You can begin a bedtime routine as early as day 1 with your newborn. A bedtime routine is simply a cue to baby that the next thing that's going to happen is sleep. Having this routine occur with lights dim, and a calm environment, helps cue baby's body to start producing melatonin, preparing them for sleep.
This routine is identical for newborns and infants up to 12 months old. The only difference for newborns up to 15 weeks old, is that you're helping baby fall asleep at the end of the routine. For babies 4+ months, we want to empower them to fall asleep independently within 15 minutes of being put down in their crib.
How long does bedtime routine last?
30 minutes - that's it! Any longer than that and you'll likely have an overtired or bored baby on your hands. The whole purpose of this routine is to prepare baby to sleep, not actually get baby to sleep.
Here's an example of a bedtime routine you can implement tonight:
It's completely okay for bath to happen every other night. On no bath nights, just gently wipe baby's face and neck with a warm cloth to help them start to wind down.
On bath nights, keep this to 5-7 minutes. While bath time can be a great opportunity to play, we want to keep this short and low key during bedtime routine to keep overstimulation to a minimum.
Scoop baby out of that bath into an adorable towel burrito. This is where you can do a gentle lotion massage and get baby into jammies. Remember how cold you get when getting out of a warm bath, so we want to keep this process quick - 5 min max - and get baby into PJs before she gets chilly.
We want this to be a good, full feeding before bed, so keep baby awake for it. If she tends to fall asleep during this feeding, you can put PJs on after the feeding so she's a little cooler and more awake during the feeding itself.
With my son, I always preferred to read books during our bedtime feeding. It worked great to help keep him awake, and kept our bedtime routine to 30 minutes. 1-2 short books is plenty at this age.
Don't skip over the swaddle/sleep sack, lights off and white noise on. These are all cues that the next thing to happen is sleep, and set the stage for a good sleep foundation.
If baby is under 4 months old, you'll more likely be helping baby to sleep rather than putting baby down awake. That's okay and normal. After 15 weeks old, or earlier if you're ready, you can work on putting baby down fully awake for bed instead of asleep so he gets used to falling asleep on his own rather than while being held.
If you need help navigating your infant or toddler's sleep, set up a free 15-minute consultation with me to learn how I can support you.