How To Create A Bedtime Routine For A Baby

Thank you to I See Me Books for sponsoring this post.

Do you want to help your baby have a smoother, less tearful transition to sleep at night?

Do you wish your baby would STAY asleep longer once they do drift off? 

There are so many different methods to get your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own (AKA “sleep training”) out there, which I know can be a bit overwhelming. However, one foundational element almost all sleep training methods include is developing and sticking with a bedtime routine.  

A peaceful, predictable bedtime routine is an important part of helping a baby to wind down and sleep well at night; baby who knows what is coming next is more relaxed, and therefore more likely to fall and stay asleep. Getting your baby used to a nightly routine from as early as 6 to 8 weeks not only has benefits for them, but also for you as a parent. It is nice to have special time, that you don’t have to plan or think about, set aside to connect with your little one at the end of each day.

Establishing a bedtime routine early on can also set you up for future successes in getting your little one to to brush their teeth, use the potty and complete other before-bed musts when they become a toddler. There are numerous benefits to creating a consistent bedtime routine for a baby, and it’s a critical component to helping your baby to be a better sleeper. So, why not start there?

Although there isn’t a prescription for the perfect bedtime routine for a baby (trust me, I looked!), below are 15 soothing elements you could choose to include within your little one’s nightly routine:

How To Create A Bedtime Routine:

To create the routine, my recommendation would be to keep it simple, and follow the process below:

  • Pick 4-6 elements from the list above.
  • Choose the order of those elements.
  • Time how long your routine takes to complete.
  • If the routine takes longer than you’d like, drop 1-2 of the components.
  • Once you’ve determine which elements are most soothing for your baby, and realistic for you to complete each night, continue to follow that same predictable pattern of events beginning at the same time (as much as possible) each night. 

A bedtime routine won’t be effective unless it is, well, routine.

Something important to note is that what works for one baby in a bedtime routine may not work for another. Babies are all SO different! For example, some babies are soothed and calmed by a nightly bath before going to bed. Taylor, on the other hand, gets very excited by a bath (more on her bath time routine and favs in this post), making it completely counterproductive to winding down. Another example from our experience was that ending our routine with a nursing session resulted in Taylor waking up much more frequently in the night than she does now that it comes at the beginning of her routine; However, some babies will sleep through the night regardless of when their final nursing or bottle session occurs.

The Perfect Addition To A Bedtime Routine:

We tried out several different iterations of a bedtime routine, playing with both the length of the routine as well as the components and their order, to find out what worked for both Taylor, her Dad and I. Please continue reading to find out Taylor’s current bedtime routine…but first I’m excited to share our new favorite board book from ISeeMe.com, known for their award winning personalized children’s books. We have loved incorporating this board book into Taylor’s bedtime routine lately:

It’s Taylor’s Night Night Time! is the perfect compliment to a bedtime routine for any baby – of course personalized with your babe’s own name!

Board books are essential for babies this age, and let me tell you that I See Me  has super cute ones to choose from. Each book includes adorable personalization details on almost every page. One of my favorites is the option to add a personalized inscription on the first page of the book; you can even choose to include your sweet baby’s picture to make it even more special. I See Me has personalized books for babies and kids ranging from special occasions (i.e. holidays, birthdays), to fairy tales, to coloring books, and even personalized sticker books, puzzles and growth charts.

Make sure to check out ISeeMe.com to pick up a personalized copy of the Night Night Time book for your little one!

Another adorable book from ISeeMe.com’s collection titled, T Is For Taylor.

