Inside: If you struggle to get your baby to sleep despite reading all the “best baby sleep tips” on the internet, use this one simple method to teach your baby how to sleep so you can dig into your secret chocolate stash before they day is over.
A river of tears flowed freely down my cheeks. I checked the clock. 3 AM and still no signs of my son going to sleep.
I propped him up on one side of the couch while I sat back and buried my head in my hands.
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What am I doing wrong?
He’s not hungry, his diaper is dry, and he definitely isn’t under-tired. Why won’t he go to sleep?
And why didn’t I invest in The Nested Bean Zen Sack when I first heard about it?
In my little “mommy community” I heard of other moms who had their babies sleeping through the night months prior. Why couldn’t I even get my son to go to sleep? Even just for 20 minutes?
Discouragement, defeat, and extreme exhaustion gripped my entire body.
So THIS is what it’s like to be a mom. This is what all those great parenting books forget to warn me about.
I shrugged it off as best I could and accepted the fact that this is what my life was going to be like for the next several years. Millions of moms had survived this whole sleeplessness stage of their own in the past, so I could too.
“Mothers really underestimate the importance of getting enough sleep, sleep deprivation has so many serious consequences for their health and their families.” – Web MD (Jodi Mindell, author of Sleep Deprived No More: From Pregnancy to Early Motherhood-Helping You and Your Baby Sleep Through the Night)
An Unfortunate Side Effect of Not Getting Enough Sleep
With the diaper bag hanging off one side and a baby balanced on my other side, I walked out the door and buckled him into his car seat before heading off to run errands.
Arriving at the grocery store I immediately realized I did something wrong.
- I had grabbed the diaper bag but I had forgotten to restock the diapers
- I had no idea why I was at the store
Okay, I was at the store so at least problem number one could be solved by purchasing a box of diapers. But problem number two?
I was so sleep deprived my entire world was out of sorts. I was forgetting where I put stuff, missing important deadlines, dozing off at the wheel, and snapping at my husband and baby.
It was like my pregnancy hormones didn’t go away after giving birth and the postpartum period. They went on steroids.
“Not getting enough sleep really affects your ability to function,” says Mindell. “You’re more likely to make mistakes when you’re tired. You’re more likely to slip and fall, or cut yourself when chopping vegetables, or forget to fasten the straps of your baby’s high chair.” WebMD
This whole lack of sleep situation wasn’t just affecting me, either. It was negatively affecting my entire family.
Because I was always tired I would snap easily, I had no patience, most days ended – and started – in tears, and I was seriously questioning whether or not I was made to be a mother.
I was a less-than-desirable wife and a crummy mom.
Something Needed to Change
I wasn’t proud that I kept losing my cool over the smallest things. Or that misery had gripped the very moments that I was supposed to be treasuring.
“Treasure these moments. They grow so fast.” an elderly lady would gently tell me while I balanced a wiggly, cranky, and tired 15-pound baby on my hip that was about as easy to carry as a greased up water balloon.
Hearing that only made me feel worse. I wondered why every other mom seemed to be rocking motherhood.
Why couldn’t I be like that? Why do my days always start and end in tantrums – both from me and the baby? Why don’t these sleep tricks work for us?
I knew I couldn’t continue like this. It was lousy for me, my marriage, and my child. I needed to make a change, and I knew it.
It had to be possible to get my baby who attested sleep to start to sleep longer without the tears, crying, and defeat every. single. time.
But everything I had tried this far, none of the baby sleep books written by baby sleep experts worked for us.
I didn’t realize until after months of failing to get my baby to sleep, the reason why it wasn’t working for me was because I was missing the bigger picture.
The Real Issue With Baby Sleep Problems
First, I tried reading every book and article I could get my hands on about baby sleep and creating the “perfect” bedtime routine for your baby. Then I tried fixing my son’s sleep problems by giving him everything and anything he wanted. I even tried filling the gaps with baby sleep crutches to help him snooze.
Some of the tips I learned helped a little bit, for a little while. Some of the sleep crutches even seemed to help – for about five minutes. But still the problem remained: no one in the house was getting sleep which caused a constantly overtired and cranky baby, a grumpy mom, and an exhausted and stressed-out father.
