Bedtime for a newborn is every parent's dream and nightmare, wrapped into one. It's nice to think about all of that free time you're going to have, right? Oh wait . . . someone has to actually get the baby to sleep first. They say bedtime routines are the key to getting your kids to sleep, but are there any bedtime routines for newborns that actually work?
A lot of my daughter's newborn period is blurred in my memories, but I do remember the bedtime struggles. Those first few weeks were awful. I remember dreading the moment it got dark outside because I knew the rest of the world would be sleeping while I was exhausted, trying to figure out how to make a baby sleep. During one terrible night, I fell asleep with my daughter on my chest and dreamt that she had rolled off of me, face-down onto the floor. It was terrifying and I knew then that I had to figure out some kind of bedtime routine.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, it's important to recognize your newborn's sleepy cues in order to encourage nighttime sleeping. Because babies sleep whenever they want during those first couple of months, it can seem harder than ever to get them in a consistent bedtime routine. But the earlier you start some of these seven bedtime routines for newborns, the better everyone will sleep.
1. Keep The Routine In Their Bedroom
Babies love routine, whether they think they do or not, and it can help to start whatever bedtime activities you want in their bedroom. According to Parents, staying in the room also means that your baby will associate the activities with sleep and will know that it's time for bed when you begin the routine.
2. Turn On A White Noise Machine
Although the volume level of white noise machines has been up for discussion, Dr. Harvey Karp told CNN that white noise is "the teddy bear of sounds" and should be left on all night so your baby's sleep isn't disturbed by any other noises. I take my daughter's sound machine every where she goes and I am convinced it's one of the reasons she sleeps so well.
Nothing is cuter than a baby burrito all swaddled in a blanket except for a sleeping baby burrito all swaddled in a blanket. If you aren't sure where to start with your newborn's bedtime routine, start with swaddling. Dr. Harvey Karp wrote for Huffington Post that swaddling reduces two things — persistent crying and poor sleep. I could swaddle my daughter anywhere and she would be asleep moments later. It's a healthy sleep association that worked until she could roll over to sleep on her stomach and I would do it a million times over. Start it at the beginning of bedtime and your baby will associate that feeling with sleep.
4. Keep It Simple
You don't have to go over-the-top with your bedtime routine. According to the National Sleep Foundation, it's not what you do during the routine, but how you do it. Keep the routine simple, with just one book or a few minutes rocking in the chair, so your little one can easily drift off to sleep.
5. Gentle Swinging
Ever wondered why your baby falls asleep as soon as the car starts moving or when you head on a walk? Your baby moved a lot while you were pregnant, and the motion can leave them feeling very sleep. According to Baby Center, Dr. Harvey Karp recommends holding your swaddled baby and making small, rapid movements, like swinging in your arms to help calm them down and get them sleepy. It is incredibly comforting for babies and a sweet bonding moment for you, too.
6. Keep All The Lights In The House Dim
It's hard to go, go, go, and then suddenly expect your baby to go right to sleep. According to Huffington Post, darkness and dim lights make you feel sleepy, so it makes sense to spend the 30 minutes before bedtime keeping the house lights low and creating a calm, soothing environment.
7. Build A Routine Around Your Baby's Sleepy Cues
If you're forcing a bedtime routine at 6 p.m., but your child doesn't have a long stretch of sleep until 9 p.m. you're in for some heartache. Remember, this is a newborn. They aren't necessarily going to sleep all night or be ready for a few hours of sleep at 7:30 like a 3-year-old might be. What to Expect suggests watching your baby's sleep cues to see their longest stretch of sleep, whether it's from 7 p.m. to midnight or 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Once you recognize the time frame, start bedtime about 30 minutes before then. This way, your baby is already getting sleepy and will associate the routine with feeling drowsy.