This week I wanted to talk a bit about the baby bedtime routine, and the number one mistake parents make when they are creating a baby bedtime routine.
Now, if you go to any baby site on the Web, search “my baby won’t sleep,” or whatever you’re looking for in regards to sleep, almost every single site will tell you about the importance of a baby bedtime routine. And as a baby sleep consultant, so will I.
A baby bedtime routine is a crucial first step in creating predictability to your baby. It also teaches your baby that it’s time to make that transition from day into night.
Even adults have bedtime routines. We all do things in the same order before bed every night. Without them, we would feel a little anxious or out of sorts, and it would be harder to sleep. So it definitely is important, but there is one mistake that many parents make.
The Number One Baby Bedtime Routine Mistake
Most of the time people skip right over that. “Oh baby bedtime routine, right, next,” because we’ve heard it so much. But the biggest mistake that parents make is that somewhere in the baby bedtime routine, the baby sleeps!
For example, you’ve heard the baby should have a bath. So you’re going to do a bath, you’re going to get jammies on. You’re going to read a book maybe, and then you’re going to do a feeding.
There, Right There, That’s the Snag
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 and comfy. And then that’s your child’s cue that it’s time to start the journey into sleep. 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’re not going to have a baby that sleeps through the night, that’s for sure. Feeding your baby to sleep is what I consider to be a sleep prop. This means that your baby need you to do something for them to go to sleep. So you’re probably going to find 30-45 minutes later they are awake again because they’ve realized they don’t have that sleep prop they fell asleep with. And now you’ve got to start the process all over again.
Bath, great; PJs, great; feeding fine. It’s totally acceptable to feed a baby under 1 year old before bed. In fact, I encourage it. But keep the lights on high enough that you can watch, and don’t even let sleep start.
The Journey of Sleep
Again, think of sleep as a journey. I don’t even want you to allow your baby to start that journey during the feed. Starting a journey looks like doziness, so heavy blinking, closing the eyes, opening them. Anything like that is the beginning of a journey, so don’t let that start!
Keep your baby’s eyes open. Do this so they start to realize that food is a nice lovely step in the baby bedtime routine. But it is not for the purpose of sleep. That comes later in our baby bedtime routine.
If your baby has a really strong association between eating and sleeping, I suggest you break it up with an extra step even after the feed. After the feed, sit baby up on your lap. Maybe read a story together after the fact. This way we break that connection between feeding and sleeping a little bit further. Start to teach baby that there is no way or there is no reason to fall asleep while feeding.
Then Your Baby Should Go Into the Crib Awake
That is how you start the Live Love Sleep Program. I’ll teach you how to do just that. It’s also the number one way your baby is going to learn the skills she or he needs in order to become a great sleeper and start sleeping through the night.
So have a look at your baby bedtime routine. You’ve probably had one since your baby was born. But you probably need to make a fairly significant change to it. That is, to stop feeding your baby to sleep as part of the baby bedtime routine. Even rocking, you might have to say goodbye to any kind of rocking in the baby bedtime routine as well.
Taking away sleep props becomes a tricky part of the process. how do you say good-bye to the old sleep props and hello to some new strategies that are all your baby’s own? Making changes to anyone’s sleep habits is hard, so having the help and support to guide you along the path is crucial for success. So call today for your complimentary 15-minute sleep evaluation so we can work on teaching your baby to sleep well!
To healthy sleep,
Kaley Medina, Your Houston & Dallas Sleep Consultant
Certified Infant & Toddler Sleep Consultant