I often get scoffs and quiet envy when I tell people that I had Jaxon sleeping 8hrs a night by the tender age of 4 weeks. And I totally get why. The weeks that he has his leaps are hell on earth and I couldn’t imagine the poor sleep-deprived parents who live THAT as their normal.
If you are about to have a baby or you have a very young baby and aren’t getting anywhere near enough sleep, I encourage you to read THIS post about how I managed to get Jax to sleep long hours very early on.
Although, if your bubs is a bit older around the 3-4 month mark then you are in the right place!
Baby sleep cycles work differently to adult sleep cycles. Where an adult will wake every 1.5hrs to roll over, check the time or get up, a baby’s sleep cycle is more around the 30-40-minute mark.
If you are having trouble with your baby taking very short naps (less than an hour) then you also need to read my previous post HERE
Once you have mastered the skill of getting baby back to sleep and he/she is sleeping longer stretches during the day you can focus on your bedtime routine. Although it can also work backwards too, a good bedtime routine can facilitate a good daily napping schedule.
It’s all about working out what is right for you.
So what’s changed?
As Jax has gotten older we have added a B to our previous 4 step routine. This step stands for Book!
Reading to baby
Reading to baby is something that we only really introduced around the 13-week mark with Jaxon. We found that after his night time bottle he would fall asleep pretty much straight away. It was when he started to get a bit older and more alert that he started being more difficult to settle at night time.
Why it’s important
It is proven that babies who are read to are significantly more advanced at the pre-school age in the area of language development, having heard more words and having a larger vocabulary than those children whose parents do not read to them at all.
How it helps sleep in older babies
I spoke about how baby needs to be tired to fall asleep in my previous post. The principle here is exactly the same; I follow the eat, play, sleep rule with Jaxon no matter what. Except at night time when he wakes, we remove the play time. I cover a lot about re-settling I my previous post on sleep.
Older babies have a lot going on for them and it can be hard for them to settle at night because of this. Imagine all the new sights, sounds and songs they have experienced in just 1 day. A day at home with mum watching Sesame Street or playing with toys is a huge day for baby. They are always learning.
Imagine it like you have just come home from a full-on day out and you are tired! You go to bed and what happens sometimes? Yep, you can’t sleep. You stay up digesting all the experiences, faces, conversations etc. that you have gone through and you find it difficult to settle.
Babies have this same experience almost on a daily basis and on a much larger scale. Every conversation, book, toy, face and scenario are completely new to them. It takes a while for them to come down off the high that is learning.
How can you help?
Your job is to help baby settle down at the end of the day to ensure they get plenty of sleep. Sleep is so important in early development (and all through childhood) as when we sleep, we consolidate memories. If baby does not get enough sleep, they will have trouble remembering new skills and it can slow or even stop mental development.
A great way to do this is with a book. Read on for how we implemented the 5th B in our bedtime routine.
The 5 B Bedtime Routine.
I’ve spoken about how humans are creatures of habit and how babies love routine. When it comes to bedtime this needs to be a separate ritual than a regular nap.
It needs to be consistent every night and at the same time if possible. Baby will start to anticipate the next step of the ritual. This will carry on into toddler and early childhood years, becoming the basis of bedtime for years to come. This is why it is so important to set the foundation early.
So here they are, the 5B’s
Jax has a small feed. He feeds on 1 boob and once he unlatches, I burp him and don’t put him back on for another go (unless he screams for it). This is to fill his tummy just enough that he doesn’t get hungry in his bath and have a tantrum. You want this to be a positive and calming experience.
If your baby takes a bottle then try a small feed. You can also draw out the time between this step and the next step. Sometimes we have 30-45 minutes between this step and the next. It will depend on your baby and how tired they are.
If they start to exhibit tired signs then you want to get the next step started pretty soon.
The aim is to have baby hungry enough to eat more but satiated enough not to get upset.
Ok, so baby has had his “Feed” and he’s just relaxing in his bouncer. Maybe with some quiet play, looking at a toy or watching TV with dad. No need for bouncing and wizzydizzies anymore.
The next 2 steps are going to act as our “Play” component:
Run the bath and let baby soak for 5-10 minutes. We wash hair every second night – up to you. He loves the bath and this acts as his play time. When your baby gets older you can invest in some small bath toys for added stimuli.
