Whether you’re using a self-soothing method or another no-tears technique, parents must understand the importance of developing a bedtime routine first. It helps you win half the battle if you could somehow communicate with your baby what to expect next, and you get just that by having a consistent bedtime ritual. Babies really do appreciate the consistency and predictability of a good bedtime routine. They need to feel relaxed and be in an environment that tells them it’s time to sleep. It is important to find a right bedtime routine for your baby as early as you possibly can. Aim to have a pattern established by the time your baby is about 8 weeks old.
For a sleep routine to be successful, you need to ensure that it is short and simple. Once again, a 20-minute routine will suffice, and it could be as simple as first a warm bath and then diaper and jammies followed by a story in the rocking chair.
However, the fact is that different babies have different sleep needs, so you have to find a combination of what seems best for your baby.
The Feeding Schedule
With newborns, it’s all about calories and getting their tummies full. Newborns need a set amount of calories a day. We can eat three meals a day and get all the calories we need to sustain us throughout the night without us waking up hungry at some point during the night.
Infants, on the other hand, need to eat throughout the night because they haven’t reached enough calories and need to eat more. One of the reasons they have to eat so often is because their stomachs are so tiny at this point in development. If their stomachs were larger, they wouldn’t need to eat as often because they would be able eat more in one sitting like us. As your baby gets older, s/he will eat more and it will sustain them for longer periods of time.
When you first bring your baby home, you’ll find that your baby probably wants to eat every two to three hours, both morning and at night. Most pediatricians will recommend that you let your baby dictate when s/he wants to eat for the first few weeks.
After the first few weeks, however, you can start to implement more of a regulated feeding schedule. If you really want your baby to sleep through the night, feed your baby more often during the day. In this manner, s/he will not need to eat as often during the night. Even if your baby isn’t crying or signaling to you that they want to eat, feed them anyway.
At first, they may not eat much, but eventually they will grow accustomed to the feeding schedule and will start to eat more and more at each feeding and less during the night. Below is a feeding schedule you can try out. According to this schedule, you would be feeding your baby every 2 ½ hours starting at 7:30 AM.
The feedings will be at:
7:30 AM, 10:00 AM, 12:30 PM, 3:00 PM, 5:30 PM, 8:00 PM, 10:30 PM, and so on.
Let your baby feed for as long as s/he wants if you are breastfeeding, and if you are bottle feeding, prepare plenty of formula. You will quickly learn how much s/he will drink each time. If your baby is napping during a scheduled feeding time, wake them up. You will be grateful later during the night when they sleep longer.
Some moms even shorten the time period to 2 hours; however, some babies struggle to eat that frequently. You can try both to determine what works best for you and your baby.
Feeding schedules are rigorous, and you will feel like you are feeding your baby constantly at first. And realistically, it doesn’t leave you with much time to get other things done. For instance, if you need to go to the grocery store, you’ll feed your baby and have to run quickly in order to make it back in time for their next feeding time. Eventually, as your baby grows older, you can stretch the times to three hours but only as their stomach grows bigger and they can handle more milk or formula.
By giving them as much milk or formula as they can eat throughout the day, you increase the likelihood of them staying asleep longer during the night without needing to eat. At first, they will probably still need at least one or two feedings during the night because their stomach is still so small, but compare that to waking every two or three hours to eat. You will get stretches of four hours or more after just a few days of implementing a strong feeding schedule.
Help Your Baby Get Rid of Pent-Up Energy
After some time has passed since they were fed and burped, your baby will sleep better at night if you help them get rid of any pent-up energy in their system. Different activities will help you achieve this task. You can help them dance a bit to the tune of a catchy song, let them bounce in their bouncer, or even give your little one a “horsey” ride. These types of activities will leave your baby feeling more relaxed before bedtime if they are followed by calmer and quieter activities such as giving them a bath or reading them a storybook.
Give Your Baby a Warm Bath
A bath will go a long way in making your baby feel relaxed, especially after a few hours of play. Let your baby sit in warm water for a soothing experience. Recent research conducted in the UK reveals that almost 60% of babies have a bath every night, with all of them spending an average of 15 minutes in the water. However, if you happen to notice signs indicating that your baby is irritated or even too excited during baths, you may be better off leaving this activity out of your bedtime ritual.
Wash Your Baby’s Hands and Face
When a bath is out of the question, you can include washing in your routine. Start by washing your baby’s face and hands. Afterwards, brush their teeth a bit — the earlier they get used to that, the better. Lastly, a diaper change may also give your baby a signal that it’s time to sleep.
Give Your Baby Verbal Reassurance
You can simply have a quick chat with your little man or girl before you put them in their crib for sound, restful sleep. Talking to your baby will be a relaxing experience not only for your baby but for you as well.
Read a Bedtime Story
Get a storybook with colorful pictures. You can lay your baby in their crib and gently rock it from side to side while you read for a few minutes. It is a good idea to start this routine when your baby is as young as 8 weeks.
Say Goodnight to Their Favorite Toys
Walk around with your baby in your arms and say goodnight to his or her favorite toys or objects. It’s an interesting activity to include in the bedtime routine, and many parents have found it quite effective because babies enjoy being carried.