Putting your baby to sleep isn’t always easy. Little ones tend to get more fussy at night, and when new parents are tired after a long day, they can often feel overwhelmed at night. That’s why it’s so important to establish a consistent bedtime routine early. Having a routine signals to your baby that it’s time to calm down and go to sleep. Babies like and learn from repetitive actions. The more they get used to a bedtime routine, the calmer they will be and the more easily they will fall asleep. This will reduce your stress level and make your evenings more enjoyable as well.As a new parent, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the things one has to do. But here’s the good news. Putting your baby to bed should be a simple, consistent routine. It doesn’t need to be long and complicated. In fact, the secret to a good bedtime routine is consistency. By sticking to the exact same routine every day – even a simple one – you’ll quickly see the results.
Getting started on a bedtime routine
When you bring your baby home for the first time, you may feel you are facing a steep learning curve. However, there’s no need to worry about establishing a bedtime routine right away. Newborns sleep so much during those first few weeks, giving you time to ease into a routine. Focus on getting as much sleep as you can while they sleep and just go with the flow. Once your baby reaches the 6-week-mark and she falls into more regular patterns of sleep and awake time, that’s when you can start implementing a bedtime routine.
Tips to establish a bedtime routine
There is no one-size-fits-all routine. Be flexible and figure out what works for your baby and you. Here are some general tips:
- Keep it short and simple. Keep the bedtime routine to 30 mins or less. Remember, the consistency of the routine is more important than the duration. By keeping the routine short and simple, it will be easier for you to repeat it every night. And the less time you spend putting your little one down, the more time you’ll have to relax and rest.
- Same time. Put your baby to bed about the same time every day. Figure out what’s the best time for your baby (e.g., when she is sleepy, but not yet overtired) and also for your family. You may have a work schedule to consider or other children that need attention. In order to have a consistent and sustainable schedule, it has to work for everyone.
- Same place. Your baby should sleep in the same place every night, preferably in a crib or bassinet for safety. Changing locations from one night to the next or moving her after she has already fallen asleep makes it harder for her to develop a consistent routine. For more information on creating a safe sleep environment, check out our Safe Sleep Guide for Babies.
- Parent rotation. If two parents are available, make sure to take turns at bedtime, so your baby will be used to both parents putting her to bed. This will allow you to keep your routine running smoothly even when one parent is away or unavailable.
Bedtime routine schedule
Here are a few simple steps you can consider as you begin to build your own bedtime routine:
- Nursing/Feeding. Make sure your baby’s final feeding is the first part of your bedtime routine. It’s important that she stays awake through the whole feed (if it helps, keep your room well-lit for the feed). You want her to learn to go to sleep on her own, not falling asleep while feeding.
- Change of clothing. Put her in clean diapers and a bodysuit. Then swaddle your child or put her in a sleep bag which keeps her safe and cozy throughout the night (check out our collection of organic sleep bags here). At this point it might be helpful to put your little one in her crib.
- Pacifier. At this the time you can also give your baby a pacifier (without a pacifier chain for safety). If you are breastfeeding, wait until breastfeeding is going well before offering a pacifier. A pacifier can help calm the baby while also reducing the risk of SIDS. If the pacifier falls out after your baby goes to sleep, that’s ok.
- Storytime and/or lullabies. Now it’s time to dim the lights, close the curtain and set up a quiet and calm atmosphere. Read a short book or sing a lullaby to calm your baby. You might also want to hold her hand. Some parents choose to do this step before putting their child in the crib. However, the transition to a crib after story time can unsettle the baby.
- White noise. Having some white noise, such as a musical mobile, in the background can be a great way to keep your baby calm.
- Sleep time. Now it’s time to say Good Night and leave the room. It’s important for your little one to learn to fall asleep alone.
Without a doubt, sleep (especially at night) is one of the biggest challenges in your baby’s first year. And just because you set up a sleep routine doesn’t mean your child will sleep through the night. During their first few months, children usually sleep a maximum of 5-6 hours. Also keep in mind that all kids are different. So don’t get frustrated when your bedtime routine doesn’t work right away. Stick with it and results will show. As your child gets older, you will likely have to make some adjustments to the routine, but getting them started early will make those later transitions that much easier.