Creating a bedtime routine for a newborn is both a nurturing and a practical approach to help your little one (and you!) get better rest. Let’s discuss the basics of how to establish a calming bedtime routine.
Understanding Newborn Sleep Patterns
First things first: The goal of a bedtime routine for your newborn is NOT to help him/her sleep through the night right away.
Newborns have unpredictable sleep patterns, often waking every 2-3 hours to feed. Understanding this is key to setting realistic expectations. Unlike older babies, newborns haven’t developed a natural circadian rhythm, so a “routine” is more about laying a foundation than expecting immediate results.
Learn More: Newborn Sleep Schedule: What’s Normal
The Importance of a Bedtime Routine
A bedtime routine helps signal to your baby that it’s time to wind down. It’s not just about sleep; it’s about establishing trust and security. A consistent routine can soothe your baby, reducing fussiness and making it easier for your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Step-by-Step Guide to Establishing a Bedtime Routine
1. Start Early
- Begin when your newborn is around 6-8 weeks old.
- Keep it simple; the routine should be adaptable as your baby grows.
2. Watch for Sleepy Cues
- Look for signs of sleepiness like rubbing eyes, yawning, or fussiness.
- Start the routine at this point, ideally before your baby is overtired.
3. Create a Calming Environment
- Dim the lights and reduce noise.
- Ensure the room temperature is comfortably warm.
4. Gentle Bath Time
- A warm bath with water only can be soothing, but daily baths with soap aren’t recommended for a newborn’s sensitive. Until your baby is crawling, a soap bath every few days or twice a week is just fine.
- Use gentle, hypoallergenic baby bath products when necessary.
5. Soothing Massage
- A gentle massage with baby-safe oils can relax your baby.
- Use soft, slow strokes.
6. Soft, Comfortable Clothing
- Dress your baby in soft, breathable pajamas.
- Consider a swaddle for younger babies, if they find it comforting.
7. Quiet Activities
- Engage in calm activities like reading a book or humming a lullaby.
- Keep playtime gentle and soothing.
- A nighttime feed can help your baby feel full and sleepy.
- Whether breast or bottle, make this a quiet, bonding time.
9. Cuddles and Comfort
- Spend some time cuddling. This closeness is reassuring.
- Try gentle rocking or swaying if your baby finds it soothing.
10. Lay Down Drowsy but Awake
- When your baby is sleepy but not fully asleep, lay them in their crib.
- While avoiding letting your newborn “cry it out,” this can serve as gentle practice to help a baby fall asleep on their own.
11. Quiet Goodnights
- Say goodnight in a soft, loving tone.
- Leave the room calmly to signal the end of the routine.
Newborn Bedtime Routine: Tips for Success
- Consistency is Key: Repeat the routine in the same order each night. Try to start the routine at generally the same time each night.
- Flexibility: Be prepared to adapt the routine as your baby grows and changes.
- Patience: Establishing a routine takes time. Be patient with yourself and your baby.
- Safe Sleep Practices: Always follow safe sleep guidelines, like placing your baby on their back to sleep.
- Mom Self-Care: Remember to take care of yourself. A calm parent often means a calm baby.
Troubleshooting Common Challenges
- Avoid Overstimulation: If your baby gets overexcited, simplify the routine.
- Night from Day: Expose your baby to natural light during the day and keep nights dark and calm.
- Adjusting to Growth Spurts and Changes: Be flexible in adjusting the routine as your baby’s needs and developmental sleep patterns change.
Establishing a bedtime routine for your newborn is about creating a peaceful, secure environment that supports their natural sleep rhythms. It’s a process that requires patience and adaptability. Remember, every baby is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Trust your instincts, be consistent, and let the routine evolve as your baby grows.
With a bedtime routine for a newborn, you’re not just aiding sleep; you’re nurturing a deep bond and a sense of security in your baby. As they grow, this foundation will benefit their overall development and well-being, making those sleepless nights a memory filled with love and learning.
New, Karen (2019). Evidence-based Guidelines for Infant Bathing. Retrieved from https://www.researchreview.co.nz/getmedia/0a9e5190-b8ac-419f-8f44-43b8e5ba8c4b/Educational-Series-Evidence-based-guidelines-for-infant-bathing.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf