How do you get a baby to go to sleep? The same way you get to Carnegie Hall: with a lot of practice.
While babies don’t yet understand words, they can understand when it’s time for bed when parents have carefully put bedtime rituals in place. Be sure to set the groundwork early: You can’t start a sleep routine too soon in a child’s life.
Childcare professionals advise beginning to set a baby’s nighttime routine when they are six to eight weeks old.
What kinds of rituals will help my baby sleep through the night?
It’s a matter of debate how elaborate the routine has to be. Children’s needs vary, so anticipate some trial and error when you begin to establish your nightly rituals. But be mindful of the idea that it’s something you’ll do night after night.
To keep your baby happy (and yourselves sane), it’s a good idea to keep it simple. Singing just one verse of “You Are My Sunshine,” for example, or putting on pajamas can become cornerstones of your bedtime tradition.
Nighttime baths are popular for a reason
Many parents start the nightly bedtime countdown by scrubbing away dirt from the day’s adventures. In any case, washing your baby’s face and hands and brushing their teeth are good overall habits. With repetition, they baby will welcome them as a prelude to bed and start to calm when they happen.
Another popular penultimate bedtime step is taking a bath. While the tub can invite active play for many children, with opportunities to splash water and dunk toys (and soak adults), some parents say the warm water and ritual of cleaning is a soothing influence. And that eleventh-hour playtime can burn out excess energy, too. Nightly baths aren’t for every baby, but it might work for yours.
Babies love story time
Another calming night activity is reading. Your baby won’t “get” the narrative, but many modern baby books invite explorative touch through texture. Bedtime reading is a great habit to instill, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly they will learn to focus on and enjoy books.
The point is to keep the steps leading up to bedtime consistent. Your baby can recognize a pattern and will relax when he or she knows what’s coming. Experts say that establishing a routine for bedtime early and repeating it regularly can ensure your baby has a smooth transition from day to night.
What about feeding?
A baby with a full belly is a sleepy baby. While effective, this can actually set a bad precedent, as your child might only associate sleep with a bottle, which may prevent him or her from learning to self-sooth down the road.
Experts advise weening your baby off a bedtime bottle at six to nine months.