Nightly Routines for Your Baby
It’s never too soon to begin setting a nightly routine for your baby, and parents who start early marvel at the difference it makes. Calmer days and more restful nights invariably follow from sticking to a consistent pattern in the hour leading up to bedtime.
Babies need time to process what’s happening around them, and are often unsettled by sudden changes. Toddlers in particular need additional time to transition from one activity to another and appreciate a little warning before it’s time for bed. A nightly routine lets them know what’s coming and prepares them for a peaceful night.
You should start developing a sleep preparation routine when your newborn is around six weeks old. By about four months, she’ll be getting most of her sleep at night so that’s the time to set a regular bedtime. Like adults, children need awhile to decompress before sleep and what happens in the hour before bedtime will usually determine how easily they doze off.
Here are some suggestions for setting your own nightly routine.
A Warm Tub
Most babies enjoy getting in the tub, and starting your nightly routine with a soothing bath can be a wonderful experience for both of you. It’s a great opportunity to sit at eye-level with your baby, particularly for dads who miss out on the bonding of breastfeeding. If your baby doesn’t enjoy bath time, leave washing for the morning and start your nightly winddown with a different activity. Infants only really need to be bathed a couple of times a week, so a nightly bath is more for pleasure than hygiene.
Go for a Walk
If the weather cooperates, a stroll is a good alternative to an evening bath. Dress your baby in pajamas and tuck him into a front carrier with a blanket for comfort. The motion of your body will have a calming effect and your little one should be sleepy by the time you put him into his crib. If your baby regularly falls asleep on the walk, however, you may need to find another soothing activity. It’s important that infants learn to get themselves to sleep and not become reliant on you always being there as they drift off.
Read a Book
This has been the tried and true favourite for generations of parents, and continues to be the best way to transition from day to night. Your baby will be comforted by the sound of your voice, even if the words don’t mean much at first. Over time, reading together will become a cherished activity that makes bedtime something to look forward to.
You need to add a final piece to your routine, something your child will want to do between a bedtime story and lights out. Going directly from book to bed will invariable lead to pleas for “one more story” and an exhaustion-fueled melt-down. Making a game of saying goodnight to your toddler’s favorite toys is a very effective way of moving towards the final kiss of the day. Goodnight Moon’s been around for years and the secret to its lasting appeal isn’t hard to find. It works.
Make sure to leave enough time for your nightly routine, and don’t change it up unless absolutely necessary. Over the years, that precious hour will become a time to talk quietly about your child’s day and connect after spending increasingly long hours apart. The nightly ritual is your promise of undivided attention, and a time your child will come to love.
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