If you go to any baby site on the internet and search for “my baby won’t sleep,” or pretty much anything else with relation to getting a baby to sleep, almost every single site that you find will tell you about the importance of a bedtime routine. So will I.
Your baby’s bedtime routine is a crucial first step in creating predictability for your baby and teaching your baby that it’s time to make that transition from day to night. Establishing a good bedtime routine right from day one is a great way to help your baby recognise days and nights and start to consolidate nighttime sleep more quickly.
Even adults have routines. We all do things in the same order before bed every night. Without them, we would feel a little anxious or out of sorts, and it would be harder to sleep
Hearing about bedtime routines has become so monotonous that we have a tendency to skip over the details. The biggest mistake that parents make is that somewhere in the routine, the baby sleeps!
But isn’t that the point?
Well yes, but…. you know the baby should have a bath, so you do a bath, you get PJ’s on baby, maybe you to read a book and then you do a feed.
There, right there, that’s the snag. You feed your baby to sleep
Most people turn off the lights when it’s feed time which gets the environment nice and cozy and comfy and then that’s your child’s cue that it’s time to start the journey into sleep. This is where you need to make your changes.
If you breastfeed or bottle feed your baby to sleep and then transfer them to the crib then you’re not going to have a baby that sleeps through the night, that’s for sure. You’re probably going to find half an hour later, 45 minutes later they are awake again and you’ve got to start the process all over again.
Bath, great; PJs, great; feeding fine. It’s totally acceptable to feed a baby before bed. In fact, I encourage it but keep the lights on high enough that you can watch, keeping your baby alert.
Again if you think of sleep as a journey, I don’t even want you to allow your baby to start the journey. Starting a journey looks like doziness, drowsy, heavy blinking, closing the eyes, opening them, anything like that is the beginning of a journey, so don’t let that start!
Keep that baby’s eyes open so that they start to realise that food is a nice lovely step in the bedtime routine, but it is not for the purpose of sleep. That comes next.
If your baby has a really strong association between feeding and sleeping, I suggest you break it up with an extra step after the feed. Feed, sit baby up on your lap, maybe read a story together, just to break that connection a little bit further and to start to teach baby that there is no reason to fall asleep while feeding.
The baby should go into the cot awake. This is how you start The Sleep Sense Program. We’ll teach you how to do that but it’s also the number one way your baby is going to learn the skills she or he needs in order to become a great sleeper and start sleeping through the night.
So have a look at your bedtime routine. Even though you know you have one, you probably had one since the baby was born you may need to make a fairly significant change. That is, stop feeding your baby to sleep as part of the routine. Even rocking, you might have to say goodbye to any kind of rocking in the routine as well.