How To Create A Calming Bedtime Routine for Babies

How To Create A Calming Bedtime Routine for Babies

Establishing a nighttime 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 nighttime 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 nighttime 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 nighttime 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 recognise 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 nighttime 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 nappy and sleepsuit. 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 recognise and anticipate bedtime.

Sleep expert Cara Treadwell has some great tips on the perfect sleep routine here


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.
  • Nappy Change: Babies may wake up due to discomfort from a wet or soiled nappy, 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 cosy 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 Dummy: Offering a dummy can provide comfort and may help calm a fussy baby. However, be sure to not introduce a dummy 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 dummy. 
  • Check Basic Needs: Ensure your baby isn't hungry, in need of a nappy change, or uncomfortable ie. too hot or cold before attempting to soothe them back to sleep.

Baby nighttime 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 nighttime feed. Some babies might drop the night feed by six months altogether! You can also dream feed your little one - you can read more about how to dream feed here?


Tips for handling nighttime feedings

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


  • Prepare Supplies: Keep nappies, wipes, and a changing mat or pad handy by the bedside. Having everything within arm's reach can save time and effort during night time nappy changes.
  • Change Nappies on the Bed: Instead of heading to a separate changing table, consider changing the baby's nappy on your bed. Lay down a waterproof 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 nappy changes without fully waking up the baby. Opt for a gentle, warm-coloured light to avoid overstimulation.
  • Prep Feeding Supplies: If you're using follow-on formula or expressed breast milk, prepare feeding supplies in advance. Have ready-to-feed formula and a sterilised bottle nearby, or keep a flask of hot boiled water and pre-measured formula powder for quick mixing.
  • Minimise Stimulation: Keep interactions with the baby calm and minimal during nighttime 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 the Lullaby Trust, who have put together some great guidelines for you to follow that can help create a safe sleep environment for your baby. The main ones are:

 

  • Lie baby on their back
  • Keep the cot 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 GP. They can rule out any underlying issues and offer tailored advice.


Navigating your newborn's sleep can be challenging, but establishing a consistent nighttime 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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