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Establishing a Soothing Bedtime Routine for Your Baby

Creating a bedtime routine for your baby can significantly improve their sleep and overall wellbeing. A good routine is simple, consistent, realistic, and achievable for parents, while being soothing, pleasant, and reassuring for the baby. Here’s how you can establish a calming bedtime ritual for your little one.

Why Routine Matters
In the early weeks and months, it may be challenging to maintain a regular bedtime sequence. However, by around 3 months of age, your baby will start associating certain activities with bedtime. By 6 months, a well-established routine can help your baby wind down and prepare for sleep. As your baby grows, adjustments may be needed, but keeping a consistent routine is key.

Tips for a Peaceful Bedtime Routine

Quiet Wind-Down Period: Allow at least 20 minutes of quiet time before bed. This helps reduce stress and prepares your baby for sleep.
Calm and Relaxed Atmosphere: Make bedtime as calm as possible. A warm bath can help relax your baby, and the cooler air afterward can trigger the sleep mechanism.
Special Night Clothes: Dress your baby in clothes that are only used at night to signal that it’s time to sleep.
Quiet Snuggles and Stories: Snuggle quietly with your baby or read a gentle story. Avoid overstimulation to help your baby settle down.
Key Words: Use words like "Bedtime" or "Night-night" to help your baby associate these cues with sleep.
Massage: Offer a gentle massage, but wait 30 minutes after a feed or bath. Massaging your baby’s feet can stimulate the secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
Recognising Signs of Tiredness
Look for signs that your baby is ready for sleep, such as a soft intermittent ‘Owh’ sound, fussing, gaze aversion, unfocused eyes, touching the ears, and yawning. A top tip is to put your baby down when her fists are uncurled, as tightly clenched fists can indicate she’s not ready to sleep.

Sleep Techniques
Different sleep techniques can help your baby settle down:

Controlled Crying Method: This involves saying "Goodnight" and leaving the room. If your baby is still crying after ten minutes, check on her without picking her up or talking. While some parents find this method difficult, others may see positive results.

Parent Soothing or Gradual Retreat Method: Gradually separate from your baby over time. Start by stroking her or placing a hand on her until she falls asleep, then gradually move away from the cot over the next few weeks until she can fall asleep on her own.

Whatever method you choose, ensure you feel comfortable and confident. Babies can sense stress, which can make them more agitated and unsettled.

Co-Sleeping Considerations
Co-sleeping is common in many cultures but comes with considerations. Ensure a safe sleep environment to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS):

Avoid co-sleeping if your baby is premature or of low birth weight.
Do not co-sleep if you’ve consumed alcohol, taken drugs or medications, or are extremely tired.
Ensure the sleeping surface is firm and flat. Avoid soft mattresses, waterbeds, and sofas.
Keep the area free of pillows, blankets, and loose bedding that could obstruct your baby’s breathing.

Time Change Reminder

As the end of October approaches, remember that the clocks go back, which might temporarily disrupt your baby’s routine. Maintaining consistency will help them adjust smoothly.

A well-established bedtime routine can make a world of difference for both you and your baby. By keeping things simple and consistent, you create a reassuring environment that helps your baby sleep better. Enjoy these special moments and watch your baby drift off to a peaceful sleep, night after night.

Adapted from Dr Lin Day's article Baby Sleep (2009 and updated in 2021)


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