Establishing Baby’s Bedtime Routine

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Sleeping Patterns

Young babies have different sleep habits. By six months, there should be a fairly predictable sleeping pattern, including one or two naps during the day and a good stretch of sleeping at night.

Remember that your baby needs you to respond when they cry and to calm them before they become very upset. This is how they’ll learn to trust people.

Help Baby Feel Secure:

1. Respond when your baby is hurt or is very upset.
2. Gradually let your baby calm by themselves for short periods of time. This is a big step for your baby.

The Next Six Months

Many factors can disturb your baby’s sleep pattern. Bad sleeping habits formed early in your baby’s life can be very difficult to change later on. Going into the hospital, a new physical development, a parent returning to work, or starting daycare can throw off a sleeping routine.

Good vs. Bad Sleep Routines

The following habits can cause sleeping difficulties, sooner or later:

  • If baby falls asleep at the breast or with a bottle.
  • Holding or rocking baby to sleep.
  • If baby holds on to your hair, finger, etc., when falling asleep.

After your baby gets used to going to sleep in these ways, it can take months or years for her to overcome.

Falling Asleep Alone

  • Make soothing sounds when you put your baby to bed.
  • Make sure there are interesting objects to look at in their nursery.
  • Let your baby cry for five to 10 minutes before going into their room. Only go in if they become very upset.
  • All babies sometimes make a fuss about going to bed. A pleasant, consistent bedtime ritual can make all the difference.

Starting and Sticking With a Routine

  • Bathe your baby before bed.
  • Read a bedtime story or sing.
  • Tell your baby that it’s time to sleep.
  • Do not rock your baby or pick them up again unless they are very upset.
  • You must balance your baby’s need to be comforted and allowing them to learn to soothe themselves.

Dr. Sarah Landy, Ph. D., is a Psychologist at The Hincks/Dellcrest Centre, and member of Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, and Department of Psychology, York University. Originally published in March 2007.

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