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Establishing a baby bedtime routine

Advice on how to establish a bedtime routine for your baby to help encourage good nap and sleeping patterns during the daytime and at night.
While many babies fall into a routine of their own accord and will sleep through the night automatically, the majority will need a little coaching. Establishing the right sleep associations from an early age is vital if you want to avoid long-term sleep problems. But no matter what age your baby, there's always something you can do to improve their sleeping habits.

Establishing a routine

Even babies under six weeks can be encouraged to help form the right sleep patterns. Follow these guidelines to help settle your baby at bedtime:
  • Even newborn babies have to be awake some of the time during the day. Keep this to short spells of no longer than two hours.
  • For a small baby to settle well in the evening it's important he takes a full feed prior to going to bed, is well winded and ready to sleep when you put him to bed.
  • The bedtime routine should be calm and quiet.
  • Keep the lights dim, and avoid lots of talking and eye contact during the last feed.
  • Always settle your baby in his cot before he falls asleep. If he's become sleepy on the breast or bottle, rouse him slightly before putting him in his cot.
  • Make sure your baby is tucked in securely. Some younger babies may benefit from swaddling.
  • Allow your baby five to 10 minutes to settle himself to sleep. If he's getting upset, pick him up and offer him more to eat. Hunger is one of the main causes of young babies not settling in the evening, particularly with breastfed babies. Resettle him in his cot again and leave him for a further five or 10 minutes. If he's still unsettled, repeat the same procedure. Being consistent is key to this technique working, and in the long-term it's more reassuring for your baby than changing tactics at bedtime. Do not be tempted to take him downstairs either. Bringing him back into his daytime environment will only confuse him.

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My baby used to wake up every 2 hours, I found out that she had gas and also she was feeling cold at night, we don't realize that babies sometime needs to feel comfortable to be able to sleep the whole night. My advice: put on PJs that warm her legs and her belly. I found some pants that really helps with the gas because make a little press on her belly and also keep her legs warm.
by LinasMom 20th Oct 2010, 10:13am
got a problem with my baby, hes always tired at 5pm for a nap but if he sleeps he wont settle till 2 or 3 am. if i dont let him sleep he will get over tired and become really hard to settle. he needs to be rocked and soothed to sleep too. he goes right through the night on the other hand. help needed
by hollymarie 23rd Nov 2009, 10:44am
I breast feed my little boy who is now 4 months. I feed him from both sides and put him down for the night at 7.30pm so he is asleep before 8pm. I lift him at 10pm change his nappy and feed him again from both breasts and top him up with formula. He goes down easily into his cot once he is winded. He might chatter to himself for a while or cry slightly but goes over to sleep quickly. He will sleep through to 4 am and wakens for a feed. I found that he natural looks to go for a morning, lunch time and afternoon nap without forcing the issue. I had previously read the contented Baby book when my little boy was a few months old and thought I would not be able to implement a routine like it. However once he reached 3 months he started naturally to fall into a similar routine of his own.

Weekends I found knocked his sleeping patterns out on a monday and he would look for more cuddles and not settle himself to sleep. I have realised this is because my husband is at home all weekend and our little boy has his undivided attention.

I am going to try to stick to the routine he has and the night time feed at the week ends and see if it helps.
by fbididthetrick 19th Nov 2009, 9:20am
I was stuggling to settle my baby after the 6pm feed, he was screaming untill the 10 o'clock feed. At about 8 weeks a health visitor recommended I fed from both breasts and offered formula as a 'top up' at the bed time feed, ever since then he has slept from 7 to around 2am and then 7am and he goes down with minimum fuss. It was the best advice I was given. It saved my sanity.
by BlondeBird 21st Sep 2009, 9:17am
I have a 5 month old baby girl and I've waited to long to put her on a bedtime schedule. She goes to bed fine but wakes up 4-5 times through the night. What can I do to keep her sleeping at night?
by stephjoeynat 9th Mar 2009, 9:28am
i always give my son his milk before he goes o bed on a night he normally falls asleep with the milk and doesnt wake even when you move him until i take my hands away and then he will wake up stand up and have a paddy i try letting him cry it out but he just gets worse where he will rattle his cot and throws anything he can get hold of out at me until i pick him up again then he will fall asleep instantly and advice
by rbslady 29th Sep 2008, 9:14am