Bedtime routines for your little ones can be fascinating. Whether you’re a new parent or you’ve had kids before, you would know that without a routine, your baby’s sleep would be all over the place.
But, it’s called a routine for a reason. You should develop sleep patterns, rituals, and practises so that your little one can sleep better and easier.
A newborn baby’s sleep routines will change as they grow. So, as a parent, you should be prepared to adapt to the changes that come along, especially in the first year.
Having a new baby in the family is indeed an exciting time, but it may also come with a few challenges. Read on to learn more about how your little ones sleep.
Why are baby sleep routines important?
We all know that babies sleep a lot, but not always when we want them to. Some newborn babies sleep for up to 17 hours a day. Babies need to sleep for them to grow and go through proper development.
The story doesn’t end with sleeping; they should be getting quality sleep with as minimal interruptions as possible, since you would want your child to go through the proper sleep phases.
Likewise, if your newborn is sleeping mostly through the night, that means that as a parent, you can also sleep through the night in peace and quiet.
More than the benefits for your precious little ones, parents like you can get a good thing out of setting sleep routines for your baby.
Understanding your baby’s sleep patterns
Before incorporating different bedtime routines, you must first understand how babies sleep, as this varies as they age and grow.
Here’s a glance of how babies sleep during their first year:
Newborn to 2 month-old
During the earliest days of your baby’s life, they would be sleeping a lot, up to 17 hours a day.
Putting your baby to sleep during this period isn’t difficult as long as they’re fed and cleaned up – otherwise, they might end up being awake and crying.
Newborns sleep in 2-3 hour chunks spread across the day. Babies rarely sleep for too long as they need to be fed every few hours.
Some paediatricians advise setting sleeping and feeding schedules for newborn babies to make the wakeful hours less sporadic – this also lets the parents adjust and alternate who’s turn to feed and take care of the baby.
3 – 5 months
Over time, your baby’s sleep schedule becomes more predictable. Infants between 3-5 months old begin to sleep straight for longer hours.On average, they can sleep for up to 6 hours straight instead of the 2-3 hour chunks.
Timing their sleep during this period is crucial so that your little one gets accustomed to sleeping longer at night, rather than only during the day.
If they sleep for extended periods during the day, you may opt to wake them up so that your little ones won’t have sleep problems at night.
6 – 8 months
During this period, sleep training your baby becomes more important since your baby would now be able to get up to 8 hours of sleep at night.
Getting up to 8 hours straight of sleep is very similar to how adults sleep, so it’s advisable to go to bed at the same time as your baby if possible.
You would also notice that your baby’s sleep patterns would be more regular, having set nap times during the day spanning 2-3 hours at a time.
9 – 12 months
First of all, congratulations on making it this far – the first few months of having a newborn is the most difficult for most parents.
As your little one reaches 9-12 months of age, their circadian rhythm begins to develop and become more regular.
Nighttime sleep becomes more natural to babies during this period, and they would be able to sleep at night for 8 hours straight, sometimes even more.
Your sleep schedule as a parent would also feel like it’s going back to normal as there’s not much need to wake up in the wee hours of the night.
What routines can we establish?
Babies love routines, and they’re very responsive to them. Having effective routines early on will be helpful for their sleep in the long run.
Routines allow your baby to feel safer since they always get to anticipate what’s happening next. The certainty will enable them to relax better, leading to a good night’s sleep.
Here are some of the most common bedtime practices that you can incorporate into your baby’s sleep routine:
Swaddle your little one
Younger infants up to 5 months benefit from being swaddled; it protects your baby against their natural startle reflex, which means fewer sleep interruptions at night for you and your baby.
Swaddling also gives your little ones the idea that it’s time for them to sleep. After some getting used to it, the feeling of being swaddled should put them in a more relaxed state.
Setting a sleep schedule
Allocate a specific time at night where you put your baby to sleep. This allows your baby to sleep at the same time, which promotes better sleep cycles and trains them to sleep at the right time on their own.
Infant sleep durations can last for long hours at a time, and during their very young age, they are not aware of how to properly allocate their sleep times.
An infant sleeping for extended hours during the daytime may encounter sleep regression when being put to bed at night, so it’s best to become more stringent on sleep habits. Thankfully sleep regression only lasts around 2-4 weeks.
Picking activities that let your baby fall asleep faster is something that you learn along the way. Just try different things and see which ones work for your little one.
The most important aspect here is consistency. If you change up the activities constantly, your baby may not develop patterns that they could associate with falling asleep.
Some bedtime activities that you can do include taking a bath before bed, breastfeeding, a gentle massage, singing lullabies, playing white noise, holding, and cuddling them. Whatever you decide, it should be something that is unique to you and your baby.