So I decided to stop doing what I was told was the “right” thing to do and start listening to my baby, which made me realize that this whole time I’d been trying to cover up our baby sleep problem by using temporary fixes for the problem on the surface: lack of sleep. For months I had been missing the bigger picture.
The real problem? There was too much going on.
Sensory overload is one of the most common causes of unsettledness in babies. However as parents we tend to focus on ‘physical’ reasons as to why our baby is distressed rather than considering our baby is simply overstimulated and as a result overtired. – Fiona O’ Farrell
As an adult, sleep deprivation often leads to irritability, exhaustion, and an inability to focus. The same is true for an overstimulated and overtired baby.
How Overstimulation is Hurting Our Babies
The way my body reacted when it went into a state of extreme sleep deprivation wasn’t unique. Mothers all over the world are, and have been, and will continue to, experience the same state of sleep deprivation, along with the same side effects.
Studies show that it can take a baby up to six months before they can adopt a sleep schedule that is remotely “normal”. Which means, that’s a lot of sleepless nights for not only baby, but mom too.
But here I was, struggling with an 8-month-old who detested sleep. He was beyond the age of when he should have been into a normal sleep schedule, yet I was stuck wondering why my baby doesn’t sleep through the night.
It took me some time to realize, but eventually I finally got it. My baby wasn’t doing this because he hated sleep – or because he hated me – he struggled to sleep because there was WAY too much stuff going on.
When I stopped to really think about this, it made perfect sense.
I was so busy trying to entertain him during the day to help him differentiate daytime from the nighttime, that he was getting overstimulated and flat out confused.
Baby’s brains develop more and faster in the first 5 years of their life than at any other point, which means that laid back dinner party you were at where 10 different ladies took turns cuddling your baby all evening may have seemed to be relaxed to you – but to your baby, the number of new sensations he was feeling was overwhelming and caused his brain to become overloaded.
By stuffing my son’s daytime with activities to keep him occupied and in an attempt to help him learn that during the day we stay awake was actually damaging his ability to sleep.
“Overstimulated children get tired and can feel overwhelmed. When this happens, they need quiet time and a familiar, calm environment.” – Raising Children
The problem was, I didn’t know my son was overstimulated.
What I failed to realize was that coming from the womb where for 9 months the only sensations he experienced were was used to were repeated day after day.
Outside the womb, every little thing was a whole new experience and sensation. A new toy, music, new voices. Everything he was experiencing was causing his senses to go wild.
When he would get overstimulated he was unable to fall asleep because his mind was overwhelmed and wound up.
The tipping point for me was learning that too much overstimulation can be harmful to a child’s physical and cognitive development.
Here’s the Best Way for How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Better
Still, it’s not like it’s good to cut stimulation out of a babies life. That’s how they develop and grow their brain.
“In the first years of a baby’s life, the brain is busy building its wiring system. Activity in the brain creates tiny electrical connections called synapses. The amount of stimulation an infant receives directly affects how many synapses are formed. Repetitive and consistent stimulation strengthens these connections and makes them permanent. Those connections that don’t get used may be dropped away.” – CCHP
So if cutting stimulation out wasn’t the answer to solving our baby sleep problems and getting our baby to sleep through the night, what was?
Thankfully, I found the one magic solution that solved our infant sleep problems and helped our baby learn how to sleep: a flexible bedtime routine for babies.
If you haven’t heard much about bedtime routines for babies before, or maybe you have but always thought they were a bunch of fluff, here’s the real deal: Babies thrive on repetition and routine. Routine enables a baby to know what to expect, allowing them to prepare their body for what comes next.
Following a consistent bedtime routine and a consistent daytime routine was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for us. Our routine allowed my son to prepare his body for bedtime and helped him wind down from an overwhelming day, which helped him start to fall asleep on his own and helped him sleep longer at night and nap times.
A bedtime routine was the answer we had been waiting for, and the lack of one was the very reason for all of the baby sleep struggles we faced.
