Why Your Newborn Should Have a Bedtime (Even Though They Wake to Feed)Mar 16, 2022
Bringing home a newborn (especially as a first-time parent) can feel overwhelming, confusing, and exhausting - the hamster wheel of eating, sleeping, and pooping. Many parents are looking for some semblance of order in their day at the very least and some are even looking to get ahead on creating healthy sleep habits early on for their little one! Regardless of what category you fall into there, even the parents just wanting to “go with the flow,” a consistent bedtime and bedtime routine for newborns is a great place to start.
Parents often wonder and ask me, “when should I implement a bedtime and bedtime routine?” My answer to this is that, as long as you feel comfortable with it, I recommend creating a bedtime (and bedtime routine!) as early as bringing your baby home from the hospital, or whenever you have the energy to begin.
Whenever I bring up implementing a “bedtime” for newborns, I’m often hit with lots of confusion around the fact that newborns need to eat in the night… So what's the point?!
Yes, newborns and young infants can and will wake throughout the night to eat, as well as get their diapers changed; and a bedtime routine and a consistent (as possible) bedtime will not change that. But, having a consistent bedtime and routine has multiple benefits, for both you and your little one!
Why Your Newborn Should Have a Bedtime
While my recommendation for implementing a bedtime for your newborn may be an unpopular opinion to some, those that implement it find it extremely beneficial!
In terms of the “WHY?” to have an official bedtime for newborns, it’s helpful for the following reasons:
It allows you to create a bedtime for yourself & align your longest stretch of sleep with your baby’s (over time).
Not only is consistently sticking to a bedtime for your newborn beneficial for them, but it allows for you to plan a bedtime for yourself as well. I recommend a bedtime of around 8-10 pm for your newborn so that you can also get to bed early (enough) and allow a longer stretch of sleep for yourself to align with the longest stretch your baby will go (it will start with 2 or 3 hours, then grow to 4, 5, 6 hours, and so on…)
Remember, as your baby gets older, their bedtime will become earlier and coincide with both nap transitions and wake windows getting longer!
Check out this blog for my recommended bedtimes, as well as some other tips to help get your baby sleeping through the night!
(I also share lots of tips on this on Instagram, so be sure to follow along there as well!)
2. Creating a bedtime for your newborn helps them separate days and nights.
Babies are not born with a circadian rhythm, so while their body is figuring out its internal biological clock, providing a consistent bedtime and routine will aid in this development and allow for your baby to separate their days and nights .
Once your baby is put to bed at bedtime, any waking after that for the next 12 hours will be treated as a night feed! This means you will no longer be implementing an eat/play/sleep flow and wakings will be strictly business - i.e. feed, diaper change, and back to sleep! This will provide a significantly different experience for them than the rest of the day and will help them realize that nighttime sleep differs from daytime sleep.
3. A consistent bedtime and bedtime routine plays an important role over time with your baby sleeping longer and longer stretches overnight.
Did you know that a bedtime routine is scientifically proven to help babies fall asleep faster and sleep longer stretches over time? Bedtimes and bedtime routines are a key component to healthy sleep, and when implemented correctly (and consistently), can completely transform your little one’s sleep !
My Recommended (and science-backed!) Newborn Bedtime Routine
Typically, a bedtime routine lasts between 25-45 minutes, and you can start implementing one as soon as you’re ready (25-45 minutes before you put your baby down to sleep). Here is what I recommend as a bedtime routine for your newborn:
- Warm bath - calming and good sensory activity.
- Massage - reduces stress and promotes sleep .
- Pajamas - be sure to keep layers and temperature in mind! (If you’re unsure of how to dress your baby for sleep, follow me on Instagram for more tips relating to this!)
- Feed - try to keep your little one awake as much as possible so they get a full tummy during this feed. Remember though, this last feed is just one piece of the puzzle, and ensuring full feeds throughout the day is equally as important!
- Story or song - This step’s main purpose is to separate your baby’s feeding from laying them down. If we provide a feeding and then immediately lay baby down, we could unintentionally introduce a difficult sleep association.
- Swaddle - provides comfort and signals sleep.
- Kiss goodnight.
- Into the crib awake. (Read this blog to learn more about laying your baby down completely awake, and why I recommend it!)
Want to learn even more about bedtime routines? Check out this blog!
Do you HAVE to follow this exact routine? Of course not! If you don’t want to bathe your baby every night, that’s ok! Even a warm washcloth on the face and hands is a relaxing activity for your baby that can signal to them that sleep is coming.
Newborn life is often difficult and EXHAUSTING. A consistent bedtime and bedtime routine is supposed to help you, but if it stresses you out or you don’t have the energy, you don’t have to do it! This time with your little one is so special and is meant to be enjoyed as much as possible.
If you find yourself still struggling with your little one’s sleep, please know that you are not alone and that I am here to help. Download one of my comprehensive sleep guides or schedule a call with me for some personalized support.
Need help transforming your child's sleep? Check out my sleep offerings for children 0-3 years old!
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