Establishing A Bedtime Routine With Your Baby – What Worked For Us
With both of our boys (Ethan now 4 and Logan now 2), we were lucky that their going to sleep was never a constant battle, but I can remember feeling a bit like I was going to break due to the lack of sleep (especially during the tougher phases). There was a time when we found ourselves in a phase of sharing our bed every night. There was even a time when we had to pick our youngest son up from his grandparents because he'd woke up at 2 o'clock in the morning and just outright refused to accept that he needed to go back to sleep. There were also times when I would feel consumed with Mum-guilt because my baby would wake up at night crying, and we'd struggle to settle him back off to sleep.
But I expect that this same sort of story is usual for parents of babies. I feel very thankful that it didn't take us too long to be able to establish good routines and find an approach that meant the sleepless nights weren't long term.
Setting a routine
The first thing we made sure to do was be consistent with a bedtime routine. The importance of routine was proven to us when our first son was quite young, and we didn't quite realise how much a change to his normal routine would affect him while we were on holiday. While away, we let him stay up a bit later and also come into our bed with us. Naively, we thought he'd be fine going back into his own bed when we were home again. But, of course, he wasn't, and what followed was quite a hard bedtime battle phase. So ever since then we've tried to keep to a good routine when it comes to going to bed.
- Bath time was, and still is, every other night. We bathe them in the evenings usually to help them feel relaxed and settled for bed.
- After bath time, we use a bit of baby moisturizing cream for any dry skin and also apply nappy cream. We do this especially at night when the nappy stays on for the longest to protect against rash. We like to use baby nappy ointment because it works for us. We found that, as a result of regular applications, the boys never suffered with nappy rash. It’s also very easy to use while one handed (which is great for when your baby is a bit of a wriggler like my youngest is!)
- After that is pajamas, milk time, and teeth brushing.
- Then around 7 pm, it's time to settle down in the chair in their room for a cuddle and story time - we usually read them two books each. When the boys were younger, they would sometimes fall asleep with their milk which made bedtime a lot easier!
Things to help baby settle
When it came to getting our boys to settle in their beds after they'd moved into the own rooms, we found a starlight mobile to be a bit of a lifesaver. It plays calming music and also has lights that shine a relaxing light show. It automatically shuts off after 20 minutes or so which we found brilliant because it meant that we didn't have to keep going into their rooms like we would have had to with a wind-up cot mobile.
My boys also have teddy bears that they've had from birth. They find so much comfort in the bears and sleep with them every night. They both slept with dummies, and Ethan gave his up at 3 (Logan still has his). And we used sleeping/grow bags with them both too for bedtime. I really like the sleeping bags because they are so much safer than loose covers are and also pretty good for when they are a bit older and can stand up. It's far harder for them to attempt to climb out of their cot with them on.
Trying controlled crying?
I believe that trying controlled crying is only recommended for babies who are a bit older. I personally wouldn't have used it when my little ones were really little, but when it came to settling Ethan into his own room and teaching him that bedtime meant bedtime, controlled crying really worked for us.
Different people have different opinions on controlled crying. Ideally, however, the focus should be on teaching your children that everybody has to go to bed at night. Think of it as taking your children to school, you wouldn't take either of your children out of school just because they cried, right? Instead, you would comfort and reassure them at the start of the day, and come back to pick them up at the end of the day. Alas, there is no right or wrong approach, but it is important for you to find a compromise that works for both you and your children. Yes, babies do need their sleep, but so do their parents, especially if they want to be able to give their children their best the next day.
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