The first few weeks of having a new baby can be particularly stressful and every hour of the day is dedicated to caring for your newborn. Feeding, changing nappies, putting the baby to bed are all part of the routine babies need. At some point, however, this has to come to an end.
Getting into a bedtime routine is good for both parents and babies
A regular bedtime routine teaches a baby when it's time to go to sleep. In addition, sleep experts believe that a regular bedtime routine improves sleep quality. The sooner a child learns to follow a routine and adopt certain habits, the easier it is to stick to it before a lack of routine or even bad bedtime habits take hold.
When can a baby start an evening routine?
During the first few weeks of having a newborn, everyday life is turned upside down. Every few hours, you'll have to feed and care for your baby, who’ll sleep in between. This is just how babies should be. However, once a baby gets to about three months, the intervals between feeding, sleeping and caring for your baby will increase and there’ll be a better chance your little one will sleep through the night. This is the right time to get into good bedtime habits and prevent a baby from learning the wrong ones.
What’s the ideal bedtime for a baby or toddler?
Generally, you can tell when a baby’s tired and it’s time to go to sleep. A baby can become fretful, start to cry, look tired and rub its eyes. You shouldn’t miss this key time and, when you see the first signs, start the bedtime routine so your baby goes to sleep at the right time in terms of its tiredness. A bedtime routine should last at least 30 minutes before your baby actually goes to sleep.
The ideal bedtime to ensure a child gets enough sleep is from 6.00-8.30pm and no later, otherwise there’s the risk your baby might not get enough sleep.
The best sleeping environment
Sleep experts say a baby should be sleeping in its own bed during the first six months, all be it in the same room as its parents. The night-time environment should be dark with a quiet and peaceful atmosphere.
During the day, babies can sleep peacefully in a bright environment and you don’t necessarily have to make sure it’s quiet while your baby is asleep. This means your child will get used to the night being for resting and daytime for activity.
Tips to help you prepare for sleepy time:
- Playing a game or dancing: Gentle activity before going to sleep should be the first part of your baby’s bedtime routine and last at least 30 minutes. This could be a typical game, a little dance, or some stretching and yoga exercises so your infant can wind down and use up any leftover energy.
- Bathing: Having a bath is the ideal sleep preparation as it not only tells the baby that bedtime will follow but also usually makes it tired. If you don’t want to follow a bath routine, you can wash your infant and get them into their pajamas.
- A little massage: It’s important for a child to feel close to its mother or parent before going to sleep. A gentle body massage gives this closeness and warmth, relaxing the muscles and nerves, usually making a baby more relaxed and sleepy.
- Telling a story: Initially, even though a child may be too young to listen and understand a story, a mother’s gentle and calm voice can help a little one to get ready for a good night's sleep, making sleeping a lot easier.
- Singing a lullaby: Singing a lullaby is like telling a story because little ones react to a mother’s gentle voice and feel safe, relaxed and comfortable. A mellow environment where little ones can relax will help them to fall asleep faster.
- Saying goodnight with a kiss and a cuddle: A good sign parents can give their child that it’s time for bed is a regular goodnight kiss or cuddle. In addition, many children will want to say goodnight to everyone before they go to bed, including their siblings, grandparents and the dog/cat.
Not all of these are right for every family and you don’t need to practice them in earnest. Ultimately, trying them out and testing them is the way to find out what suits your family, the baby and the environment. You can also create personalized bedtime routines.