Why a Bedtime Routine is the Perfect Solution for a Baby Who Won’t Sleep
When I first came across the idea of starting a bedtime routine for my baby, I was skeptical. I had heard all the things about bedtime routines for kids – both good and bad.
I’d heard that if I were to start one and not stick to it, I was setting my child up for failure. On the flip side, I had also heard that if my child didn’t have a bedtime routine, I could kiss sleep goodbye forever (or, at least, for the next 12 years).
At this point, I felt like I had tried everything possible for how to get my baby to sleep better. Everything.
In fact, I had even tried using a bedtime routine in the past and it failed miserably. The problem I ran into was thinking that the perfect bedtime routine for babies (and the only routine that would give me my sleep back) needed to be some big, elaborate, and fancy ordeal that took upwards of an hour.
Needless to say, the routine lasted about a day. When day 2 hit, something came up that hindered our evening and made it way too late to start our bedtime routine.
Day 3? I tried, but after 10 minutes of trying to get a screaming baby to sit still and listen to the final half of the Jonah story, I gave up.
But after taking a step back and reading about the benefits of a bedtime routine for baby (from the experts), I decided to give it another go. Check it out for yourself:
- A good routine gives babies and toddlers a sense of security. Routines help young babies and children gain a sense of understanding and stability of the happenings in their environment.
- Bedtime routines allow babies to prepare themselves for what comes next. After a busy day, a bedtime routine will help the baby to decompress and calm down, preparing their bodies for sleep.
- A solid routine fosters a sense of independence in children. In a world where babies and children rely solely on their parents to show them what comes next, a routine allows the child to think independently and know what comes next before it’s happening.
- Consistent routines will positively impact a child’s cognitive development. As the routine starts, babies and toddlers will begin to put the puzzle pieces together in their brain, anticipating the next step and engaging with their environment.
- Better, longer sleep. Studies have found that the more nights a week a bedtime routine was conducted, the better babies will sleep.
- Positive social interactions. A healthy bedtime routine leads to better sleep, and better sleep leads to quicker development and better social interactions (and, in older kids, less problems at school).
- I was surprised to learn that a healthy bedtime routine also increases the ability to regulate emotions and behavior in children.
- A study shows that infants with a consistent bedtime routine resulted in significantly reduced problematic sleep behaviors.
- Reduces fussiness and produces an all-round happier, more content baby.
Download: The Calm Mom Checklist
How to Get Started With a Flexible Bedtime Routine For Babies That Will Instantly Help Them Sleep Better
You can keep your baby’s nighttime routine short and sweet, or you can go for more of a structured bedtime routine to help your baby sleep that takes a bit more time. It’s completely up to you, so go through the steps below and choose the system that resonates with you.
Below, I’ve tried to cover every important factor for creating a successful bedtime routine for babies, so it may look like a lot but remember – you can keep your routine as simple as you’d like.
For us, we chose a sleep routine for babies that takes no longer than 15 minutes. This way we can be consistent with our baby’s bedtime routine even if time slips away from us and we don’t start the routine until past his normal bedtime.
If you create one routine and find after a week or so that it’s just not working – for baby or you – switch it out and make another routine that’s a bit different until you find the one that works.
Quick tip: For the best results with your baby’s bedtime routine for better sleep, it’s important to remember to keep the routine structured, but with room to change. You don’t want your baby’s bedtime routine to be so structured that if you can’t do it exactly, you won’t do it at all. You want to be able to create a solid routine that’s easy to do, won’t take too much time, and sustains changes.
1. Observe Your Baby
Approximate time requirement: 15 minutes – 1 hour (5 individual times)
Before you get gung-ho and go out and make a bedtime routine for your baby, you’ll be thankful you took time to complete this step and learn what your baby’s natural routine already is.
I didn’t even think about doing this step the first time I tried to learn how to get our baby to sleep longer by using a nighttime routine, so I found myself frustrated night after night wondering why my baby’s bedtime routine wasn’t working. I wasted many weeks trying to force a routine on all of us that clearly didn’t work for us.
