When teaching our most important sleep strategies, I often stress the key strategy is to put baby to bed AWAKE. That is keep her awake right through to the end of bedtime routine and lay her in her crib awake, not even one bit drowsy. I say it time and time again, but in this case that old saying is true, "easier said than done". I'm sure you have seen it, baby is in the last step of the routine and struggling to keep her eyes open while taking her bottle. Her eyelids are so heavy-it seems like nothing can stop them. She is SO sleepy!
What can you do?
Well, that's a great question. Really, when you are working on helping your baby learn independent sleep skills, it is most important to be sure that you keep your baby wide awake through any and all feeds. Breastfed or bottle-fed the rule is the same
Nine times out of ten, the problem is all around the sleep prop of baby using a bottle or a breast as a crutch to make their journey into sleep. There is much concern around this because if you don't break the connection she has between the bottle/breast and sleep, it'll make the whole process harder.
This will cause night wakings and when she wakes up in the night, she will still have this idea that she needs a bottle in order to get back to sleep at night. Luckily there is a fix for this!
First and foremost, move the feed before bath in bedtime routine. Easy right? Most people have the feed as the last step. That spot in the routine can be really tricky and too close in proximity to sleep to ensure baby doesn't make that unwanted feed-sleep association .
If she's not napping great yet, then she could be really, really fatigued by bedtime. Then by the time she has had a bath, maybe gave her a massage and you've gotten her into pajamas, read some stories, and then offering a feed, she might be way too fatigued to even attempt to stay awake at the bottle.
This will cause a ton of effort on your part- your are tickling and talking to her and doing just about any crazy thing trying to keep her awake, and she's so tired she really can't help you out any. Her eyes are closing.
Try the feed first in the routine, then the bath and the jammies and then stories, and then bed. That will really help break any connection that she has that the bottle has anything to do with sleep.
If that seems like a bit too far up in the routine, then move the feed to right after bath. That will be helpful too, because children tend to be a little stimulated from the bath. Most children really like their bath, so she will be a little more awake when you get to the feed.
Then you can continue along with the next steps in bedtime routine. And the good news is that the better naps she starts taking, the less fatigued she will be by bedtime. That's some good news to look forward to.
The more the separation you can create between the feed and onset of sleep, the less likely she will be to even try to fall asleep at the bottle. You will find within a month or so, or even if she is really tired, she won't use the bottle as a crutch to get to sleep.
There won't be a connection there anymore. She'll happily have her feed, and then put herself to sleep just fine when she is put in her crib.