Taylor’s Bedtime Routine (10 months old)

We start Taylor’s bedtime routine 25 minutes prior to when I’d like her to be asleep, then complete the following elements in this exact order every night:

  1. Nursing or bottle. Her last nursing session takes place outside of her room on the couch in the living room, so as to separate feeding to sleep as much as possible.
  2. We then move into her room and turn on her night light and white noise machine, and then turn off the main light in her room.
  3. I change her into her nighttime diaper and pajamas.
  4. We walk around the room saying goodnight to objects and prints in her room (e.g. “goodnight crib, elephant rocker, etc”), ending in saying good night to her ABC Poster and singing the corresponding song to her.
  5. Then, I put her into her sleep sack. Right now she is sleep in this Halo Sleep Sack that has openings in the bottom for her feet. She has always slept in some version of a Halo Sleep sack, beginning with their swaddler version for the first 5 months of her life, so this part of the routine is a main sleep cue for her.
  6. Next, we read 2-3 (okay, sometimes 10) books while rocking in the glider.
  7. Lastly, I tell her, “you’re going to go night night in your crib now,” get up from the glider walk over to the crib, give her a kiss/hug while saying a short, silent prayer for her, tell her, “mama loves you so much, have a great sleep,” and place her in the crib to drift off.

Although she can fall asleep readily on her own, Taylor does wake up 1-2 times per night. I wanted to include that as encouragement to mamas who feel like they are doing everything they can, but still have a babe who wakes during the night. I am told she may sleep through the night once we are done breastfeeding, but I’m not too worried about it. I’ll count my blessings with a baby who goes to sleep peacefully/independently!

Well, hopefully this post gave you some ideas to create, tweak or add to your baby’s bedtime routine. I would love if you would let me know the routine you create for your babe in the comments below!

xo, Ashley (1)

Other Ta[y]lor-made Mama posts you may be interested in:

Personalized Alphabet Book

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5 Tips For Getting Your Newborn To Sleep

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The first three months of a baby’s life is sometimes referred to as the 4th Trimester. They are as much outside their comfort zone as you are out of yours as a new mama. For 9 months they were soothed to sleep by your movement throughout the day, constant whirring of noise in the womb, and the snuggly feeling of compression all around. It must be pretty darn cozy in there (heck Taylor decided to stay an extra 8 days!). It’s no wonder babies have a difficult time settling and falling asleep in the outside world. I think the saying “sleeping like a baby” is actually sort of backwards when it comes to newborns; if someone is sleeping like most newborns, then they’re probably having a difficult time falling and staying asleep! For the 4th trimester, I didn’t worry about sleep training or if I was creating any bad sleep habits – it’s the time to just do whatever you can to help your sweet newborn (and yourself!) get some rest. Give yourself that freedom and do whatever works for you and your baby. Read more about surviving the first weeks with your newborn in THIS post.

When Taylor was born I was naively surprised that I couldn’t just put her down with a pacifier and have her fall asleep. I guess I had never spent enough time around a newborn to know that, with rare exception, it’s just not that easy. In fact, Taylor rejected a pacifier until she was 4 months old. Trust me, I tried every trick and variety of pacifier I could find, all to no avail – little mama just wasn’t having it. It was hard to watch her struggle so much to fall asleep and feel like I had no clue how to help her. However, having a baby who wouldn’t take a pacifier encouraged me to really look into what else (aside from sucking) helps newborns feel soothed enough to fall asleep.

I am by NO means an expert, and obviously every baby is different, but I  do want to share 5 things that really worked well for Taylor. These are 5 things I wasn’t doing for the first month of her life, and that I noticed made a huge difference once I started. Within one week of implementing these 5 things Taylor was sleeping 8-9 hours for her first stretch of sleep followed by 3-4 more, at only 6 weeks old!

If you’re a brand new mama, I hope some of the things that worked for us work for you and your newborn as well.

1. Swaddle

Taylor seemed to fight the swaddle for the first month of her life, so I had her sleep without it. She was waking up every 1-1.5 hours that entire time. No joke, the night I started her back in this Halo Swaddle Sleep Sack, she slept a 4 hour stretch and then 8 hours a couple days later. The more I’ve read, the more I understand that most babies really need that compression to feel cozy and secure, just like in the womb. Swaddling also helps control to Moro Reflex which causes their little arms to flail up and about uncontrollably, which often wakes them in the night for the first few months. I have an entire Pinterest board devoted to Baby Sleep – click the link and give my board a follow for a wealth of info !

