When you have your first baby, there is a lot of pressure to follow tradition. Whether it comes from books, online or via our own friends and family. There seemed to be no alternative baby bedtime routine or encouragement to do things your own way.
But what if tradition isn’t working for you and your baby? And only stresses you out more? This has been my experience when it comes to the baby bedtime routine.
I was stunned to discover I was supposed to be following the ‘bath, bottle & bed’ routine from the early months. As if new mums need any more pressure on their shoulders.
This and other apparent ‘must do’s’ left me feeling I wasn’t doing things right as a new mother. If you are looking to tweak the rules or just feel less guilty about ignoring them, then read on.
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You will hear constantly about how babies benefit from a relaxing bath before bed, to really get them in the mood for sleepy time. Some people swear by it even they go on to say bedtime still takes ages.
My daughter was either stimulated at best and raring to go. At worst she became hysterical by the whole process. And no, adding lavender drops did not help the vibe.
Of course you need to keep baby clean but they don’t need a bath every night! They have delicate skin and shouldn’t be getting so dirty anyway before they start solids or walking around causing mischief.
We bathed in the morning or afternoon and made it fun since she found it so stimulating splashing around. Now she’s older we do quick showers in the morning. Unsurprisingly, she still is too young to really appreciate a full spa experience.
Perhaps a warm flannel wipe while you do the final nappy change is enough for your baby too, if the bath is causing more hassle than it’s worth.
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Bottle (or boob) & bed
Just the fact the phrase features “bottle” for the feed gives a strong indication of how old this expression is! It’s probably from a generation of parents that were told to bottle and not breast feed back in the day.
I was a proud breast feeder after a horrible, painful start but I know it doesn’t work out for everyone for various reasons. The most important thing is getting baby fed well and healthy, however you need to.
It does seem that the phrase is suggesting always feeding baby right before bed. Certainly in the early days when they pretty much just sleep and eat round the clock, fair enough.
But what about later on when they become entirely dependent on being fed in order to nod off, every time? If that works for you and your baby sleeps well after, great! Keep doing what’s working.
But if you find that as your baby gets older, they can only go to sleep after a feed and no other way, it might become a problem.
My baby couldn’t connect a sleep cycle without the boob. One night waking became two, then three and so on. Very quickly we were only getting very short spells of sleep which wasn’t sustainable.
I found bringing the feed in earlier, helped break this spell. You might feed in the lounge or in the bedroom with the lights on. But bear in mind, it didn’t happen overnight.
You can make something else the last stage which won’t have such strong sleep associations. A story, song or a cuddle and gentle sway helps without the risk of falling asleep on the boob or bottle.
You also want them alert enough to take in a full feed, so they wake too soon hungry again. Even doing the nappy and PJs change as a final step could be enough before final cuddles.
I was surprised to hear many parents have to do 3 or 4 stories a night! I know many of these books are short but still, that’s quite a lot of entertainment to provide when everyone’s tired at the end of the day.
There seems to be pressure to read to your child from day 1 if you want to create a genius! Well, my baby only wanted to eat the book so I left this out for a few months. We came back to it when she actually seemed half-interested.
Rather than feeling pressured to read full stories early on, you could try alternatives such as pop-up or textured brightly coloured fabric books. But you don’t even need to start so super early with books.
Your baby will likely just love to hear the sound of your voice talking or singing. You could also play some music softly in the background.
If you have a baby mobile, it might be best to turn it off when you lay baby down if it’s quite stimulating or distracting with lights, movement and loud music.
Shaping your own alternative baby bedtime routine
As you can see, I decided to opt for an alternative baby bedtime routine that suited me and my baby better.
You shouldn’t feel pressured to continue following a routine that simply doesn’t work for you and creates more stress. Some other things that worked well for us included:
- Blackout blinds: I still use these blinds religiously to make the room nice and dark. See other newborn essential items for things you need for your little one for an easier life.
- Keeping it short and sweet. Many baby bedtime routines have so many steps the whole thing can take an hour or more. Find the balance of getting the baby relaxed and ready for sleep without taking all night or rushing it.
- Keep it sustainable. Don’t start up a whole entertainment sequence that baby will come to expect every night and you will dread. Try to keep it short, cosy and enjoyable for both of you.
So essentially for us, it was a short process of moving to the bedroom, last feed, low lights, clean up/nappy change, into the sleepsuit and sleeping bag.
Then singing or soft words and cuddles then swaying until she felt heavy and ready to lie down. Once she was older, a short story or two were introduced but I draw the line at two!
Finding your own alternative baby bedtime routine – as you like it
The days are long with a newborn, so keep things as simple as you can when creating your alternative baby bedtime routine.
Once they are older things change and you can shape it into a really nice part of your evening. But early on you are probably keen for some time for yourself and a chance to eat before they are up again!
You won’t be short of the opportunity to test what works and what doesn’t so you will find your very own alternative baby bedtime routine very soon.
Go easy on yourself as a new mum. You have enough on your plate. Read more about what to expect from newborn baby sleep and speak to your midwife or a medical professional for support.
What have you found to work best if you have an alternative baby bedtime routine from the traditional route?
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