Having a solid, consistent bedtime routine is so important, no matter what age your little one is.
As adults, we don’t just go into our bedrooms, turn off the light, and hop into bed, and that’s that. Our journey to sleep is habitual, mostly the same every night. Maybe we take a shower, put on our pajamas, wash our face, and brush our teeth… we sleep on the same side, sleep in the same position, and everything’s set up exactly the way we like it to help us ease into sleep.
Well your newborn is no different. They just don’t know it yet, so we have to help them out. One of the best things you can do to help your newborn begin to develop healthy sleep habits is to establish a bedtime and naptime routine that you use each time you put your little one down to sleep.
What should a newborn bedtime routine look like?
The routine should take about 30 to 45 minutes for the bedtime routine, nothing more.
You want about four to five steps and your steps should be the same every night, so it becomes more clear and predictable and your little one understands what to expect.
I suggest a bedtime routine of…
- Kisses & Cuddles
…then finally into the crib or bassinet drowsy, but awake.
If you repeat this each night, your baby will come to learn every step of the routine so that they’re preparing themselves and their bodies for the transition into sleep.
And as a side note with the routine, it’s great to change it up as far as who puts munchkin down. This is going to help your baby understand that it’s not just mom’s job to put him to sleep, This is especially helpful if you want a date night and leave baby with grandma or the babysitter.
What should a newborn naptime routine look like?
The naptime routine is going to take about five minutes.
It’s just an abbreviated bedtime. We’ll change the diaper, cuddle, sing a song, read a book, and then place the baby in the crib or bassinet drowsy but awake.
The idea is to keep it short and simple but still set baby up for the transition into sleep with a predictable routine.
Whether you are putting your newborn down for naptime or bedtime, there are a couple of topics I want to touch on that are important when talking about newborn sleep and building a solid sleep routine for your baby: feeding and night wakings. And these two topics kind of go hand in hand.
Should I feed my baby before putting her down to sleep?
Newborns have small stomachs that can only hold enough food to keep them satisfied for a few hours at a time. So timing your child’s feeds and ensuring they get a good feed is important.
In general, try to avoid feeding too close to sleep or too far along in your bedtime routine, because this could cause your little one to develop an association between feeding and sleeping, and feeding could become a sleep prop.
The bedtime routine is always going to include a full feed, so baby can sleep for longer stretches through the night and doesn’t wake up hungry. We want to make sure baby’s tummy is nice and full, but we don’t want baby to fall asleep while feeding.
Anytime you feed baby keep a close eye on baby and try to keep him aware of his surroundings. You can stimulate him with touch or talking, whatever you have to do to keep him awake.
Our number one goal here is to put baby in the crib or bassinet, drowsy but awake. You might actually have to remove him from the breast or the bottle to keep him awake until he is able to continue.
Try to keep burping to a minimum. If it’s too relaxing for him, make it a little less comfortable so he has a harder time falling asleep. I’m not talking about making him uncomfortable by not burping him. What I mean by this is, don’t let your body be the comfortable place for him to fall asleep while burping. We want baby to be gas free, but we don’t want baby to get used to getting cozy on your shoulder and falling asleep thereafter the feed.
Place him in the crib or bassinet, drowsy, but awake. Ultimately, I would strongly encourage you to put your best effort into baby’s bedtime routine and getting him to fall asleep in his crib.
What if baby becomes fussy after putting him down in the crib?
If baby starts to fuss after placing him in the crib, first give him a minute and see if he’s going to self-soothe to sleep. Fussing is totally normal, and unless it escalates to crying, I typically advise parents to observe but not to step in unless they feel it’s necessary.
If your baby does start crying, you can pick him up. Walk him around the room a bit until he calms. Then as soon as he is calm, we’re going to lay him back down. If he starts fussing, we’re going to give him a moment to see how he’s going to respond. If the fussing turns to crying, we should pick him up again until he is calm.
Then lay him back down. Repeat this until he begins to fall asleep again. Give him another feed if this continues on too long, but be very careful to keep him awake during the feed. We’re going to continue this until baby falls asleep on his own. Bedtime is the best and easiest time to practice these healthy sleep skills as baby will be tired after a long day and ready to sleep.
The key takeaway here is…build routines into your child’s sleep patterns. Whether you are putting baby down for a nap, at bedtime, or in the middle of the night, establishing predictable, repeatable routines can help your little one fall asleep quickly each time you put him down.
If you are struggling to build and practice age-appropriate routines, or you’re encountering an issue where no routine in the world is going to solve your sleep struggles…let’s talk. We can sit down one-on-one and discuss your individual situation, so you can correct these sleep struggles early and set them up for sleep success for the rest of their life.