But, I was told that this nighttime routine we were forcing on ourselves and our baby was the “perfect bedtime routine for babies” and it would solve all our baby sleep problems… so I kept shoving it down our throats hoping something good would come of it.
Nothing ever did.
Unless you count learning a lesson something good, then it was definitely worthwhile.
Save yourself the grievance and take a couple evenings this week to observe your baby. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy or structured.
In fact, you’ll get the best results when you sit back quietly and let your baby do their own thing without interfering. Sit down in the evening and before naps and watch what your baby’s natural routine is and the way he or she reacts to different situations during this time.
To help you out with this step, you can grab and read Happiest Baby on the Block to learn more about your baby’s natural routines, what they’re feeling, and how you can create the best bedtime routine for your baby.
Note: During this time of allowing your baby to explore while you watch and learn, don’t be afraid to experiment with different toys and sensations.
Here are a few things you can use and put out for your baby to explore while you see what he’s drawn to and which things just make him frustrated:
- A toy car
- A sound machine
- I Love You to the Moon & Back (or any book)
- Bath toys
- A glow ball
- Geo Blocks
- WubbaNub Pacifier
- Stuffed animals
Quick tip: You should spend time observing your baby’s behavior at least 5 different times before bedtime and naptime, this will help you gain a better understanding of your baby’s natural responses to different things.
2. Write Down What You Learn
Approximate time requirement: 15 minutes – 1 hour (5 individual times)
Each time you observe your baby, have a notebook and pen in hand to write down the things you learn. Relying on your memory is not the best idea when it comes to creating a personalized bedtime routine to help your baby sleep better.
This routine is supposed to be personalized to your baby – not some generic routine you found on the internet.
And because this routine you’re creating is personalized to your baby, you’re on track to getting the best possible results from a bedtime routine, as well as the most possible sleep.
Observing and documenting my baby’s behavior was my favorite part of creating a personalized bedtime routine for baby because it allowed me to just sit there and watch what he did naturally. I got to see what he was drawn to when his brain wasn’t being overloaded with sensory activity.
This step helped me really learn and make sense of why my baby struggled to sleep and what I could do to help him learn how to sleep better.
A few things you’ll want to be watching for and documenting while you observe your baby are…
- Approximately how much time does it take for your baby to go from showing signs of being tired to being overtired and cranky?
- What are your baby’s sleep signs?
- At what time of the day/evening does your baby start showing signs of sleepiness?
- Does baby like to be active during the time leading up to falling asleep, or is he more docile at this time?
- Does your baby want to be cuddled, or does he take in every spare minute of playtime?
- How does your baby react to music and noise during the time between his first signs of sleepiness and bedtime? Does he get frustrated, or does he calm down?
- What types of things cause your baby to become overstimulated and irritated?
- Is he happier when the room is darker or when it’s brighter?
3. Create Your Baby’s Bedtime Routine
Approximate time requirement: 15 minutes
At this point, you’ve been watching your baby and learning all of his different quirks. You’ve learned what he likes, what sets him off, and how he reacts to things differently when he’s tired versus when he’s well-rested.
Now it’s time to take all that knowledge and put it to work.
Sit down with a piece of paper and pen in hand and start creating your baby’s personalized bedtime routine.
An example of a bedtime routine for babies is as follows, but remember to personalize your baby’s bedtime routine to what they like. If your baby is drawn to books and loves to look at the pages, be sure to incorporate 2 or 3 books into your baby’s bedtime routine (this is our top pick for bedtime).
On the other hand, if your baby is squirmy and just can’t sit still for very long, incorporate only one short story into your baby’s bedtime routine as to not upset them (but to still read to them, because reading to babies is very important).
Now comes the fun part: Personalizing it.
The great part of creating a personal bedtime routine is that you get to fill it with all of your baby’s favorite things and make it something they look forward to night after night.
Don’t panic if you don’t know what to incorporate into your baby’s schedule or in what order to do it all in. The adjusting comes in the next step.
4. Fine Tune It
Approximate time requirement: 1 week+
If after a week of using the bedtime routine you’ve created for your baby nothing has changed for the better, it’s time to fine-tune the routine and find the problem areas.
