How to establish a bedtime routine

Parenting
How to establish a bedtime routine | Life by Naomi
Photo credit: FreeImages.com/BartvandenEijnden

 

I like my children to go to bed early.

I’m talking 7pm early.

For me, this is more important than sleeping through the night.

This is the one thing that has kept me sane through the madness of infancy, teething, night feeds, illnesses, tantrums and full time work.

If your baby goes to bed at 7pm, you get your evenings back.

You can catch up on all those jobs you didn’t get to do during the day. You can have a bit of time for your hobbies. You can even hire a babysitter and go out. Or – absolute bliss, as far as I’m concerned – you can go to bed at 7pm yourself.

We got our boys to a 7pm bedtime by the time they were 6 weeks old. With the odd exception, they have been to bed at 7pm every night since. With Ben, it was a happy accident, but with Samuel, we’ve been a bit more intentional.

Like almost all babies, ours were born with their days and nights upside down. They would sleep all day and be much more wakeful at night, sometimes staying awake all evening with only 10 minute catnaps, most often falling asleep during a feed. The “witching hour,” as it is known, would start for us around 5pm, and last until the baby fell asleep, exhausted. This was definitely worse with Ben, who refused to sleep until midnight or 1am in those first weeks. It’s horrible for the new parents: exhausting and relentless. With Samuel, I think we knew a bit more about what to expect, and he was a lot more chilled out, so we were a bit more intentional about bedtime.

How to establish a bedtime routine | Life by Naomi
Photo credit: FreeImages.com/SebaRomero

I’d suggest starting to establish a bedtime from around 6 weeks.

SIDS guidelines suggest keeping the baby in with you so he or she might go to bed in a Moses basket downstairs, or you might stay in the bedroom with him or her. It’s up to you. Either way, here’s how we established a bedtime routine for our boys.

  1. 1. Get up at a consistent time in the morning.
    I actually think that this was the real reason that Samuel was so easy to get into a bedtime routine. Every morning, at 6.30am on the dot, Ben flings open our bedroom door and shouts, “The sun clock is awake! It’s daytime!” We’ve taught him that he has to stay in bed until the sun comes up on his Gro-Clock.
    Anyway, it meant that Samuel was being got up for the day and taken downstairs every morning at the same time. Sometimes he would be sleeping, so I’d leave him in his crib, but he rarely slept for long after 6.30am.
    A huge part of establishing a bedtime routine is teaching your child the difference between night and day, and so actually having a set getting up time is crucial. I should probably add at this point that both Tim and I are better in the mornings than we are in the evenings, so it suits us to get up earlier, plus Tim has always had to get up early for work.
  2. 2. Watch for the sleepy signals.
    You know the ones: rubbing eyes, grumpy, wanting to feed all the time… But they just won’t sleep! Just make a note of what time the baby does eventually go to sleep. Then aim to bring that bedtime forward by about 15 minutes every day. So if he’s going to sleep – finally – at 10pm, bring it forward to 9.45pm. Some days it’ll work, some days it won’t. Don’t worry about it too much – you will get there.
  3. 3. Aim to give the baby a bath just before the baby gets sleepy.
    For our babies, the bath was a real signal for bedtime. Both of our boys, once they got upstairs and were lying on the change mat, listening to the running water, would calm down instantly. Then they enjoyed their bath. During those cluster-feeding days, I could hand them over to Tim for their bath and have a break. Some parents like to do massage after the bath which is great.
  4. 4. Feed the baby after the bath.
    I love doing this feed. I turn the lights down low, and read my Kindle while I’m feeding. No other noise or distractions. I feed the baby for as long as I can (I’m breastfeeding, but with Ben I later gave a bottle at this feed). Then I get him into his sleeping bag or, in the early days, wrapped in his blanket.
  5. 5. Let the baby fall asleep.
    On you, in your arms. Feed him to sleep. Give him a dummy. Whatever he needs: swaddling, rocking, sound, give it to him.
    I think one of the biggest things I had to learn with Ben was that babies need a lot of help to get to sleep, but then they can quite often sleep through things that would disturb other people. In the first few months, given them all the help they need to sleep.
    Then… use your ninja parenting skills to transfer the baby into the crib. Or, if you’re me, wake the baby up numerous times by not being ninja enough. Warm the crib if you like, put the baby’s bottom down first followed by the head, and do it slowly.
  6. 6. Treat all feeds as night feeds until the morning. Your baby will wake up. Use the same principle: quiet, dark(ish) room, as little fuss as possible.
    I’ve been lucky: both my boys have mostly woken up and fed back to sleep. Some babies do fuss and are very awake. In the early days, be kind to yourself: iPlayer on, snacks and drinks to hand etc. Sleep deprivation is no fun at all.
  7. 7. Gradually bring bath time forward (but keep getting up at the same time).
    As you aim to bring the bedtime forward, bring bath time forward. I find that it takes about an hour to bath, feed and get the baby to sleep when he’s not in a cluster-feeding mode.
  8. 8. Watch nap times as the baby gets older.
    When the baby gets into a pattern, I find I need to wake him from his nap before 5pm. This will then get earlier as he or she gets older. So, at the moment, Samuel is 10 weeks old and can stay awake for about 2 hours at a time. To be honest, it’s rare for him to have a nap later in the afternoon, and the time before bed is usually his longest awake stretch of the day, but sometimes he falls asleep. That’s fine, but I try to make sure he’s awake for about 2 hours before bedtime.

