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Why bedtime routines work image

Why bedtime routines work

Plus, discover the big mistake you need to avoid to help your child sleep better.

Our journey began here… My husband and I have beautiful identical twin boys and they were in the special care nursery for a good 6 weeks where the nurses had them in this perfect little routine. I thought we had it all sorted for when we came home but little did I know everything would hit the fan as soon as we arrived home with our newborns. It is safe to say that night one was extremely difficult! We were up for many hours feeding, burping, bouncing, calming, cuddling, co-sleeping….THE WORKS! We had NO IDEA what we were doing!

So my question is ‘Are you UP ALL NIGHT?’ and if you are then reading this post will certainly help you set your babies up for excellent night time sleep. If we were to have another baby the bedtime routine is where I would start from night 1 arriving home!

If you go to any baby site on the Web, search ‘my baby won’t sleep’ or whatever you’re looking for in regards to sleep, almost every single site will tell you about the importance of a bedtime routine. So will I.

The benefits of routine

I think a bedtime routine is a crucial first step in creating predictability to your baby and teaching your baby that it’s time to make that transition from day into night.

Even adults have routines. We all do things in the same order before bed every night. Without them, we would feel a little anxious or out of sorts, and it would be harder to sleep. So it definitely is important, but there is one mistake that parents make.

Most of the time people skip right over that. ‘Oh bedtime routine, right, next,’ because we’ve heard it so much, but the biggest mistake that parents make in that is that somewhere in the routine, the baby sleeps!

For example, you’ve heard the baby should have a bath, so you’re going to do a bath, you’re going to get PJ’s on, you’re going to read a book maybe, and then you’re going to do a feeding. There, right there, that’s the snag.

The issue with feeding

You feed your baby to sleep, either on the breast or with the bottle.

Most people turn off the lights when it's feed time, get the environment nice and cozy and comfy, and then that’s your child’s cue that it is time to start the journey into sleep. That is where you need to make your changes.

If you nurse or bottle feed your baby to sleep and then transfer them to the cot, well you’re not going to have a baby that sleeps through the night, that’s for sure. You’re probably going to find half an hour later, 45 minutes later they are awake again, and you’ve got to start the process all over again.

Bath, great; PJs, great; feeding fine. It’s totally acceptable to feed a baby before bed. In fact, I encourage it, but keep the lights on high enough that you can watch, and don’t even let sleep start.

Again if you think of sleep as a journey, I don’t even want you to allow your baby to start the journey. Starting a journey looks like doziness, so heavy blinking, closing the eyes, opening them, anything like that is the beginning of a journey, so don’t let that start!

Keep that baby’s eyes open so that they start to realise that food is a nice lovely step in the bedtime routine, but it is not for the purpose of sleep. That comes next.

Into the cot awake

If your baby has a really strong association between eating and sleeping, I suggest you break it up with an extra step even after the feed. Feed, sit baby up on your lap, maybe read a story together after the fact, just to break that connection a little bit further and to start to teach that baby that there is no way or there is no reason to fall asleep while feeding. Here is where you might decide to teach your baby or toddler more about Jesus and read a small devotion. The bedtime routine would normally go for about 45 minutes so keep that in mind and don’t have the devotion go on for too long, get to the point and teach them the best bits about our saviour!

Then the baby should go into the cot awake. This is the number one way your baby is going to learn the skills she or he needs in order to become a great sleeper and start sleeping through the night.

So have a look at your bedtime routine. Even though you know you have one, you probably had one since the baby was born, but you probably need to make a fairly significant change to it. That is, to stop feeding your baby to sleep as part of the routine. You might have to say goodbye to any kind of rocking in the routine as well. But hopefully, you and your baby can look forward to a good night's sleep!


Linda Hamilton is Director of Through the Night Sleep Consulting. As a twin mum and a qualified baby, toddler and child sleep consultant she is passionate about helping every family see sleep success through life changing results. If you would like to discuss the best sleep solution for your baby get in touch with Linda at www.throughthenight.com.au

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