I am really lucky to have babies that have generally been a dream to put to bed. I will say that I have worked really hard to get this to happen. I have 3 kids now and thank the lord everyday that this was high on my priority list when I had them.
Having a ritual
I have a little ritual around bed time that gives the kids the warning that bed is approaching. For Lux, it put’s him in a sleepy trance before we even hit his bedroom. The moment I pick him up and start singing this one song and I pat his back, he is floppy on my shoulder. He knows what is about to happen and he doesn’t fight me (most of the time).
It’s all about sleep associations. We all know how gorgeous it is to hold, rock and sing our babies to sleep. There is something divine about holding a baby and having their little body go heavy in your arms.
As tempting as it is, I don’t think it’s a good thing to do this every time it’s time for him to sleep. It’s great in the beginning but when your baby is older and you need some proper sleep or you just want for once to go out but your baby only has you put him to sleep, it makes it really hard. If his sleep association is you, then that’s what he will think he needs every time he is going to sleep.
Don’t let his sleep association be only you
I am a strong believer that it is of the upmost importance, actually our responsibility, to teach you baby how to self settle, how to be comfortable in their own environment and importantly, how to put themselves back to sleep if need be. Autumn and Lux refused bottles. They were exclusively breastfed until solids so for me, self-settling was a must. I couldn’t rely on a bottle for bedtime and I didn’t want them relying on my boob. As selfish as it sounds there were times when I needed to be able to feed and then go out for dinner knowing that Mum wouldn’t have a problem putting them to bed because if she followed my bedtime routine, they would put them selves to sleep. 9/10 it worked a treat.
Obviously there are different ages and stages where you have to bend the rules. For example Van at the moment seems to be quite unsettled from about 6pm till about 10pm so I wouldn’t dream of leaving him to go out. He wants to cluster feed, he’s quite noisy and most of the time if I put him down asleep he wakes up not long after (this is quite common in babies for various theories, feeding to get full for the night, unsettled from stimulation during the day etc). As I talked about feeding in my blog here this is one of the times where I will feed him as much as he wants and physically try and put him to sleep.
Don’t let him become overtired
First and foremost learn what your baby likes. Does he like to sit up on your shoulder when being settled or does he prefer to be cradled in your arms? My kids have all been different so try a few things and find out what floats bubs boat.
It is SO important to try and make sure your baby doesn’t become over tired. From birth until 3 months I try my hardest to make sure Van is awake for no longer the an hour. In the beginning feeding and changing a nappy (or 3) would take an hour, now with Van at 7 weeks old we are getting a little bit of good awake time after a feed. Love it!! If your bub is overtired teaching them how to settle and sleep will be too hard and stressful on you and your baby. Stick to 45minutes to an hour awake time, at least if your baby is unsettled you can rule out tiredness.
Routine, routine, routine
I always implement a routine around bedtime, I started this when Van was about 4 weeks old. My settling routine is the same every time. It goes like this. I say “it’s bed time Van”. Then I would swaddle him nice and tight. I would put him on my shouldn’t and tap his back at about the pace of my heart beat. Humm, shhh or sing a little song. Then walk to his room and close the blind.
Just as I feel he is settled I will put him down awake in his cot. The prize for me here is if he will then continue to put himself to sleep without my assistance. I aim for this to happen twice a day. It’s not going to happen every time but if I make a point of doing it at least twice a day then I am giving him that chance to put himself to sleep. Van is so noisy! He grunts and groans and has little grizzles but generally just as he get’s to his loudest is generally the time when he drifts off.
Give your baby a chance! Just because he makes a noise doesn’t mean he needs to be picked up. You will be able to judge this for yourself, you know your baby best.
Don’t pick them up every time they make a noise
I try not to pick him up every time he makes a noise. If I know Van is grizzly and unsettled in the night and is not ready to feed, I will gently tap (heart beat pace) on his shoulder while he is in his cot. This will usually be enough to help him drift back off.
Around my cot is very plain. I don’t have a million pretty things around or hanging in the cot. Would you like to go to sleep with a spinning, signing mobile above your head? Not me!
As they get older, their sleep cycle’s change
Another reason I would consider teaching the self settle is because when your baby hits about 5 months their sleep cycles change. I remember Autumn and Lux going from sleeping through to waking during the night. Oh no!!! And the older the baby, the harder to teach and even harder still to break any bad habits. This is why I start as early as I can. The early stages are not so much about self settling but more about teaching sleep associations (wrapping, tapping and signing etc).
At about 5 months they actually fully wake in the night. If you don’t want to be going in all the time it’s at these stages where a baby who has been taught to self settle will be much easier to get back themselves back to sleep without assistance.
Having stuck to my settling routine from 4 weeks, I could just go into their room when they woke, give them a nice rhythmical tap on their shoulder and watch them drift off. After a few nights they wouldn’t even wake anymore.
Having a baby who feels secure is a gift
Comfortable in their room, comfortable in their environment, able to put themselves to sleep that’s the gift I’d like to give my children.
What routine to you have around bed time??
I would love to hear your thoughts below.
Please share this if you know someone who would like this.
Please note I am not an expert in these matters. I am only sharing my personal experiences and opinions.