Maybe you find your baby is getting inconsolably fussy by the time the routine is done and won’t settle for bed. In that case, you’ll want to take a few steps out of the bedtime routine to make it shorter or start the whole routine earlier.
Maybe you find your baby is still wound up after creating the bedtime routine. In that case, try dimming the lights and turning on the sound machine earlier in the routine to allow more time for your baby to unwind.
That’s the great part about this perfect bedtime routine for babies – it’s personalized to your baby specifically.
You can find hundreds of different generic routines for babies on the internet. But the problem with those is that every baby is so different. There’s no one perfect routine for EVERY baby.
Since each and every baby is so different, they require different steps to wind down from the day.
Some babies require more time, while others require less. Some babies will require a more hands-on approach with their bedtime routine, while other babies prefer to have their space.
How your baby’s bedtime routine looks all depends on your baby.
Note: When you’re trying out the bedtime routine, use the routine for at least 5 days before deciding whether or not it’s the right routine for your baby. Babies take some time getting used to changes in their lifestyle, and starting a routine is a big change for them.
5. Conquer Bedtime With the Perfect Bedtime Routine For Your Baby + Be Consistent
Approximate time requirement: 10 – 45 minutes
By this point you’ve taken the time to learn your baby’s natural reaction to different settings, you’ve created and experimented with a couple of different nighttime routines, and you’ve taken a week or so to fine-tune the routine to make it the perfect bedtime routine for your baby.
Now it’s time to put that routine into action and use it to help your baby fall asleep easier (and sleep longer).
The first step in wrapping the process up is to take your baby’s bedtime routine and write it out nicely. You could do this on the computer or draw it out yourself on a piece of paper.
After you’ve got it looking all pretty, you can then either laminate it so it doesn’t get wrinkled and it lasts longer or you can use these paper sleeves.
Laminating or using paper sleeves for your baby’s bedtime routine allows you to be able to use a dry-erase marker and check each item off the list as you do it. This is a good way to get used to using and following the bedtime routine consistently, and makes sure you don’t leave anything out.
You should only have to do this for about a week – after that, you and your baby will both be a bedtime routine expert.
The repetitive nature of a parent’s exact actions before bed—in my case: talking in a soft voice, my son saying “goodnight”, closing the bedroom door, closing the blinds, and turning on the sound machine in the same order every night—is very powerful. It doesn’t matter that there’s no massage or books (we read every morning instead), what matters is that we created a reliable set of steps before bed that cue [their] brain and body that it’s time to sleep… you could stand on your head as the first step in your bedtime routine, as long as you do it every night. – National Sleep Foundation
Important Factors When it Comes to the Best Bedtime Routine For Babies:
As you craft and create your baby’s bedtime routine to extend baby night sleep (and nap times), you’ll want to ensure you’re including a few important factors to get the best results.
Anyone can set up a sleep routine for their baby. But not everyone can set up the right sleep routine for their baby.
- Be consistent
As you experiment with different routines to find the perfect bedtime routine for your baby, it’s important to be consistent. After you’ve established a bedtime routine and have been carrying it out for several weeks, there’s a bit of leeway. You can sometimes skip a step or two and your baby won’t mind. But for now, incorporating a new bedtime routine into your baby’s life is a big change, so do them a favor and be consistent with it. This is the only way they will truly be able to learn how to know what comes next.
- Don’t draw it out
Don’t make the sleep routine for baby longer than it needs to be. That’s like poking a cranky bear with a stick and expecting it to stay calm. Keep the routine as short and to the point as possible, this way you can keep your baby’s attention without them getting bored and grumpy.
- Establish a time to start the routine
For this step, you’ll need to start by establishing a bedtime for your baby. Again, after several weeks this can become a bit flexible, though a mostly-consistent bedtime is just as important as being consistent with the bedtime routine.
