settling in the evening
Your baby’s bedtime routine must be calming and consistent because it acts as a cue for his brain to start shifting down into the drowsy state for bedtime. In the early evening your baby is very susceptible to sensory overload and melt downs. Be sure to be home, in a calming space, not socialising and keep exciting activities to a minimum. Start to introduce a predictable routine leading up to bedtime. Aim for a bedtime of between 6pm and 7pm. The time for bed should be related to the time he woke from his afternoon sleep.
the late afternoon sleep
This sleep can be tricky and you may need to adjust his awake and sleep times:
- For sleeps before 4.30pm, let your baby sleep for one sleep cycle of 45 minutes.
If he sleeps for longer, wake him by 5.15pm so that he will settle easily at bedtime.
- If the sleep is due after 4.30pm, let your baby only have a catnap – in other words wake him at 5.15pm, so that he does not have difficulty falling asleep in the evening.
- If the last daytime sleep is due any time after 5.30pm, just put him down for the night with an early bedtime if he is exhausted. An appropriate bedtime for babies of this age is any time from 5.30pm to 7pm.
Babysense Secret, 2011, p. 135
the bedtime routine
A calm bath time can be difficult to achieve if your baby loves the excitement of the water, but try to keep your interactions with each other muted.
Follow bath time with a soothing massage in his bedroom with dimmed lights. Do not take your baby out of his room between 6pm and 6am – in this way he will think the world ceases to exist while he is asleep. You can help your baby wind down further by reading, singing softly to the Baby Sense Lullabies instrumental music or playing Baby Sense White Noise music. If he enjoys massage and finds it calming, massage him with soothing oil. Dress him in soft night clothes, a good quality night-time nappy and Baby Sense Sleeping Bag if he started to kick-off his swaddle blanket.
Encourage him to use a sleep soother such as the Baby Sense Taglet and feed him his last feed of the day in the dark. Keep him in your arms for this feed so that he does not associate his bed with food. If he is wakeful after the last feed you can rock your baby or just hold him till he is drowsy. Take your time and relish these quiet moments with your baby – they’re few and far between.
Place him in his cot (not head first as this will stimulate him into a more awake state) when he is relaxed and drowsy but not yet asleep. Say good night and leave the room. Do not hang around to see what he is up to. Many babies chatter, move around and might even play for a bit before dropping off to sleep.
Faure, M & Richardson, A: Baby Sense. Metz Press, South Africa, 2002
Faure, M: The Babysense Secret. Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2011
Kurtz, E; Mindell, J; Telofski, L; Wiegand, B: A Nightly Bedtime Routine: Impact on Sleep in Young Children and Maternal Mood. SLEEP, Vol. 32, No. 5, 2009