatures of habit and learn quickly what is going to happen next if you stick to the same routine each night. Don't skip a step. And read on to find some tips on what those steps should be!
Stick to the same routine
Sleep cues are important, especially for babies. You as a parent learn to interpret them from your baby- you will notice quickly the signs that tell you she is tired- and she will learn them from you too. So often, as soon as you start to wind down for the evening she will take this as s sleep cue and start to prepare herself for bedtime. Here are a few suggested routines you could follow at bedtime:
- Turn off electrical devices (set the scene) and read a story or sing a song while the bah is running. Bath, feed, bed.
- Set the scene. Have a bath, followed by s gentle massage. Feed, bed.
- Set scene. Have s feed, bath, bed.
- Set the scene. Have s bath, story/ song, feed and bed. @tweetinghelena swears by bedtime stories and you can read more on the books they choose here.
Each of the above routines are fairly similar in that they all end in bed, and whichever suits you is fine. Thee important thing to remember is that babies will learn that after bath comes massage, then feed, then sleep. If you stick to the same order each night you will find that sleep is a lot more forthcoming a lot more quickly.
When baby won't settle
Babies are not robots! Like us as adults, there will be nights where even the best and most reliable routine does not lead to sleep straight away. If this is the case, try not to despair- and don't give up on the routine. We all have off days and when you're a baby unable to communicate your feelings well, it can be harder still to settle for sleep. The following tips might help to settle a fussy baby:
- Check that baby's nappy is clean- sometimes a dirty nappy can sneak up on you! Then check she doesn't need winding and isn't in any pain or discomfort from teethingor illness.
- Try swaddling baby, as sometimes they respond well to being wrapped a title tighter than usual. This can help to suppress the startle reflex which for some babies can be quite disturbing. Leave the arms free if you want to, so that she can use her hands to self soothe if she wants to.
- Remember the other s's. There is a theory (Dr. Harvey Karp) that babies are born three months too early and that the fourth trimester actually requires parents to emulate conditions in the womb. From this theory comes the 5 s's and swaddling is one of them. The others are: sucking ( babies have a strong sucking reflex, some stronger than others) so give your baby a clean finger or dummy to help soothe; swing- babies love the motion of this- either in a swing or in your arms; side - this relates to placing your baby on her side to comfort but please note that this is not recommended for safe sleep; shhhhhhh- make this noise rhythmically to help soothe baby, or use white noise ( an app or toy) instead.
Some nights are going to be better than others. Babies don't always follow the same pattern as others and that is especially relevant for siblings- so don't expect the new baby to be exactly like your first when it comes to sleep. Just like us adults, some babies need a little more help when it comes to falling (and staying) asleep, but a solid bedtime routine will help to establish good habits early on.
Good luck and do let us know how you get on!