Snug as a bug in her swaddle

2. Use white noise

Did you know that inside the womb sounds just a bit louder than a vacuum cleaner!? It’s no wonder that babies are comforted by loud white noise. Again, I started incorporating loud white noise as a component of Taylor’s bedtime routine around 5 weeks old, and she began sleeping through the night shortly thereafter. I didn’t think it would work, but it really did! I think it helped her be soothed back to sleep when she did wake in the night as well. We use THIS sound machine and love it. It is portable and can run on batteries, which is perfect for travel. For more items, like the sound machine, I wish I’d added to my baby registry read THIS post.

3. Establish a bedtime routine early on!

I wish I had started a bedtime routine for Taylor even earlier than I did.  The first few weeks I was totally baffled about the whole baby sleep thing and flew by the seat of my exhausted, new mama pants. However, within one week of establishing a bedtime routine for Taylor, at 5 weeks old, she began sleeping through the night! Routines help babies to understand that it is time for nighttime sleep – they’re used to sleeping during the day for the last 9+ months when you were moving around, lulling them to sleep. It makes sense that a lot of babies are confused between day and nighttime for a while, hence the waking all night long.

For newborns, a routine can be something super simple such as:

  1. Dim the lights or turn them off completely and use a nightlight (during the day I always had her nap in a bright room)
  2. Turn on loud white noise
  3. Change baby into an overnight diaper even if you just changed their diaper 30 minutes before (I use regular diapers one size larger, and cover her bum in this natural Butt Paste)
  4. Put babe into his/her PJ’s
  5. Sing a lullaby or two while swaddling
  6. Nurse or bottle feed baby while rocking
  7. *Put baby in crib drowsy but awake

*I have to pat Taylor’s belly a little bit until she drifts off, and sometime she falls asleep while nursing so I put her in the crib already asleep. From 9 weeks until about 15 weeks, we would usually need to bounce her on a yoga ball after nursing to help her get drowsy before going into her crib.

4. Make sure baby is well burped/gassed

This may seem like a no brainer to some, but I truly didn’t realize how much I would need to burp Taylor in order for her not to have gas that would keep her up. Sometimes the simplest things can have a huge impact on your babe’s ability to fall and stay asleep. They rely solely on you to make sure they aren’t experiencing discomfort. Burp, burp and burp that newborn some more until you are certain there is no gas trapped in his or her little tummy. There are also techniques to help newborns get rid of any gas that may keep them from sleeping comfortably. Sometimes Taylor would wake in the night making little grunting noise and all I would need to do is “gas” her by pumping her legs  in a bicycle motion and gently up toward her chest until there was no more gas. Then she would fall right back to sleep. I used the technique the parents show in THIS video and the massage shown in THIS video.

5. Use a swing

I’ve heard that some babies don’t like their swings, but I absolutely swear by this swing. Taylor learned to fall asleep on her own in this swing. At first you’ll have to have the swing setting on fairly high, but then you can progressively lower the speed until your baby can fall asleep with little to no motion at all. We did not have Taylor sleep in the swing at night, but it really helped her to learn the skill of falling asleep on her own, which then generalized to her nighttime/crib sleep.

You can read more from the baby sleep experts at Precious Little Sleep on getting babies (even the most sleep resistant!) to sleep in a swing HERE.

Now THAT is “sleeping like a baby”!

So there you have it – my top 5 tips for getting your newborn to sleep and stay asleep. Hopefully these tips work for your baby, and for you!

What other techniques, routines or tips do you have to get your little one to sleep?

xo, Ashley (1)

*Disclaimer: Taylor turned 4 months and the regression hit immediately. Although she is not sleeping 8-9 hours a stretch right now at 5 months (I wish!), she is still sleeping 5-6 hr stretches and waking only twice at most. We were super spoiled with her sleep as a newborn, and I still think it had much to do with these 5 tips.

Maternity Leave Routine for Mama + Baby

new mom's example of the routine she established with her newborn during maternity leave.
The first 3-5 weeks with Taylor were an oxytocin-laced, exhausting haze. Normally one who loves routines and schedules, I had none. I was nursing and changing diapers around the clock, often didn’t even know what day or time it was, was recovering physically/emotionally in big ways, and certainly didn’t have time to even think about a routine or what that might include.

