If you feel like you’re losing your mind in the first few weeks after your baby’s born, it’s probably due to lack of sleep.
Your friends will share their horror stories of stroking 3 years olds for hours until they drop off. And you’ll get all kinds of advice about getting them in a routine, Aunty Betty will tell you to let them scream until they eventually fall asleep.
All you want is a blissful few hours of interrupted rest. We don’t have all the answers but a bedtime routine can help you set up for the best chance of some kip.
Can I start from day one?
No, and anyone who tells you that is delusional. Your newborn doesn’t understand the difference between night and day and needs to feed a lot. So although you can start to put some of the building blocks in place, don’t expect a 4 day old to fall asleep instantly and stay that way for 12 hours.
Ok, when can I start?
Wait until your baby is about three months old because they’ll better understand night and day and you’ll know more about when they’re sleepy or awake. And hopefully by this point they’re sleeping deeper, around 14-16 hours every 24 hours with a decent stint at night. Now’s the time to create a routine that gives your baby clues that it’s time to go off to the land of snooze. It’s also a great way to calm them and develop your bond.
When is bedtime?
Just like adults it varies. You’ll end up going crackers if you go for a 7pm bedtime when your baby’s best sleepy time is 9pm. So keep an eye on when they’re most sleepy in the evening and time your routine around that. It could be anything from 6pm-11pm depending on your baby’s age and their own body clock.
Then you need to work backwards. Don’t wait until they’re overtired and screaming. Instead watch out for signs your baby is getting tired, maybe they rub their eyes? Yawn? Get a bit fussy? If you know they’re usually ready to sleep at 8pm, your bedtime routine should start about 45 minutes before.
Keep it simple
Don’t create some mammoth bedtime routine that involves 800 steps. Start off simple with 5 easy steps.
Bath - this is a great way to calm your baby and let them burn off any energy.
Massage - do this in their bedroom with the lights turned down.
Feed - keep the light on for now so they don’t drop off. It’s a good idea to let your baby self settle so they don’t expect to be rocked or fed to sleep. But if you’re happy to do this and wake up when they need it then go for it.
Story - perfect bonding time and helps your baby’s language skills.
Down - pop them in their cot or Moses basket when they’re sleepy but still awake. Then they can settle themselves (which helps them learn to do the same if they wake in the night).
The real secret is to do the same thing every night so your baby knows it’s time for bed. Don’t expect overnight results, it can take weeks or months. And you’ll have periods when sleep goes haywire, usually when they’re teething, having a growth spurt or feeling under the weather.
It’s not working
Some babies resist all attempts at routine. The first thing to do is look at your routine - is it nice and simple, calm and relaxed? Or are you trying to do too much or cram it in? If that sounds like you then drop a few things, maybe it’s just a consistent time and a feed for a while. Take the pressure off.
If this isn’t working, chat to your health visitor or look at other sleep training techniques. And no rule says you need a routine - work out what’s best for you and your baby.
Found this helpful? Read: Why is my baby crying?
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