- Don’t rush it
If it’s later than expected and you decide to turn your baby’s normally 30-minute bedtime schedule into a 10-minute bedtime ritual, your baby will notice. If they notice you rushing, that you’re stressed, or that something’s off during their bedtime routine, it won’t bear the same results as normal. Your baby won’t be able to fully unwind and allow their body to prepare for sleep when you rush through the routine.
- Be flexible
After you’ve established your baby’s bedtime schedule, you can start to become flexible with it. If it’s late one night by the time you start the bedtime routine, you’ll be able to cut one or two normal steps out of the routine without it hindering your baby. Once your baby is used to the routine, as soon as you start the first step of dimming the lights, grabbing their bath towers, or reading their favorite bedtime story, they’ll know that it’s time to start unwinding and getting their body ready for sleep.
Common Questions About Baby Bedtime Routines + Answers For You
If you’re getting ready to start creating the best bedtime routine for your baby, odds are you have a few questions about how to make a bedtime routine work smoothly for you and your baby or kids.
Below, you’ll find the answers to these common questions parents have about getting started with a baby sleep routine and making it work so everyone is getting the sleep they need:
- How long should my baby’s bedtime routine take?
- What is a good bedtime routine for babies and kids, and will a “normal” bedtime routine work for my baby?
- What’s the best age to start a bedtime routine?
- How do I know if a bedtime routine isn’t working? (And how long should I try a bedtime routine before switching it out?)
- Should mom or dad do the baby’s bedtime routine?
- How can I get my baby on a sleep schedule and into a routine?
- What time should my baby go to bed?
- Does a bedtime routine help babies sleep longer?
- How do I know when my baby is tired? (+ baby sleep cues)
- How to calm an overstimulated baby for bedtime (+ signs of overstimulation in babies)
- Is it okay to use sleep crutches to help my baby sleep?
How long should a baby’s bedtime routine take?
There is no rule set in stone for how long a baby’s bedtime routine should be, it’s important to base it off of your baby’s temperament. How much time do you have between when you baby starts getting tired and when they become overtired?
Base the length of your baby’s bedtime routine off of how much time you have before they become overtired. Your safest bet is to keep the bedtime routine on the shorter side. It’s better to have a bedtime routine for your baby that’s short and sweet rather than one that is drawn out and causes them to become bored and cranky.
What is a good bedtime routine for babies and kids and will a “normal” bedtime routine work for my baby?
With thousands of different bedtime routines on the internet, it’s easy to opt for a pre-made, or generic, bedtime routine for your baby.
However, since every baby is different from the next, if you want a bedtime routine for your baby that works to its best potential, you’ll want to follow the 5 steps laid out above to create a personalized bedtime routine fit for your baby’s schedule, temperament, and personality.
The “one-size-fits-all” bedtime routine places all babies in the same category – assuming they all have the same attention span, the same personality, and like the same things. We know that’s not true.
Which is why a customized bedtime routine for your baby is so much fun – because you get to make it something special to and for your baby. Something fit just for them, filled with everything you know they love.
At what age should I start a bedtime routine with my baby?
Up until around 6 weeks, your baby’s internal clock is going to need some serious fine-tuning. At this young age, babies aren’t able to grasp the concept of a routine yet. You CAN start a bedtime routine right from birth with your baby, just don’t expect them to get the hang of it until they are around 6 – 8 weeks. At this age, you’ll find your baby starting to become receptive toward the routine.
How do I know if a bedtime routine isn’t working?
… and how long should I try a bedtime routine before switching it out?
You’ll know a bedtime routine isn’t working if after 5 – 7 days of using the routine consistently your baby (who is over 6 weeks old) is still wound up and fussy by the time they’re put to bed. If a bedtime routine IS working for your baby, you should be able to tell by them having some sense of predictability of what comes next, and they should start to show some signs of relaxation as soon as that routine starts.
Who should be in charge of a baby’s bedtime routine?
Both parents or caregivers should be equally involved in their baby’s bedtime routine. Try to leave the housework and other to-dos until after your baby is asleep. If that’s not feasible, try switching out from night to night, having mom do the baby’s bedtime schedule one night, and the next night dad does it.
The bedtime routine for baby is a time to relax, bond, and connect with your baby. It’s important that, if possible, both parents participate equally.