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Solo coffee run w/ 2 week old = I’m a bad @$$.

The first few weeks with a newborn are pretty much survival mode – you just do whatever you have to do to make sure your baby is getting enough to eat and sleep, and that you are getting some amount of food/sleep in yourself. If that means spending way too much money on takeout every night, co-sleeping when you intended to use a bassinet, not leaving the house ever, feeding every 45 min because that’s what baby needs, etc., well, so be it! – whatever works for you and your sweet baby, right? Not to mention, many newborns [mine included] pretty much sleep ALL day long, so trying to complete some sort of activity or outing during their über limited wake time seems ridiculous. Thinking back, it was pretty amusing how accomplishing the simplest things made me feel SUPER proud of myself in those first few weeks – like the first time I left the house with Taylor without my hubby for a coffee run and neither of us was in tears the entire 45 minutes.

It took about a month for me to emerge from the haze and get into a groove with Taylor [and AJ], but I love what we have going on now. We have been loosely following an Eat, Play/Activity, Sleep routine that shows up in a lot of popular baby-management books such as Baby Whisperer and BabyWise. I say loosely because, as much as I want to help Taylor develop a predictable routine and give our days some structure, I am actually on HER schedule and sometimes she has needs that don’t line up perfectly with my plan [duh]. For example, when she goes through a growth spurt, or has a short feed upon waking up, I know I may need to break the routine and feed her again before she goes to sleep so that she doesn’t get hungry and wake up from the nap prematurely. Overall though, non-militantly following an Eat, Play Sleep routine has worked well for us and I imagine it will be even more useful as she gets a bit older.

Obviously, the strategy that works for us certainly won’t work with every baby + mama for any number of reasons, but I do think establishing a routine when you feel ready is really helpful. The whole point of this post is to share an outline of one of our days to give you some ideas for the of the sort of routine you could establish early on in your maternity leave, with one baby [you supermoms with more than one simply amaze me – how do you do it?!].

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{Credit: Precious Little Sleep}

Before getting to that, I have to say that I made a lot of mistakes didn’t know a lot of things that were impacting our ability to get into a routine in those first few weeks – particularly related to sleep. I’ve since spent a lot of nursing sessions reading up on helpful baby sleep stuff and pinning articles to my Baby Sleep Pinterest Board. The HANDS-DOWN BEST baby sleep resource I have found is the Precious Little Sleep Blog, Podcast and Facebook group. I would seriously like to bear hug the author. Her 0-3 Months Newborn Baby Sleep Survival Guide has been invaluable for me; when I read through one of the posts in the series which included the chart, “Baby Sleep: How Much, When, How Long,” I realized just how short a newborn’s wake time actually is. I was actually keeping her awake too long, which was leading to a lot of unnecessary fussiness – the poor thing just wanted to sleep. Live and learn! I have used that chart, in addition to getting to know Taylor’s cues, to structure and adjust her Eat, Play, Sleep schedule according to her wake times.

Now, on to a typical day-in-the-life of Taylor [11 weeks] + Ashley, Maternity Leave style!

7:30AM – EAT, PLAY

When I notice Taylor is awake on the monitor I usually turn on her beloved projection mobile, which I can do from my iPhone [soooo 2016.]. This buys me about 15 minutes to wake up myself somewhat, and it absolutely delights her to watch those little woodland creatures floating around up there. One of my favorite parts of the day is saying good morning to her.

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T lovin’ her “Woodland Animal” friends.

Next, I change her out of her overnight diaper [I just use a diaper one size larger than she wears in the day] then feed her, unless her last feeding was more than two hours prior to waking [at this point she typically eats once during the night between 3:30 and 5:00 AM]. I watch the Today Show/news during her feeding and think about the day ahead. Once she is done with her breakfast, she sits in a bouncy chair [or her Daddy spends time with her if he is available!] while I grab coffee and something quick to eat -narrating my actions to her all the while. Following our breakfasts we lay on the bed in her room and read a book or two and “chat” – which is adorable.

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Baby Bjorn Bouncer on loan from my BFF.

