This week I wanted to talk with you about the number one bedtime mistake I see parents making when they put their baby to bed.
Visit any baby site on the Web, search for “my baby won’t sleep,” or any phrase you would use, and you'll discover that almost every single site will tell you about the importance of a bedtime routine.
So will I.
I think a bedtime routine is a crucial first step in creating predictability for your baby. It teaches her that it’s time to make a transition from day into night.
Even adults have our favorite bedtime routines, right? Most of us prepare for sleep in the same orderly fashion every night before we climb into bed. Without these routines, we would feel a little uncomfortable and worry about whether or not we would fall asleep easily.
Our adult bedtime routine is important to us. So imagine how important it is to an infant or small child who is still learning how to do everything the right way. And this is where parents keep making the number one bedtime mistake.
Most of the time parents skip right over it. “Oh, a bedtime routine, right. Sure. Next problem?” because we’ve heard it so often.
But the biggest mistake that parents make is that somewhere in the routine, the baby sleeps!
I bet you’ve heard that your baby should have a bath, so you’re going to do a bath, you’re going to get jammies on, you're going to read a story, and then you’re going to do a feeding.
There, right there, that’s the snag.
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 that becomes your child’s cue that it’s time to start relaxing into sleep.
Stop right there. This is your number one bedtime mistake. Why?
If you nurse or bottle feed your baby to sleep and then transfer them to the crib, guess what? Your baby won't sleep through the night. Don't be surprised to find that 30 to 45 minutes later baby wakes up. And you’ve got to start her bedtime routine 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 it helps keep her alert. Don’t let her start to fall asleep.
Right now, you’re thinking “What? Don’t let her fall asleep? Isn’t that the point of the bedtime routine?”
Again, if you think of sleep as a journey, I don’t want you to allow your baby to start the journey too soon. When your baby start the sleep journey it looks like doziness, heavy blinking, closing the eyes and opening them. Don’t allow that to happen during the nighttime feed.
You want to keep your baby’s eyes open. You want to teach her that food is a nice step in the bedtime routine, but it is not for the purpose of sleeping. That comes next.
If your baby has a really strong association between eating and sleeping, I suggest you break it up with an extra step right after the feed. So feed her first. Then sit baby up on your lap, maybe read a short story together, just to help interrupt that mental connection between feeding and sleeping.
Then place your baby into the crib while she is still awake. This is how you start The Sleep Sense Program. I’ll teach you how to do it right so that it feels natural. It's the number one way your baby is going to learn the skills she or he needs in order to start sleeping through the night without any upset or restlessness.
So think about your baby's current bedtime routine. Even though you have one that was working, I'll bet you're noticing it isn't as effective as it was when your baby was much younger. And I'll bet you and your baby are both ready to make a healthy change and upgrade that bedtime routine to one that will last a lifetime.
If you want to know more about helping your baby learn to sleep through the night, I’d love to help. Just schedule your complimentary call with me today and you and your baby will both be getting a good night’s sleep in no time!
Jo Anna Inks
I help tired, frustrated parents get their babies sleeping through the night and napping well so everyone in the family can get the rest they so desperately need!