When parents first start to look for solutions for their baby’s sleep problems the first place they look is the internet. The number one (usually) recommendation that comes up for just about any age group is to put your child on a consistent bedtime routine.
There’s a reason that this is one of the most common recommendations – it’s because it’s effective! A bedtime routine is a key in teaching your baby how to transition from wake time to sleep and important to teach predictability. This is applicable to any age group, including adults. And a routine can be easily taught and utilized, even with newborns!
We all do (or should do) things in the same order before bed. Without them, we might find it a bit more difficult to sleep that night. Humans, especially little ones, do better and are more comfortable with routine. Even when my husband and I have had a late night out, I still stick to my routine. But, maybe I read my book for just 5 minutes rather than 20 before tucking in for the night. I know that I can fall asleep easier and it gives my body time to wind down. This is so important for children as well.
But, there is one mistake that parents make.
Most of the time people skip right over this recommendation, or claim that they’ve tried it with no success. Because we’ve heard it so much, it sometimes can fall on deaf ears. The reason it doesn’t work is because the biggest mistake that parents make is they let the baby fall asleep at some point in the routine!
Let’s take a fairly typical routine for a baby: baby gets their bath, mom puts on a fresh diaper, and gets baby dressed in their PJs. After reading a book, baby is fed. This is where the trouble begins – that baby falls asleep while being breast or bottle fed.
When a parent goes to feed the baby for the night, chances are they turn off the lights and get baby nice and comfortable. Who wouldn’t want to sleep in that situation? And in basically all cases a baby will fall asleep during that final feed. Parents shouldn’t be surprised when 45 minutes after they have put baby into the crib for the night that baby is crying and awake again. That’s when it starts to become a cycle.
Let me state though: it is totally okay to feed your baby before they go to sleep. But you cannot allow them to start that transition to sleeping while they are eating. What might this look like? Droopy eyes or heavy blinking, nodding off a bit, maybe even bobbing off and on the breast or bottle.
My recommendation is to try and keep your baby up and aware so that they learn that eating is just a step in the bedtime routine. If you have a baby already reliant on feeds to sleep, move the feed earlier into the routine. Read AFTER a feed, sit your baby up a bit and sing a song in order to break the habit.
Once the routine is over, put your baby in the crib awake. For babies, they have the best chance of sleeping well and independently if you do this on a consistent basis. So, take a close look at your baby’s routine and make sure to keep your baby awake. Make sure that they are not falling asleep while being rocked, held, cradled etc. during the routine. Once this change is made, it’s only a matter of time until your little one is sleeping great!