How can I get my baby on a sleep schedule/into a routine?
The best way to get your baby into a routine and establish a bedtime routine, as well as how to get a newborn on a sleep schedule is to be consistent. First, find a routine and schedule that works for both you and your baby, one that they enjoy and isn’t too long. Next, do it every single night.
Again, after several weeks of consistently implementing the routine, you will start to have some leeway and be able to be a bit more flexible with it. But until then, it’s important to stick to the routine every day exactly as it is, so that you are allowing your baby to be able to start to predict what comes next.
What time should my baby go to bed?
The younger a baby is, the later their bedtime will be. As your baby gets older, their bedtime should get earlier.
The average 3-month-old’s bedtime is around 9:30, with a 10-month-old’s bedtime being around 8:00. (Source)
Those are averages, though for your baby’s bedtime you will want to watch your baby. If they’re not tired when you’re putting them to bed, they’re waking about an hour after going down, and they wake up early the next day feeling well rested, your baby’s bedtime is probably too early.
On the other hand, if your baby is fussy when put to bed, wakes up after 30 minutes to an hour after going down, and is waking frequently throughout the night, their bedtime is likely too late.
Does a bedtime routine help babies sleep longer?
The short answer is absolutely. Since babies learn through actions long before they can comprehend the meaning of words, as soon as their bedtime routine starts, their body cues that it’s time for sleep, allowing them to prepare themselves for bedtime and relax.
On the other hand, if your baby is go-go-go all day and has no winddown time in the evening before going to bed, their sleep is more likely to be disrupted with frequent night wakings and increased fussiness.
How do I know when my baby is tired? What are the baby sleep signals?
Learning your baby’s sleep cues is an important part of a successful bedtime routine. Knowing your baby’s sleep signs means you’re able to get your baby ready for bed and asleep before they hit the point of overtired.
Here are some common baby sleep cues to watch out for:
- Rubbing eyes
- Rubbing/tugging ears
- Grunting and/or groaning
- Decreased movement
- Less interest in toys/people
- Glazed eyes
And here are some signs your baby is already overtired (these are the signs you want to avoid) :
- Increased fussing
How to calm down an overstimulated baby & signs your baby is overstimulated
When your baby becomes overstimulated it’s important to take some time to calm them down and help them unwind before placing them in bed.
This could simply be starting your baby’s bedtime routine and taking extra time on the most relaxing aspects of the routine (like their post-bath massage or nursing), or this could mean removing yourself and your baby from the overstimulating environment and simply rocking, cuddling, or walking with them until they start to relax.
Signs of overstimulation in babies:
- Increased fussiness
- Showing signs of being tired
- Crying more
- Turn her body/head away from you
- Waving her arms and/or kicking rigidly
- Jerky movements
- Clenching her fists
Can I use sleep crutches or sleep associations to help my baby sleep better?
You’re the parent, you’re the boss. You can do what you believe is best for your baby. However, do be careful as to not use too many sleep crutches. You don’t want your baby to become reliant on these to fall asleep, but they can be used in moderation to help your baby learn how to sleep (and then use of them can be stopped after your baby has learned how to sleep and self soothe).
The difference between positive and negative sleep associations are as follows…
A negative sleep association requires the parent to help baby fall asleep, like nursing baby to sleep, rocking or walking baby to sleep, holding baby’s hand until they fall asleep, etc.
On the other hand, a positive sleep association allows the baby to fall asleep on their own. This could be snuggling a lovey, kicking the crib mattress, rolling around, rocking back and forth, talking, etc.
An external sleep association is something that helps your baby sleep without requiring you or your baby to do anything.
A few positive and external sleep associations that will help your baby sleep better are:
- The Nested Bean Zen Sack
- A white noise machine
- Blackout shades
- Safe T Sleep Wrap
- A lovey
- Security blanket (if baby is over 1 year old)
The Perfect Bedtime Routine For Babies… Your Turn
What tips do you have for creating a successful bedtime routine that helps babies sleep longer, sleep better, and fall asleep faster? Share them in a comment below!