As a parent of a newborn, there’s a lot to learn. From feeding schedules and introducing solid foods to getting into a rhythm with naps, walking, daycare, and more, one of the most important things for both you and your child is establishing a newborn sleep schedule.
When your baby first comes home with you, you can’t really expect her to fall asleep at a time that’s convenient for you. Introducing a bedtime routine will take some work, but ultimately, will help her learn healthy sleep habits and help you maintain some sense of sanity as a new parent.
What Time Should Baby Go To Bed?
If babies head to bed too late, they may become overtired. Aim for a bedtime between 6:30 and 9 pm, and be sure to keep your bedtime routine relatively short.
Some signs your baby’s bedtime is too early:
- They lie awake for 30-60 minutes before falling asleep
- The baby doesn’t seem tired.
- He/she wakes up very early or in the middle of the night with a lot of energy.
If you think your child may be going to bed too early, try gradually increasing the bedtime routine by 15 minutes. Do this each night for a few nights in a row and see if anything changes.
On the flip side, your child might be going to bed too late if he/she exhibits the following signs:
- It takes your child more than 30 minutes to fall asleep (counter-intuitive, we know, but kids get a little wired when they are overtired).
- Your baby seems moody and falls asleep outside of naptime or bedtime hours.
- Naps are 2+ hours long
- She’s moody and irritable and falls asleep during the day in the car or stroller.
- Lots of yawning, eye-rubbing
Key Benefits of Establishing a Newborn Sleep Schedule
Okay, we’re talking about bedtime in general here, but routines in general matter a lot in the beginning stages of a child’s development.
The sooner you can get a routine in place, the better. While a newborn sleep schedule is somewhat erratic, your baby will start to get the hang of these established patterns between six and eight weeks.
Here are a few reasons why it’s important to get “baby’s first routine” right.
Routines Help Kids Stick to a Schedule
In the context of bedtime, establishing a routine helps kids fall asleep more easily. This way, you’re not getting shaken awake in the wee hours when you’d rather be sleeping yourself.
Aside from keeping everyone’s sanity intact, the bedtime routine lays the groundwork for other routines as the child gets older. Think–getting up for school each day, eating meals at the same times.
These are lifelong habits you’re establishing here. Take it seriously, and your baby will reap the benefits when they have babies of their own.
Routines Help You Connect with Your Child
That lullaby, that bedtime story, that time where you just talk to your baby about everything that happened that day? It’s all bonding. Savor these moments, and consider them exercises in connection.
When your routine becomes a habit, it becomes a special moment the parent and child can plan on.
The Routine Teaches Your Baby the Difference Between Night and Day
As adults, the difference between night and day is pretty stark–enough to become a cliche. But, in the beginning, the newborn sleep schedule is all mixed up–perking up unpredictably when the sun goes down and sleeping for long portions of the day.
During the day, it’s best to keep things bright. Open the blinds and keep the lights on, which signals to the brain that it’s time to be awake.
At night, switch things up. Kep things quiet and use soft, dim lighting to light your home. Speak in soft tones and try to create a relaxing atmosphere and soon your baby will figure out that night is for sleeping.
Don’t Fret About Changes
Like all good things, a newborn sleep schedule changes and evolves. As your baby grows, you’ll find their sleep-related needs start to change. Don’t worry if your established routine starts to morph into something different.
Babies grow so much in their first year. They’ll learn to crawl and walk, and feeding schedules change, too.
Have Bathtime Right Before Bedtime
You might find that taking a hot shower helps you wind down and start getting ready for bed. Well, the same goes for babies. Give your baby a quick bath before bed.
The warm water is soothing and may help your little one relax into bedtime mode. That said, every baby is different. Some don’t love being in the bath, while others get a little too excited (not what you’re going for). If that’s the case, skip bathtime and settle on a different routine, like swaddling, for the time being.
Use this Time to Talk with Your Baby
No, most babies can’t talk back, but having a soothing, gentle conversation helps teach your baby vocabulary and provides a sense of calm and comfort before she goes to bed.
Play a Game
A rousing game of peek-a-boo or a ride in the swing can help babies get some of their energy out before it’s time to hit the hay.
Try to keep things relatively gentle, unless you plan on giving your baby a bath after play time. If things get too rowdy, it might make it harder to fall asleep.
Sing a Lullaby or Read a Bedtime Story
Again, early on, just hearing your voice can calm down active minds and soothe little ones to sleep. A bedtime song or a book like “Goodnight Moon” can be a quick, but special way to transition into sleepy time.
Mix Things Up
While babies aren’t too concerned about sameness, reading a story or playing the same game each night before bedtime might start to feel a little old to a toddler. Keep a fresh rotation of books on hand, try singing new songs. The routine doesn’t have to look the same to provide the wind-down effect needed.
Flexibility Is Important, Too
Try as you might, not every night actually will be the same. And that’s not a bad thing. Kids get sick, parents need to go out of town or work late here and there, and families go on vacations.
Some kids have trouble with coping with change, while others seem to have been born flexible. Make things easier by keeping parts of your routine consistent. A familiar stuffed animal or book from home can make an unfamiliar place seem safe while teaching grandma baby’s favorite lullaby can help them fall asleep when you’re not able to be there yourself.P
Plus, finding routine in the unexpected can help your kid deal with change, be more tolerant, and avoid becoming too rigid. Life’s all about balance, right?
Read more about taking care of your baby by checking out the Formuland blog.