Before I became a mom, I naively thought that babies would just sleep when they were tired. Boy was I in for a reality check! I can just hear all the seasoned moms snickering…but I know better now!
The first three months of my son's life are a blur because I was up about every 2-3 hours during the night. Then suddenly, after three months, he started sleeping for five to six hour stretches. I thought I had won the lottery and had a baby who just “knew” how to sleep. Then he hit 4-months old, and suddenly, we were up every hour. At that point, sleep deprivation had gotten the best of me and I desperately tried everything to get him to sleep longer. I nursed him as much as he wanted, rocked him to sleep, tried to give him a soother. At one point I was so exhausted, I brought him into bed with me, even though I was terrified at the thought. No matter what I tried, he still wasn’t sleeping.
I read about bedtime routines. I had always thought that bedtime routines were for older kids, but I still decided to give it a try. Miraculously, after about a week, he started sleeping longer... and for longer stretches! He now only wakes one time during the night, and I’ve got my sanity back!
I’ll walk you through what I do, step-by-step, and hopefully, my routine - or a variation of my routine - can cue your little one to finally get some proper shut eye.
Before our bedtime routine even starts, I try to let my baby get some of his energy out. What I do for this step varies day to day. Some days it could be singing songs and dancing around, and other times it may be practicing sitting up or crawling.
As soon as it’s bath time, I try to calm things down a bit and limit activities to his bedroom and the bathroom. During bath time, I sing to him and tell him what I’m doing as I wash him with a gentle body wash. Look for hypoallergenic products and those that are moisturizing so your baby’s skin doesn’t get overly dry. This is a routine you will be doing often, after all! I use the super gentle (and great smelling!) Wash & Shampoo from Cetaphil Baby. It’s important to use products that are made specifically for a baby’s sensitive skin.
Once his bath is over, I dry him off, put his diaper on, and gently massage him with a soothing lotion. I'm really liking the Daily Lotion, also by Cetaphil Baby, because it contains sunflower and sweet almond oils that keep his skin soft and moisturized. It also contains organic calendula which helps to calm and soothe him for a good night’s sleep. Massaging my son is one of my favourite moments of the evening. It’s a wonderful way for parents and babies to connect and bond after a busy day!
After the lotion is applied, I put him into his footed pajamas and a sleep sack to keep him cozy throughout the night. I’m still nursing, so as soon as he’s dressed for bed, he will have a little “snack.” I try not to let him fall asleep as he’s nursing – I find this helps him to sleep better through the night.
Next, we’ll read a short story together and say our goodnights to those we love, and then into his crib he goes! When I put him down, he’s drowsy and calm and ready for a good night’s sleep!
After MANY sleepless nights, I’ve learned that a sleep routine is essential to winding down the day and giving my baby proper sleep cues. I hope that our sleep routine will give you some ideas on how you can get your baby to sleep better tonight...and every night!
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the first 7-months of my son’s life, it's that sometimes it’s all about trial and error, and that no baby is the same. If this exact routine doesn’t work for your family, experiment a little – perhaps skipping the bath and just having some quiet time with a massage before bed. Or maybe your baby would enjoy a quiet lullaby instead of a book. They key is to pick a routine and stick with it so that both you and your baby have some relaxing and bonding time before bed. It will work wonders towards creating healthy sleep habits!