Establishing a good bedtime routine right from day one is a great way to help your baby organize days and nights and start to consolidate nighttime sleep more quickly. I suggest starting a bedtime routine off with a bath – it’s a great first step. It’s such a significantly different experience that your child will soon learn that a bath means bedtime is near.
Bedtime Routine (approximately 30-45 mins)
- Kisses goodnight, bedtime song, and into crib, drowsy but awake.
Your routine should always include a full feed to ensure baby’s tummy is full. And it will likely be a tricky time of day to keep baby awake during the feed. Do not allow her to close her eyes while eating. Keep her awake. Keep a close eye on her through her feeding and try to keep baby aware of her surroundings by stimulating with touch or talking. You might actually have to remove her from the breast or bottle until she is more alert and is able to continue feeding. Keep baby awake while you are burping as well. Be aware, the rhythmic burping can put baby to sleep, so burp enough for baby to be comfortable, but don’t allow baby to fall asleep on you.
Lay Baby down Drowsy, but Awake: Once her feed is complete, give a hug and kiss, and lay down into her bassinet drowsy but awake. I strongly encourage you to put your best effort into baby’s bedtime routine and getting her to fall asleep in her crib independently as your starting point.
I recommend swaddling baby until baby is 8 weeks of age. While baby may not love the process of being swaddled, they typically do benefit from being swaddled. Once baby is older than 2 weeks, it is common to break out of a swaddle blanket. Your sanity may benefit from a Velcro or zip up swaddle. A client favorite is the Love to Dream Arms up Swaddle, as it’s a very natural position, and it zips so they cannot break out.
When your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, you should wait a couple of minutes before you respond. Take time to assess baby’s needs. If she is hungry, you’ll know! If she fusses for longer than a few minutes, you can go to her and feed her. However, before you start the feed, delay it by changing the diaper first (unless you’ll need to change after eating, due to poop). This is to delay the gratification of the nighttime feeds. Your baby will then be less likely to connect waking and crying with feeding. Keep an eye on baby through the feed, and do your best to keep her awake, so she can go back to her crib aware of her surroundings once the feed is finished. If she cries, repeat your bedtime method, and practice using the independent sleep skills.
You should keep baby in the room at night. Keep the lights low and your voice quiet so that she doesn’t become over-stimulated. Nighttime is for sleeping, so resist the urge to watch TV, play on your phone or turn on lights. This will also help you resettle faster when you get back to your own bed.
Personal Best / Core Night
As a brand-new newborn, your baby will (hopefully!) only wake when it’s time to eat at night. After 6 weeks of age, with good weight gain, you can start following this method, unless your pediatrician has given you set rules for your baby’s night feeding due to slow weight gain. If your baby has shown you that he can sleep a certain length of time through the night, which is his personal best/Core Night, for at 3-4 nights, you no longer need to feed him during this
span of time. With these good sleep skills, this should be easy if your baby is ready to stretch the time between feeds. Please remember, rules for your newborn are flexible. If he had an off day and simply needs a feed one night a little earlier, it’s okay! Consistency as he gets older will help with working towards less night feeds and more sleep.
It is often hard to tell when the nighttime ends with a newborn. This is when we look at day and night being a 12-hour interval. If baby went to bed at 9:00 p.m., 9:00 a.m. will be the start of the day. The best way to signal that the morning has officially begun is to take baby out of the room and feed in a bright daytime environment such as the living room or the kitchen. Feeding in the bright daytime environment will also help to regulate his circadian rhythm.