9:00AM [or as soon as she shows her “I’m sleepy” cues] – SLEEP

At 11 weeks old, Taylor is usually awake an hour and a half – give or take 30 minutes so, we get ready and go for a walk through the park to downtown where I [more often than I should] grab a decaf Americano at Starbucks and she takes a snooze. One of her daily naps is in her stroller for the duration of a 2-4 mile walk, usually in the morning. Yes, I have read this is not as restorative as a stationary nap in a bassinet or crib, but Taylor is getting in her sleep and I’m getting in my cardio – win, win!

If she is still sleeping when we get back to the house I start some laundry, tidy up the house and/or myself, scroll through social media or work on blog stuff.

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Must be nice to be so stinkin’ cute!

11:00AM – EAT, PLAY

After Taylor wakes up from what is usually a fairly long nap, she eats her second breakfast. While she eats I think, pray, brainstorm, watch TV, read Pinterest articles, etc. I change her diaper after she eats and put her in an outfit for the day which is inevitably more stylish than my own. And, yes I usually keep her in her Wondersuit most of the morning because they are so darn comfy and cute.

Next, Taylor has playtime under her play mat – this includes a few minutes of “tummy time” which is as much as she will tolerate at this point. But, we’re working on it!

She loves this play mat!

12:15PM – SLEEP

Taylor starts acting sleepy [yawning and looking off into the distance] so I take her to her room, turn on her white noise machine, swaddle her in her Halo sleepsack swaddle and bounce her on the yoga ball until she nods off, then transfer her into her DockATot in the crib. I think I will eventually [4+ months] use some type of sleep training to help her learn to self-soothe, but for now I’m doing whatever works to help her get all the sleep she needs.

3:00PM – EAT, PLAY

Yes, she does take one really long nap most days – hence, how I’ve had time to develop this blog; the girl likes her sleep! When she wakes up, she eats again and then I change her diaper. We’ll usually spend some time on the floor working on motor skills – I like to go through the daily suggestions on the Baby Sparks app. At this time I’ll usually take her out for a Target, Whole Foods or other errand run.

4:00PM – SLEEP

Taylor almost always falls asleep in her carseat during our errand-ing. If we haven’t run an errand I’ll do our quick nap routine of sound machine/swaddle/bounce/put down in crib or swing and she’ll take her nap at home. This is when I’ll usually sneak in a quick workout in the house or outside in our garage gym [watching the monitor, of course!].

5:00PM – EAT, PLAY

Time to eat and have her diaper changed again! She tends to cluster feed/tank up between 5:00 and 7:00, and sometimes even grabs a cat-nap, so I just follow her cues and feed/put her down for sleep on demand between now and her bedtime. AJ is typically done with work by now, so Taylor gets to spend special time with daddy [lucky baby!]. If I didn’t workout earlier, and it’s a day I’ve planned to, I’ll get that in while they have their time together.  Oh, and if it’s a bath day (read about our bath time routine/essentials in this post), this would also be the time we give her one. I tried giving her a bath as part of her nighttime routine a couple times, but she gets so pumped up in there it didn’t  seem like a  very good “wind down” activity for her.

7:00PM – SLEEP

You can read about Taylor’s bedtime routine in this post. Establishing a night time routine early on is so important to a good night’s sleep for you and your little one.

I know that our current routines and rhythms will change once my maternity leave ends at the end of July, so I’m soaking up our sweet days together – the ones when we do a whole lot, and especially the ones where we do a whole lot of nothing but be together.

UPDATE [August 2017]: After going back to work for a year (which ended up being A LOT harder on my heart than I anticipated), we decided as a family that I would stay at home with Taylor. This was a BIG decision for me (read about that HERE), but I’m glad I made a leap of faith. We moved cities and changed up our whole lifestyle, but the time I now have with Taylor is worth all that change. If you want to follow along with my journey from career mom to stay/work at home mom start with THIS POST.

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Precious time with T.

What kind of routines and schedules do you use with your littles?  I’m curious to hear about your experiences with Babywise, Baby Whisperer, or other methodologies. What has and hasn’t worked for you? 

xo, Ashley (1)

Other Ta[y]lor-made Mama posts you may be interested in: