Babies below six months old don’t have regular sleeping cycles yet, so they may frequently wake up at night. A bedtime routine helps them recognize daytime from the night and slowly transition to a regular bedtime. Parents can create their bedtime routine, which may involve baths, storytelling, music, massages, and feeding. There are also several tips to make bedtime more manageable, including toned-down voices and movements during diaper changes or feeding time and being aware of sleepiness cues.
Establishing a bedtime routine can be helpful for babies and their families, whether you are a first-time or veteran parent!
While it provides an array of benefits for infants, it promotes a healthy bond between parent and child.
It also provides parents with realistic expectations of managing an infant’s sleep cycle.
What’s the best bedtime for infants?
If you’re talking about a 2-month-old baby, the answer is none!
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants younger than 6 months old don’t have regular bedtime and sleeping cycles.
They’ll wake up at specific intervals throughout the night, usually because they’re hungry.
For the first few months, babies will sleep for more than half the day — around 16 hours. Only half of this will be at night.
Their sleep cycles aren’t regulated for the first three months, so they could wake up at intervals of one to two hours, whether morning or evening.
Sleep cycles are slightly better when they turn 4 to 6 months old. They can go as far as six hours of uninterrupted sleep but will still wake up sometimes at night.
Beyond 6 months old, infants may start to sleep throughout the night.
As parents, you must adjust for your child during the first few months. In time, they will learn about staying awake during the day and sleeping—most of the time—at night.
Establishing a bedtime routine for infant
In the long run, a bedtime routine will help your baby learn when it’s time to fall asleep and feel more comfortable and secure at night.
After all, sleep problems during early childhood may lead to more problems in a child’s holistic development as they grow older.
The following are some suggestions for a good bedtime routine plan:
Cool down from playtime
When it’s close to dinnertime, avoid any stimulating activities so your child has time to settle down for bed.
Bathing keeps your child both calm and clean for a night’s rest.
Not only does reading out loud help them get ready for bed, but it can also help develop their language and listening skills.
Studies show that even nursery rhymes help with literacy skills in babies.
Music to one’s ears
Relaxing music also helps a baby feel more at ease and ready to sleep. Choose calming sounds, and make sure the volume isn’t too high.
Alternatively, you can try singing songs or lullabies to your baby.
Give a full feed
A happy stomach often contributes to sleepiness.
Cluster feeding may help decrease the number of times they wake up at night, but make sure to feed only at the start of the bedtime routine.
Give a massage
Research shows that a few minutes of massage can help soothe children and make it easier (and faster) to fall asleep.
There is no strict bedtime routine that’s one-size-fits-all. Try to experiment and find out which activities your baby enjoys the most.
How to make bedtime more manageable for infants?
1. Take cues from your baby
Much like hunger signs, your child will also show signs of sleepiness. These are yawning, looking away, fussing, and rubbing their eyes.
For infants of 4 months old and up, please don’t wait for them to fall asleep before putting them on their beds.
This is to let them associate their sleepiness with the comfort of their bed or crib. This also signals parents to start their bedtime routine, preventing their baby from becoming overtired.
Once you see signs that they’re ready to sleep, move them to the bed. Let them fall asleep on their own, on their bed, under your supervision.
Don’t let them get used to being carried or rocked to sleep, or they won’t learn to fall asleep without this.
2. Gentle voice and gentle movements
When your baby cries for the sixth time at night, it can be tempting to raise your voice to vent your frustration.
This might prevent your baby from going back to sleep peacefully, making the situation worse!
Instead, breathe deeply, pull yourself together, and calm down first.
Then, when handling your baby, use soft and gentle movements, and lower your voice if you need to speak out loud.
This calm energy will help lull your baby to sleep.
3. Don’t expect a whole night’s sleep
Babies are expected to wake up every few hours, regardless of the reason. Be prepared to change diapers or feed at two in the morning.
On the other hand, if your child is less than 6 months old, it’s better to have them checked by a doctor if you notice that they sleep the whole night without waking up.
4. Busy days lead to better sleep
Giving your baby much attention and playtime during the day can help their bodies understand that morning is for play and nighttime is for sleep.
Prioritize activities and interactions during mornings and afternoons, such as tummy time, playing with toys, cuddling, and talking to them.
Make sure they don’t sleep for too long during afternoon naps.
Do’s and don’ts of bedtime routine for infants
Do let your baby fall back asleep on their own
Sometimes your child will wake up and keep crying until they’re taken care of — they need their diaper changed, or they’re hungry.
But if they wake up, cry, and fall asleep on their own within a few minutes, that’s perfectly fine.
Good sleepers are babies who may wake up at night for no reason but can lull themselves back to sleep after a few minutes.
It’s expected that babies wake up now and then at night — but it’s not recommended that parents rush to their infant’s side for every cry or wail they hear.
If it isn’t related to food, wet diapers, or an ongoing illness, let your baby wake up and learn how to fall asleep on its own.
You’ll know they need your attention if they cry for more than a few minutes.
Do let your baby have enough sleep during the day
While infants should have more interactions and attention during the day, ensure they have enough naps as appropriate for their age.
Keeping them awake the whole day won’t make them sleep throughout the entire night. Instead, they will end up being extra fussy, and they’ll wake up more frequently.
Don’t let your baby fall asleep in your arms
Don’t let your child fall asleep in your arms — they’ll get used to it. They won’t feel secure falling asleep on their own.
They’ll quickly wake up when you transfer them to bed. When they wake up in the middle of the night, they won’t know how to fall back asleep.
They’ll always demand your attention for it, and you won’t have enough sleep in the long run.
Don’t let your baby fall asleep on their belly
Back-sleeping puts your child at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
To avoid SIDS, have your baby sleep in their bed or crib. Don’t put thick blankets, pillows, or stuffed toys beside them in bed.
When do children start to sleep through the night?
The average age is around 6 months old.
By this time, they can sleep for as long as 10 hours, but they will definitely have several waking moments at night.
My baby keeps on waking up at night; is that normal?
For the first few months of life, it’s expected that your child wakes up at night.
It’s part of their growth and developmental process — they learn to feel secure and, eventually, fall asleep on their own.
However, it’s always best to consult your family doctor or pediatrician if you are worried about it.
Being parents of newborns and infants takes its toll on anyone, especially regarding having enough sleep.
By being aware of the importance of bedtime routines and some do’s and dont’s for infants. Hopefully, these tips can help parents care for their infant properly at night.