How to keep baby awake during the bedtime routine

It’s often a challenge to start keeping your baby awake through nursing or drinking a bottle as you begin working to improve sleep habits. But as you teach your little one how to sleep independently, the number one rule is to make sure that you keep your baby wide awake through any feeds – that's the breast or the bottle.

Nine times out of 10, the root of the problem interfering with your baby sleeping well is connected to the prop of using a bottle or breastfeeding to fall asleep.  If you don't break the connection between feeding and sleep, it'll make the whole process harder because your child will go on thinking that she needs to eat in order to fall asleep.

But there are a few things you can try.

The first would be moving the bottle up in the bedtime routine. Most people have the feeding as the last step and that can be really tricky.  Especially if she's not napping great yet, then your baby could be really, really fatigued by bedtime. By the time you’ve given her a bath, gotten pajamas on, read a story, and then you're going into a feed – she may be way too tired to even attempt to stay awake at the bottle or breast.

Then you’ll probably find yourself really fighting an uphill battle where you're tickling and talking to her trying to keep her awake, but she's so tired that she constantly beginning to fall asleep. When this is the case, you could even move it up to before the bath.

Offer the feeding, then the bath, pajamas, story, and then bed. That will really help break any connection that she has that the bottle has anything to do with sleep. (If you’re still struggling with a drowsy feeding, you may also need to keep the light on until you’re done.)

If that seems like a bit too early in the bedtime routine, then move it to right after bath instead. That could really help, too, because children tend to be a little stimulated from the bath and will likely be a little more awake when you get to the feed.  Then you can move into the next steps.

The more the separation between the feeding and sleep develops, the less likely she will be to fall asleep while nursing or at the bottle. You'll find in a month or so, even if she is really tired, she won't use nursing or the bottle to go to sleep anymore. She'll happily have her feed, and then put herself to sleep just fine when she gets to the crib.