The biggest mistake in the bedtime routine

I wanted to talk a bit about bedtime and the number one mistake parents make when they are creating a bedtime routine.

If you go to any baby website to search “my baby won’t sleep” or whatever you’re looking for in regards to sleep, almost every single site will tell you about the importance of a bedtime routine. And I will tell you the same. I think a bedtime routine is an essential first step to create predictability when teaching your baby that it’s time to make the transition from day into night.

Even adults have routines. We all do a few things in the same order before bed every night. Without them, we would likely feel a little anxious or out of sorts and it would be harder to sleep. So it’s definitely important, but there is one mistake that parents often make.

Most of the time people skip right over it. “Oh bedtime routine, right, next…” because we’ve heard it so much, but the biggest mistake that parents make here is that somewhere in midst of the routine – the baby sleeps!

For example, you’ve heard that baby should have a bath, so you’re going to do a bath. Then you’re going to get jammies on, maybe read a book, and then do a feeding. There, right there – that’s the snag.

You feed your baby to sleep, either on the breast or with the bottle.

Most people turn off the lights when it's feeding time to get the environment nice and cozy, and then that’s your child’s cue that it’s time to start the journey into sleep. That is where you need to make a change.

If you nurse or bottle-feed your baby to sleep and then transfer them to the crib, you’re not going to have a baby that sleeps through the night. You’re probably going to find your child awake half an hour or 45 minutes later and you’ve got to start the process all over again.

Bath, great; pajamas, great; feeding, fine. It’s totally acceptable to feed a baby before bed. In fact, I encourage it. But keep the lights on high enough that you can watch and keep your little one awake.

So again, if you think of the process of going to sleep as a journey, try your best not to allow your baby to start the journey while feeding. Anything that looks like dozing (heavy blinking, closing the eyes, opening them) is the beginning of a journey – so don’t let that start yet! Keep that baby’s eyes open so that they begin to realize that while food is a nice step in the bedtime routine, it is not for the purpose of sleep. That comes next.

If your baby has a really strong association between eating and sleeping, I suggest you break it up with an extra step after the feed. Feed, sit baby up on your lap, and maybe read a story together after the fact. This is just to break that connection a little bit further and to help baby learn that there is no reason to fall asleep while feeding. (An added benefit here is that this extra step will give gassy babies more time to burp before going into the crib.)

Then the baby should go into the crib awake. This is a key step in giving your little love the opportunity to learn the skills he or she needs in order to become a great sleeper and start sleeping through the night.

So have a look at your bedtime routine. Even though you probably already have one, you may need to make a fairly significant change to it by no longer feeding your baby to sleep as part of that routine. And if you’re looking for more guidance, I can help you customize a plan from there to give you the education and tools to help your baby develop great independent sleep habits for life.