Mama, have you heard this about sleep and newborns? “Babies wake up throughout the night, that’s just how it is.” While newborn babies do wake up in order to feed (in the first month, they’ll feed eight to 12 times a day), you can still do things to promote better sleep. A key habit to get into is a bedtime routine.
The newborn phase isn’t too early for a bedtime routine. Establishing a routine for your little one early on can help set them up for successful nighttime sleeps.
A newborn may seem like they’re just sleeping and eating, but they are forming associations. Their brains are processing information and learning patterns. Parenting Science explains that newborns can recognize their mother’s voice, they begin learning language, are very interested in the sights around them, show remarkable spatial abilities, and can even learn while they sleep!
So, their cognitive development at the newborn stage means that they can benefit from a bedtime routine.
A bedtime routine can help:
- Soothe and calm your baby so that they’re more relaxed and ready to drop off into dreamland
- Your baby develop good sleeping habits that will follow them as they grow
- Promote better quality sleep
- Provide comfort and make your baby feel safe
A newborn bedtime routine doesn’t need to be long; 20 to 30 minutes of quiet activities is enough.
Here are my suggestions for a newborn bedtime routine:
Go Outside With Your Baby
There are so many amazing benefits to spending time outdoors with your baby.
New sights, smells, and experiences can assist in your newborn’s cognitive development. Also, time spent outdoors can promote better sleep.
A 2014 study conducted by the Journal of Sleep Research found that babies who slept well at night were exposed to significantly more natural light.
Time spent outdoors can impact your baby’s circadian rhythms, or their sleep-wake cycle. Establishing this internal clock is essential for successful nighttime sleep.
Allow Your Baby To Cluster Their Afternoon And Evening Feeds
Cluster feeding is when your baby has several feeds close together – they seem like they just can’t get enough milk! This behaviour is completely normal; it’s your baby’s way of ensuring their bellies are getting enough milk to feel full and support their development.
Also, cluster feeding can signal to your body to produce more milk if you’re breastfeeding.
Listening to your baby’s hunger cues and allowing them to cluster feed can help them sleep for longer stretches.
Cluster feeding can be exhausting for breastfeeding moms, so make sure that you’re getting enough calories and take time to relax and decompress.
Treat Any Feeds After Their Bedtime Routine As A “Nighttime Feed”
Nighttime feeds should be boring! It’s about feeding your baby, maybe a diaper change and a snuggle can be involved, and putting them down to go right back to sleep. So, the key here is very little stimulation. Lights and noises will essentially tell their brains to “turn on” making it hard to settle them back to sleep. I recommend a night light to light your way during nighttime feeds, so that you don’t have to turn on a bright overhead light. Also, avoid looking at your phone and feeding them in front of the TV.
During baby’s nighttime sleep, your overall goal is full feedings and low stimulation in order to promote longer sleep.
Avoid Baths After 7pm
A bath is a great activity for your baby’s bedtime routine! However, if your baby is struggling to go down and sleep for long periods, I recommend bathing your little one before 7pm.
Baths can be very stimulating for babies! So, if they are already struggling to sleep, adding a stimulating activity just before bed can work them up.
Try Lavender Bath Soap And Lotion
Lavender is calming, so it can help soothe a fussy baby and help put them in a relaxed state for bedtime.
I love the Earth Mama Organics range of herbal products for moms and little ones, and they have a calming lavender body wash and body lotion for babies.
A few lavender products can be a great addition to your baby’s bedtime routine.
All of these tips are guidelines – you don’t have to follow them to the T! Every baby is unique, so taking note of what they respond well to is essential. If your little one sleeps well after later baths, that’s fine – keep doing what works.
All of this is covered in the Babies Made Simple Course. If you’re looking for support to guide you through life with a newborn, this is the online course for you.