How To Create A Calming Bedtime Routine for Babies

How To Create A Calming Bedtime Routine for Babies

Establishing a night-time routine for your baby is crucial for their development - and your sanity! It can be challenging to navigate the early months with a new baby, especially when it comes to understanding their sleep patterns and how to create the ideal bedtime...

Establishing a night-time routine for your baby is crucial for their development - and your sanity! It can be challenging to navigate the early months with a new baby, especially when it comes to understanding their sleep patterns and how to create the ideal bedtime routine. In this blog we’ll cover everything you need to know when it comes to setting up a calming bedtime routine for your little one. 


Understanding Newborn Sleep Patterns And Establishing A Baby Sleep Routine 


What are typical sleep patterns for newborns?

Newborns have highly irregular sleep patterns, often sleeping for short periods of time throughout the day and night; they need to feed often as their stomach can only hold small amounts of milk at a time! On average, newborns sleep for around 8 to 18 hours a day, but this can vary greatly from one baby to another. While newborns will gradually begin to develop more regular sleep-wake cycles as they grow older. By around three to four months of age, many babies start to establish a more predictable sleep schedule, with longer periods of night-time sleep and shorter naps during the day. 


Should I establish a bedtime routine for my newborn right away, or wait until they're older?

Newborns will be waking every few hours for a feed, so for many babies under 3 months it’s not possible to follow a sleep schedule. Newborns also don’t understand the difference between night and day yet - something they need to learn. You can start to create a night-time routine for them at a young age, but don’t expect the baby to sleep through the night until they’re a bit older. From 3 months onwards babies may be more likely to follow a sleep routine, they’ll require fewer night feeds and in some cases, some babies may be able to sleep for 8 hour stretches at night. 


Establishing a baby sleep routine


Creating a consistent bedtime routine for your baby can make a significant difference in their sleep quality and duration. It's beneficial to start a bedtime routine as early as possible, ideally from around 3 months. However even newborns can begin to recognize and respond to consistent patterns. However, be flexible and adjust the routine as needed, considering your baby's individual needs and development. 


Here are some simple tips to for creating a night-time routine that will help transition baby from being awake to asleep: 

  1. Start with a Calming Activity: A warm bath can help relax your baby, followed by a gentle baby massage, a clean diaper and onesie. Follow it with gentle rocking or a quiet feeding session. Remember babies under 6 months should sleep in the same room as you to prevent risk of SIDS.
  2. Dim the Lights: Lowering the lights or using a night light and reducing noise in the room signals to your baby that it's time to sleep.
  3. Read or Sing: Read a short, soothing story or sing a lullaby to create a comforting atmosphere.
  4. Be Consistent: Repeat the routine at the same time each night to help your baby recognize and anticipate bedtime.

Tips for better baby sleep

Babies wake often throughout the night for lots of reasons:


  • Hunger: Babies wake up at night because they need to feed, as their stomachs are small and they digest their milk quickly, requiring frequent feeding sessions.
  • Diaper Change: Babies may wake up due to discomfort from a wet or soiled diaper, making it necessary to change them before each feed at night to ensure their comfort and hygiene.
  • Lack of Self-Soothing: Newborns and young infants may not have developed the ability to self-soothe yet, so they rely on caregivers to help them fall back asleep. This skill typically begins to develop around 3-6 months of age, but each baby is different in when they can self-soothe effectively.
  • Temperature Regulation: Babies might wake up if they're too hot or too cold, as they're sensitive to changes in temperature. Ensuring a comfortable sleep environment by adjusting bedding or clothing can help prevent disruptions in their sleep.

How do I soothe my newborn to sleep at night?

  • Swaddling: Wrapping your baby snugly in a swaddle can provide a sense of security and mimic the cozy environment of the womb. Click here for some great advice on safe swaddling.
  • White Noise: Soft, consistent sounds like white noise can help mask household noises and create a calming atmosphere for your baby. Be sure the machine is away from the baby to avoid them being startled by the noise, and also away from any wires. It's recommended to keep the volume at a level that is comparable to a soft shower or gentle breeze.
  • Gentle Rocking or Patting: The rhythmic motion of rocking or gentle pats can help lull your baby into a peaceful slumber.
  • Consider a pacifier: Offering a pacifier can provide comfort and may help calm a fussy baby. However, be sure to not introduce a pacifier too early if you are wanting to establish breastfeeding; your little one may experience nipple confusion. It’s also easier to miss important feeding cues if you introduce a pacifier. 
  • Check Basic Needs: Ensure your baby isn't hungry, in need of a diaper change, or uncomfortable ie. too hot or cold before attempting to soothe them back to sleep.

Baby night-time feeding schedule


When should I feed my newborn during the night?

Newborns' sleep patterns are closely tied to their feeding schedule. They have small stomachs and need to feed frequently, which often disrupts their sleep. Many newborns wake up every 2-4 hours to feed, and it's essential for parents to respond to these cues promptly to ensure adequate nutrition and growth. On the other hand, some babies might be able to sleep for 8 hour stretches and may only need one night-time feed. Some babies might drop the night feed by six months altogether! 


Tips for handling night-time feedings

Making night feeds easier requires some preparation and organization. Here are some tips to speed up the night feeds and avoid over stimulating baby:

 

  • Prepare Supplies: Keep formula, sterilized bottles, flask of hot water, diapers, wipes, and a changing pad handy by the bedside. Having everything within arm's reach can save time and effort during night time diaper changes and feeds.
  • Change Diapers on the Bed: Instead of getting out of bed to change baby’s diaper at the changing table, consider changing them on your bed. Lay down a changing pad or towel to protect the bedding and make the process more convenient.
  • Use a Nightlight: A soft, dim nightlight can provide enough illumination for feeding and diaper changes without fully waking up the baby. Opt for a gentle, warm-colored light to avoid overstimulation.
  • Prep Feeding Supplies: If you're using formula or expressed breast milk, prepare feeding supplies in advance. Before heading to bed, prep all your essentials including a flask of hot boiled water, pre-measured formula powder and sterilized bottles for quick mixing.
  • Minimize Stimulation: Keep interactions with the baby calm and minimal during night-time feeds. Avoid engaging in stimulating activities or prolonged chatter. Keep the environment quiet and soothing to encourage the baby to settle back to sleep easily after feeding.

Creating a safe sleep environment for newborns


What can I do to create a safe sleep environment for my newborn?

Your little one should be sleeping in the same room as you until they are at least six months old. Check out AAP sleep safety guidelines here, for more detailed advice on how to create a safe sleep environment for your baby. The main ones are:

 

  • Lie baby on their back
  • Keep the crib clear
  • Use a firm, flat, waterproof mattress
  • Keep baby smoke-free
  • Avoid baby getting too hot
  • Put baby to sleep in the same room as you for at least the first 6 months

Looking for more tips on what’s ‘normal’ when it comes to baby sleep? Check out our other blog here. If you are concerned about baby’s sleep patterns or they’re having persistent trouble sleeping, consult your healthcare provider. They can rule out any underlying issues and offer tailored advice.


Navigating your newborn's sleep can be challenging, but establishing a consistent night-time routine can help. By understanding your baby's sleep patterns and knowing how to create a soothing sleep environment, you can make bedtime a more peaceful experience for both you and your baby. Remember, patience and consistency are key. Sweet dreams!

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