This week I want to talk about the bedtime routine and the number one mistake parents make when they are creating a bedtime routine.
Now, if you Google “my baby won’t sleep” or something similar in regards to sleep, almost every single site will tell you about the importance of a bedtime routine. And so will I! I think a bedtime routine is a crucial first step in creating predictability to your baby and teaching your baby that it’s time to make that transition from day into night.
Even adults have routines. We all do things in the same order before bed every night. I, for one, have to wash my face, brush my teeth and put on my pajamas. Without that routine, I end up feeling a little anxious or out of sorts, and it is harder for me to get to sleep. I think others would agree, so certainly routine are important for many of us. But parents often make one big mistake when it comes to their baby’s bedtime routine.
Most of the time parents skip right over that key tip. “Oh bedtime routine. Right, I already have one of those.” and they continue the search for the silver bullet to get their child to sleep. It’s because we’ve heard it so much, but the biggest mistake that parents make in that is that somewhere in the bedtime routine the baby sleeps!
For example, you’ve heard the baby should have a bath, so you are going to do a bath, you are going to put cute soft giraffe pajamas on your child, you are going to read a book maybe, and then you are going to do a feeding. There, right there, that’s the ticket.
You feed your baby to sleep, either on the breast or with the bottle.
Most people turn off the lights when it's feed time, they get the environment nice and cozy comfy, and then that’s your child’s cue that it is high time to start that journey into sleep. Zoom in-that is where you need to make your changes.
If you nurse or bottle feed your baby to sleep and then transfer them to the crib, well you are not going to have a baby that sleeps through the night, that’s for sure. You are probably going to find that 30 to 45 minutes later they are awake again, and you have got to start the process all over again. Sigh.
Bath, great; PJs, great; feeding fine. It’s totally acceptable to feed a baby before bed. In fact, I encourage it, but keep the lights on high enough that you can watch, and don’t let sleep start. Not even a wink.
Again, if you think of sleep as a journey, I don’t want you to allow your baby to start that journey. Starting a journey looks like dozing, some heavy blinking, closing the eyes, opening them, anything like that is the beginning of the journey, so don’t let that start! Pretend it’s a Freddy Kruger movie and whatever you do, don’t let your baby fall asleep!
Keep that baby’s eyes open so that they start to realize that food is a nice and lovely to fill their belly, but it is not for sleep. That part comes next.
If your baby has a very strong association between eating and sleeping, I suggest you break it up with an extra step even after the feed. Feed, sit baby up on your lap, maybe read a story together after the fact, just to break that connection a little bit further and to start to teach baby that there is no way or there is no reason to fall asleep while feeding.
Then your sweet baby should go into the crib awake. A frightening proposition I know, but that is the key. Put your baby into the crib awake. That is where you want to start their journey into sleep. To become a great sleeper and start sleeping through the night, we can teach you how to do that, but it is also the number one way your baby is going to learn the skills she or he needs.
Look at your bedtime routine closely. Even though you know you have one, you most likely had one since the baby was born, but you probably need to make a significant change to it. That is, to stop feeding your baby to sleep as part of the routine. Even rocking, you might have to say goodbye to any kind of rocking in the routine as well.