Once the water starts to cool OR he becomes unsettled or ‘over-it’ (kicking legs and not looking interested in smiles anymore) he is wrapped in a towel, dried, massaged with coconut oil head to toe and clothed. If he is not showing signs of hunger, we pop him on his tummy for some more play.
When Jax was very little we would bath him every day to settle him for the night. As he has gotten older this is not always feasible so we omit the bath and replace this with the other aspects of the ritual as follows:
- Change nappy
- Wipe face, hands and feet with warm, wet face-washer
- Coconut oil or lotion massage
- Clothing in PJ’s
- Tummy time
Notice how everything else stays the same, the room is still dim and we talk in hushed tones to signal bedtime.
As soon as he starts to exhibit hunger cues (suckling, hands in mouth, rooting) we move onto the next step.
Once he is hungry again, we feed him 100mLs of pre-expressed breast milk from a bottle. Alan usually does this feed as it is good bonding time for them and gives mum a break (or, mum goes around the house and turns off lights, tidies toys etc.).
This feed takes place in the dim nursery. It is important to note that we feed Jax in the loungeroom or in a brightly lit nursery throughout the day.
Once Jax finishes his bottle we burp him (babies usually need less effort for burping around 3 months, ceasing the need at all by around 4-5 months – your baby’s burping needs may be different)
Alan will then turn him around on his lap, offer a pacifier and commence the next step to our ritual.
We know that Jax can’t actually follow the story but this form of “Play” will get rid of any little bits of energy. You may find that your baby will just enjoy the pictures, grabbing at them and trying to turn the page while being soothed by your voice.
We read the same book cover to cover about 2-3 times or until Jax starts to squirm, indicating he has had enough stimuli.
Don’t know what to read to bubs?
Any book will do really. This week we are reading these:
- Guess How Much I Love You A gift from Jaxon’s Aunty
- Go the Fuck to Sleep (we know this will have to be put away once Jax can talk)
- Spot: A big box of Little Books This is a great set that will last for years
Once he is ready for bed, we take him to the bassinet in our room (although he will be sleeping in his own room from 5 months – I’ll let you know how it goes)
The same sleep time routine ensues as with day naps and settling, patting, pacifier and shushing. From here he gets sleepy, we leave the room and he falls asleep, usually for between 8-10 hours.
So, there you have it, the 5 Bs Bedtime Routine!
We do this same ritual every night. The only thing that changes is who baths/feeds him as we both take turns depending on what kind of day we have had! It does take a calm, relaxed adult to execute this method and we work together to make sure that this is always the case.
We know that the routine may change again once Jax gets transferred to his cot in his own room and that this will pose more challenges. I do feel that continuing the Feed, Play, Sleep rule in all scenarios is the best way to get Jax to be his happiest, healthiest self.
What about when you are out of the house?
When we are out, we still try and simulate this routine. There may be slight changes but we feel it is important to try our best while at the same time accepting that he may be more unsettled and that is normal.
We know that it is usually 1 night and then we are back to normal the next night.
We try and make sure that 1 bad night does not lead to a bad week.
What if baby is going through a leap?
When Jax goes through a leap he wants to eat every 1hr and stays away during the day for 2-3hrs at a time. His waking times are long and so is the amount of time it takes him to settle down during the day.
On those days whether he needs it or not we make sure he has a bath as the warm water resets his mood and calms him down a lot.
Even when your baby eats and then wants to go straight to sleep, it is important to get them to separate food and sleep. Do this by reading to them like you would at night. Even 10 minutes is a good amount of time to separate food and sleep and act as a mini ‘play’
When we talk about play, we are really talking about stimulating the baby and distracting him to separate food and sleep.
If we don’t do this then you may find that you have a toddler who can only sleep if they have a bottle or cup of warm milk in bed. This is something you want to avoid as they will rely on you there to fall asleep and you want to be able to tuck them in and walk out, knowing they can self-settle.
Have you tried the 5B’s? I would love to hear your feedback on this theory of baby sleep!
And don’t forget to pin for later to show your significant other your new plan of attack tonight!