All About Baby Sleep – Bedtime Routine
By Jeanette Courtman
Life can be so busy with your baby. We often try and fit so much into each day. Having a baby can bring its challenges and add in the lack of sleep, everything is magnified when you are tired, exhausted and tearful. Often people start asking you about your baby’s sleep. These questions seems to be the focus of many conversations, along with a lot of advice, from cuddle them, co sleep, leave them, wrap them up, wake them, feed them and many more mind-boggling advice.
First though, it is really important to understand that your baby will wake frequently in the first six months of their lives. Their tummy governs them. Babies only have very small stomachs, so they need to be filling it, little and often. They also need to feel close to you and feel and smell you, (more about that, in our next news article). Your baby may well wake after six months of age for feeds in the night, I’m afraid there is no automatic switch at 6 months. Frequency of feeds should have begun to reduced by now, so if they are waking, it may only be once in the night.
Sleep issues are only present, if it perceived to be a problem by you. If you are happy with, for example multiple feeding, rocking, co sleeping to sleep etc, then that is great. There are no right or wrong ways to sleep, however there are safe ways to baby sleep. You can find up to date information on safe sleeping at The Lullaby trust website. https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk
Here is our guide to a good bedtime routine
What we do know is bedtime routine or bedtime hygiene, as it is frequently know is really important. Your baby will feel safe and relaxed at bedtime if the consistency is followed. It doesn’t have to be rigid; there is no tick box. However what we do know is a healthy bedtime routine can be the foundation on which healthy sleep habits of a lifetime will be formed. It helps to set up positive sleep association and your child will be more willing to relax at bedtime.
Tips for healthy bedtime routine
Make sure the timing is right, there is no rulebook to say your baby/toddler/child needs to be asleep at 6pm. It will be a battle if you try to start this process too early or too late. It’s a tricky one, because sometimes at the end of the day the clock is ticking and as a parent you are exhausted, but getting the correct timing of this is often one of the keys to its success. If you are putting your little one to bed and they are taking over 30 minutes to get to sleep, I would say you may be trying to put them to bed too early, also if your little one is trying to fall asleep in the bath, I would say you are leaving it a little too late. Ideally you want to follow all the bedtime routine advice and your little one would be falling asleep within 10 minutes of head hitting the ‘pillow’. If not, try moving the time slightly.
1.Bedtime routine should take 40 minutes. Part of the process can include your other children, if you have them, but it really does need to be around this length of time. The aim is for it to be calm, relaxing and focused. We know that sometimes this can be challenging. Any longer than 40 minutes, children can lose focus and so can parents!
2.Try and prepare the bedroom, a quick whizz around to dim the lights and draw the curtains/ blinds. May seem a little keen, but trust us, when your baby/toddler comes out of the bath, it is perfect for them to be in this environment.
3.Bath time. This is really important, not only because you feel you are starting the process of bedtime and they associate it with winding down and relaxing, but there is scientific evidence why a bath is good for us at bedtime and why it can influence us feeling sleepy. When your little one steps out of the bath, their core temperature of their body drops, very slightly, but this small change is pretty mighty in the sleep process. When our core temperature drops the production of melatonin, our sleepy hormone increases, therefore making us feel sleepy and ready for bed. So bath time is really important. Our tip would be for the bath not to be longer than 10 minutes.
4.From the bathroom go straight to the bedroom your little one is sleeping in. Don’t be persuaded used to go back downstairs to the hustle and bustle.Share a lovely story, massage or calm music. Whatever combination of these, it really does work in helping with sleep. Massage isn’t just for babies, children love the relaxing feel of a massage, and even if is only a gentle rubbing of the feet!
5.NO SCREEN TIME. For at least one hour before bedtime turn ipads, phones, computers, TV off. We really do say no TV in bedrooms. You may be aware of the blue light. This is emitted from electronic gadgets. It can stimulate the brain and inhibits the sleepy hormone Melatonin. By doing this it tricks the brain into thinking it is daylight. Night-lights can have the same effect of the brain. Any white, blue or green night will effect the secretion of melatonin and trick the brain into thinking it is daylight.
6.Be consistent, but not rigid, life isn’t like that.
7.Bedtime is a great opportunity for you to spend that extra time together. It is so tempting at times to rush bedtime, to miss out a few stages, but if you can follow the process, we promise, it is one of the keys to successful sleeping. Try and make it relaxing, calm and pleasurable. I know we make it sound so easy.