With both babies, I’ve been amazed at how easy it has been to get them into a bedtime routine. I won’t say they are good sleepers, as they have both woken up to feed throughout the night, but the bedtime routine has been the one thing that has saved my sanity.

Establishing a bedtime routine | Life by Naomi
Photo credit: FreeImages.com/SteveMatthews
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Comments

  1. Reply

    We’ve been really lucky this time with E, he’s a better sleeper than his big brother which has helped routine a lot more. We were all over the place the first time round!

    1. Reply

      Second time around is much easier with most things! With our first, my mum had to suggest actually putting him to bed… or he’d still be up at 11pm, aged 3!

  2. Reply

    I’ve never managed the evening routine – I’m happier that mine have always gone to bed later and slept later in the morning. I have no idea how people function with children that get them up before 8am!

    1. Reply

      I guess you’re better in the evenings than me – I’m more of a morning person than an evening person to be honest. But I guess evening routines could all change as they get older.

  3. Reply

    Totally love a night time routine and we had one in place with both of ours. It is such a chilled and special time and I look back on those sleepy feeds with such love.
    A bedtime routine has made our life easier but I do think that there needs to be flexibility- I don’t want my girls to have a melt down if they’re not in bed, in their house on the dot of 7pm so I guess I’d add in that doing a similar thing or always having the same gro clock, special cuddly etc etc even if you are then going to transfer them to the buggy or travel cot or whatever when you’re away it helps plus- if one night totally goes to pot, there’s always tomorrow. Don’t beat yourselves up if it doesn’t go to plan straight away. x

    1. Reply

      That’s really good advice. With no 2 we have fewer opportunities to get the travel cot out, which is possibly why he’s settled down faster.

  4. Reply

    I’ll keep this in mind when baby no. 3 comes along, though I don’t get evenings to myself anyway on account of the other 2 🙂 Those photos are lovely x

    1. Reply

      Congratulations on baby no. 3! I love my evenings, I don’t know how I’d cope without them!

  5. Reply

    This is really useful, will keep this in mind – I definitely want to start early with a bedtime routine when bub comes along in a couple of months! #marvmondays

  6. Reply

    Great tips, I took like the children in bed by 7pm. Unfortunately having had good sleepers with the first two it took nearly 10 months with Little 3 but the past month he has been sleeping much better, thankfully and I am getting some sleep again. #maternitymondays

  7. Reply

    Aww lovely pics! We accidentally started a great bedtime routine that still works for us now nearly 3 years on. Mia slept through from about 5 weeks old and it helped that we ended up putting her in her own room then as she was so noisy in her sleep! We also established day and night very early on and stopped her feeding in the night when she was around 5 weeks old to. She has always slept from around 7:30pm – 8am and its amazing! Don’t get me wrong, I know how lucky we are and I anticipate that if we have another baby, it wont be so easy but we are enjoying having our evening as ‘ours’ for now 🙂

    #MaternityMondays

    1. Reply

      Oh yes, definitely enjoy it. I can’t get over how many babies sleep through so early! A 6 hour stretch is good here for my little one, although Ben now sleeps 11-12 hours most nights.

  8. Reply

    I have a 3yr old who’s bedtime is 7pm and we’re lucky she’s been a good sleeper since 8 weeks old! My newborn has the same routine and has been sleeping through since 8 weeks too (he’s now 3 months). I’m not sure if I’m just lucky or whether the routine has helped to establish night time. I bottle fed both of them and feed on demand. It just so happens he doesn’t eat much during the day but from 5pm – 7pm he cluster feeds approx. 10oz which lasts him until 7:30am. From 7pm-9:30pm it’s mummy and daddy time!

    1. Reply

      Could your baby have a word with my baby… he’s nowhere near sleeping through! That’s amazing for an 8 week old!

  9. Reply

    Some good tips, I unfortunately have two very bad sleepers. They take ages to go to sleep but they do sleep until 7.30/8am most days

    1. Reply

      OK… I could sometimes swap my evenings for an 8am lie in!

  10. Reply

    Very interesting read. I’ll be sure to pass this on to my pregnant friends in the future

    Christina x
    Christina Campbell Hughes

    1. Reply

      Thank you!

  11. Reply

    This is also something hugely important to us, I much prefer having some free time in the evenings than whether they sleep through the night. We also established a routine as soon as we can but it’s still been difficult. We’re going through a horrible 2 year regression now where A will not go to bed or fall asleep for hours no matter what we do, it’s hard work! I miss the 7pm bedtimes!! Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays! Kaye xo

    1. Reply

      I think we had this when Ben needed to drop his nap – if he napped, he just wouldn’t be tired later on. I really hope you get your evenings back soon.

  12. Reply

    Oh my goodness he is gorgeous. I am with you on this. I may be soft with most areas of parenting but bedtime is my thing. We go up at 6.30pm and they are both in bed for 7. For G it is the sleeping bag that is his sleep signal. I also do the dark, quiet, sometimes no eye contact night feeds. Yay for our evenings 🙂 Thank you so much for linking up with #MaternityMondays

    1. Reply

      Yep, sleeping bag and dummy here too! I love my evenings! I actually also love #MaternityMondays too – please keep it going.

  13. Reply

    […] other favourite was from Life By Naomi with her post on how to establish a bedtime routine. I totally agree with this. Both my children are […]

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