When your infant is about 5 weeks old (adjusted age), they will go through a developmental leap a.k.a. “Wonder Week 5- The World Of Changing Sensations”. During this leap, your infant is bombarded with new sensations both inside and outside of their body (environment). You will notice that your baby is interested in everything that is going on around them. Once your baby shows social cues such as smiling, this indicates that they recognize social behavior. Establishing nap and bedtime routines is the first essential step in sleep training your infant.
We cannot communicate via words to our infants, but we can communicate through our behaviors and routines. The more consistent you are with your routines, the quicker your little one will catch on to the message that you are trying to communicate. Bedtime and naptime routines send that message that sleep is coming. Infants and children thrive on routine. As a Kindergarten teacher, I can tell you that children love when things are predictable as it helps them to feel somewhat in control. Knowing what is going to happen next helps your infant or child feel safe and secure. It also makes sleep time less of a struggle.
The more senses that you can include in your routine the better.
Sight- Dim the lights/ darkness
Sounds- white noise, the same lullaby or the same words spoken before bed “Good night, I love you”
Smell- Do you use a lightly scented oil, lotion or bath product? This familiar scent will help trigger the brain that sleep is coming.
Touch- Water is one of the best ways to distinguish bedtime from naptime. Water tells your infant that not only is sleep coming, but bedtime is coming. A brief massage is another way to incorporate the sense of touch into your sleep routines.
Nap and bedtime routines do not need to take very long. The most important element is consistency. When deciding on a sleep routine, think of things that you can implement into your daily life. A nap routine should take about 5 minutes or less. Some possible elements to include in your nap routine are:
Turn on the white noise machine
Put your infant in a swaddle or sleep sack *use promo code SARAHP15 at nested bean for 15% off your order.
Sing a lullaby
Remember, you want a quick
nap routine that you can be consistent with. You may only choose a couple of these suggestions.
A bedtime routine not only communicates that sleep is impending. . . but bedtime is here. I recommend distinguishing bedtime from naptime by incorporating water. Your bedtime routine should take 30 minutes or less. If a routine is too long, it loses its purpose. Your bedtime routine might include some of the following elements:
Bottle or nursing (at the BEGINNING of the bedtime routine)
Dim the Lights
Read a book
Sing a lullaby
Say “Good Night”
The association between feed and sleep is very strong. Many infants rely on a bottle or nursing as a sleep crutch. To help remove this association, I recommend avoiding feeding your baby at least 30 minutes before sleep times. This is why I did not include nursing/bottle in the nap routine. You may include a feed at the beginning of the bedtime routine, but the more activities between feeding and sleep, the better.
Bath time does not need to be a long, drawn out event. A quick 5-10 minutes bath is plenty. I often hear parents say that they are concerned that bathing their baby will result in dry skin. Below are my recommendations for bath time:
Bath time does not need to take long. Shorten the duration of the bath time
Use soap every other night
Add coconut oil to the water
Use oatmeal bath bombs in your water (directions below)
Follow up your bath time with a brief massage with a hydrating lotion or oil. I absolutely LOVE the Beauty From Bees baby oil.
If you choose not give your child or children a bath every night, I recommend still giving a wipe down with a wet rag.
Including Siblings in Bedtime Routine
If you have other children in your household, help lighten the load of the bedtime routine by including your older children. A Bedtime routine benefits everyone in the home. Older siblings feel very special and important when they are able to be “helpers”. Some suggestions I have are:
- Bath your children at the same time. Depending on the ages of your children, they may be able to hop into the same tub together.
- Older siblings can be in charge of reading the bedtime story
- Older siblings can sing bedtime songs
- Older siblings can be in charge of turning the white noise on, dimming the lights, picking out pajamas, etc.
When we travel with our little ones, part of the sleep issue is that their sleep environment looks different from their room at home. One way that you can combat this is by having something that is familiar. . . such as a nap and bedtime routine. Even though other things may be different, the sleep routine is consistent.
I recommend showing all caregivers how you implement your nap and bedtime routines so they can follow suit. This is especially crucial in co-parenting situations, if your children go to daycare or if you have family members or babysitters put your children down for naps/bed. Remember that consistency is key so even if you are not home to do these routines, other people can implement these routines with your kiddos. If you cannot demonstrate these routines, write them out and post them in convenient places.
When I work with parents who are in a co-parenting situation, I remind them that routines are comforting to their child. Even though other things in your child’s environment is different (different home, different rules), one constant should be a bedtime routine.
Oatmeal Bath Bombs
My twin boys have very dry skin. They have rough, sand paper like patches of skin all over their bodies. Steroid creams, lotions, Vaseline and oils weren’t helping. My mom reminded me of the oatmeal baths we used to have as kids. These oatmeal bombs are da-bomb! I throw one in the bathtub with the kids and their skin is. . . dare I say the M word? Gross. I won’t say it. Their skin is the opposite of dry. Once the oatmeal bombs have been used, I empty the nylon socks and reuse them.
All you need to make oatmeal bombs is
I bought some nylon socks off of amazon but you can probably find some cheap nylon socks at the dollar store as well. I folded the sock over a glass cup, filled the sock about 1/3 of the way and tie with a knot.
I hope that you found this blog post helpful. Nap and bedtime routines are essential for sleep training. Everyone in the house benefits when they know what to expect as it provides a sense of comfort. We all like when things are predictable and infants are no exception. Sleep routines and sleep environment are crucial when laying the foundations for healthy sleep practise.